Reviewed by Heather West
Phil Stacey by
"While the collection of ballads and Crackle Barrel-worthy mid-tempos do little to distinguish him from his country contemporaries, they will certainly please the fans that voted for him on Idol."
"It's who you know," Phil Stacey sings, and the idiom rings true for the Navy band member whom most people only know from his 2007 appearance on American Idol. Over a year later, Stacey returns with a country-infused pop album and his first single: "If You Didn't Love Me.”
While the collection of ballads and Crackle Barrel-worthy mid-tempos do little to distinguish him from his country contemporaries, they will certainly please the fans that voted for him on Idol. Still, what Stacey needs most in an album is something to convince the rest of us, those who didn’t vote for him, that he is more than a decent guy with a decent voice who likes to sing country music. Though several tracks reach for this goal, many of us will still, to use Stacey’s lyrics, “wake up wanting more.”
Phil Stacey’s album strives for significance in several ways, ranging from the upbeat, to the plucky back porch tunes, to the melodramatic. The better of the first kind is “Identity,” a positive song about finding one’s worth in Christ. Guitar-driven with a sampling of country strings, the often-repeated lyrics manage to be fresh and meaningful. The main problem with “Identity” is that it is a contemporary Christian pop song masquerading as a country song, and does not define Stacey or the rest of the album.
He veers in a more standard direction with the album’s opening track, “It’s Who You Know,” sung in classic country storytelling style. The song features a father telling his son not to mind the “big shots” in town. Despite Stacey’s enthusiasm, which is punctuated by various “yee-haws” and “whoops,” it’s hard to buy the lyrics “there’s a little girl in his homeroom class/ sits in the back ‘cuz she thinks she’s fat.” Several other tracks, like “Find You” and “”Round Here” are similar in style; the latter was co-written by Little Big Town and producer Wayne Kirkpatrick.
On the whole, Stacey’s best tracks are the mellower ones, from “No Way Around a River” to the tender “You Are Mine.” The softer backgrounds provide a better canvas for his vocals, trading his strained belting sound for a more emotional tone. If country really is Phil Stacey’s niche, as he tries to convince us it is, then ballads are the niche within his niche.
It’s probably unfair to rank Stacey alongside other artists in his genre, like Keith Urban or Rascal Flatts (the latter co-write his single), because he is relatively new to the scene. Transitioning from Idol-mania to a lasting musical career, however, is going to take more than a decent first effort. It’s going to take lyrical and musical maturity - both of which Phil Stacey still has time to gain.
Heather West is a sophomore English and Communications major, who firmly believes in the concept of the Renaissance man (or woman, in her case). In that vein, her interests include everything from piano, Broadway, and gospel choir to snowboarding, missionary work, and filmmaking. Her writing is inspired by her reading; her favorite authors are Brian Jacques, Bill Myers, Timothy Zahn, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Kenneth Grahame, Chaim Potok, Isaac Asimov, and Lloyd Alexander. While she aspires to be a novelist and screenwriter, Heather equally enjoys journalism, particularly in the areas of film and music. Her dream job is creating clean, thought-provoking media that will point people back to God. She has written for Infuze Magazine, more recently for SoulAudio.com, and is thrilled to start writing for TitleTrakk!