I love good music. My tastes run all over the road, but like most of us over 50, I have a hard time distinguishing some of the new styles and performers from each other. I find myself saying some of the same things about music today that my father said years ago; they all sound alike to me.
I don't put a lot of effort into keeping up with the "latest thing" in popular music. I have the music I like, and I'm not looking for new stuff. But I would have to be dead not to have been exposed to the face, the smile, the fans, and yes, the music of Phillip Phillips in Southwest Georgia these days. Long before I actually listened to him perform on American Idol, I knew who he was from all the area buzz and 'vote for' signage.
His music? He's good. He does have his own style, which is something you don't see much of these days. I'm not sure if it's my cup of tea, but he's certainly a talented young man. I would probably never buy a CD or download a Phillip Phillips song, but that's just me. My 13 year old daughter loves him, so all is right with the universe.
She and I were going to be out of town on the day of his recent Leesburg "homecoming" concert. To help make up for her sacrifice a wee bit, I took her and a couple of her close friends out to see his arrival at the Albany airport the night before. The crowd was massive, and the energy was palpable. I stayed back, so my little trio of Phillip fans could easily spot me if required. We all know it never was, and the girls had much more fun with Dad not hovering. I'm such a wonderful father.
But I think I actually had the best time. I watched as they slowly worked their way up closer, then a little closer, then a little bit closer to the building where he was being interviewed by the local media. These girls were going to get as close to Phillip Phillips as the law and airport fencing would allow. They were on a mission, and it had nothing to do with Phillips' music. This was about him, the local phenomenon, the celebrity among us. This was an event in itself and they knew they were a part of it.
When the moment of PP revelation arrived, you knew by the sudden, all girl shriek that moved through the crowd. Phillip Phillips had left the building. Phillip Phillips had got in an SUV. Phillip Phillips was being escorted by a small parade of blue lights. Phillip Phillips' vehicle was moving through the corridor of fans, and it all happened in less than two minutes. I could not help but flash back to the days long ago when groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, and The Beach Boys, converted the simple process of moving from here to there into a small riot.
Minutes after the caravan whisked their star away, my trio walked up looking calmly satisfied with their efforts. I've learned over the years that unless there is some serious breach of public etiquette, to just hang back and let the girls be the girls. They relived those few seconds when they had Phillip all to themselves. "He is so pretty!", one exclaimed, to which the others agreed and added adjectives of their own. "He looked right at us!", I heard another offer. Then my girl turns to me and says, "Dad, we were just one foot away from him!". My little trio was now in an elite group. They knew that so many there that night had not come close to that measure. These fans would never know first hand, what they knew; he's pretty!
Part of me wants to make sure that my girl does not get all wrapped up in this sort of thing too much, but her Mom and I have done a good job raising her, so that's not really an issue. I do worry that our culture is bordering on real idol worship when it comes to our musicians and other performers. I'm fairly confident that one reason Phillips has garnered the local attention he has, is the hard economic struggle so many face here. He is an uplifting distraction, a hopeful dream, and we need that.
Another factor is social networking and the popularity of America Idol itself. The promoters use the web to spin such things into hyper drive. Yesterday's unknown can quickly become today's mega-star. And don't get me started about the public voting component of the show. What seems to be a talent show, is really a super-sized popularity contest, with a nation wide, 'get out the vote' campaign. Add the fact that people can vote more than once, bragging on Facebook about how many times they do,and you have an ingenious and amazingly effective marketing and promotional tool. It's an advertiser's dream show. I work for a Fox station, so from a business standpoint this is fantastic, but enough shop talk.
As I write, I do not know if Phillips has made it to the next "round" of AI. Regardless of how that goes, he is certainly going to have some kind of future in show business. I wish him all the best, but I worry about some of the folks here having PP withdrawals, when he's moved on with his career. I'm not too worried about my daughter though. She's very mature for her age, well-grounded, and understands how this sort of thing is to be enjoyed for what it is, and nothing more. Besides, she has a new "favorite" singer every three months or so anyway. She's like her dad; very cool, very hip.