G.O.A.T.: Celebrating the genesis of Genesis with In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins (1981)

THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a salute to the greatest songs of all time, one song per artist. Want more? Go to the G.O.A.T. Page for all the GOATs so far!

All this week, we’ve celebrated the band Genesis and today is the day for its biggest star.  It’s most innovative songwriter was Peter Gabriel, but when it came to writing the perfect pop song, nobody can top Phil Collins in the 1980s.  Well, maybe not “nobody,” but few people.  And when it comes to his biggest hit, and most lasting contribution to the world of G.O.A.T.s, it’s obvious: “In the Air Tonight.”

By 1981, Genesis was one of the top-selling pop acts, and when Collins announced he’d be doing a solo album, everyone said the same thing: “Why?  You’re bald!”  But back then, looks mattered a lot less than they do now, and when the debut single came out, everyone ran out to buy a copy of Face Value.

There’s a lot of rumors saying what the song is about, but the truth is mundane: It’s about his divorce.  “Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand.”  That’s harsh, man.  Real harsh.

It’s also Phil’s most honest, most emotional, and most powerful single.  He wrote a lot of huge hits after this one, but he never wrote a better one.

Further listening: I don’t know if any other solo Collins tunes are truly GOATs.  In fact, one of his big hits was just a lesser version of this same song (“I Don’t Care Anymore”).  But there’s a few worth listening to as part of the discussion, namely, Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now), Sussudio and Don’t Lose My Number.

Covers:  There’s many, but it’s also been sampled by some of the greatest rappers of all time: Nas, Tupac, and Shaq O’Neal. Seriously.  Check it out.

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