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Collins' music has hip new cachet

Collins' music has hip new cachetHis mainstream hits are being reinterpreted by rappers and R&B singers and he couldn't be happier about it.

If you thought the music of Phil Collins had been relegated to the Top 40 trash heap, think again. The man behind blockbuster hits such as Against All Odds, Two Hearts and One More Night is experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to a wildly successful concert tour and a new cachet among R&B artists and rappers who are clamouring to sample his ultra-catchy tunes.

"I'm very flattered by it, to be honest," Collins said recently from Geneva, where he makes his home.

"I mean, I'm supposed to be so unhip, so middle of the road, so naff. . . . If I believe what I read in the newspapers, I'm past my due date, but there are a lot of people out there that still like what I do."

Collins, 54, says he receives a handful of requests each month from up-and-coming musicians who want to re-invent his songs.

While the British singer's catalogue of hits couldn't be more mainstream, it has attracted a diverse lineup of imitators.

A few years back, the late rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard put his own stamp on the Collins smash Sussudio. Lil' Kim added her touch to In the Air Tonight. Canadian singer Deborah Cox got in on the act with a rendition of Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.

The songs were all part of a Collins tribute album called Urban Renewal.

Since then, the requests have not slowed and the one-time Genesis drummer says he has yet to turn one down.

Cleveland rappers Bone Thugs-n-Harmony even persuaded Collins to make an appearance in their video version of Take Me Home.

"In the end I couldn't say no," he says. "They were great guys."

Collins said a version of Against All Odds sung by the winner of a TV singing contest recently reached No. 1 on the British pop charts. The band Postal Service also recorded the song for the soundtrack of the film Wicker Park.

Collins says he likes a lot of the musical re-interpretations of his work, suggesting the marriage of pop melodies and rap beats makes sense.

"Some of these guys, what they do is kind of so far away, in some respects, from what I do," he says.

"I write melodic songs and that's not what they do . . . they take this really memorable chorus and then have a verse of what they're doing."

Ironically, as his hits receive new life, Collins himself has been singing them on tour for the last time.

The goodbye gigs are chronicled on a new DVD, Phil Collins: Finally, the First Farewell Tour.

The tongue-in-cheek title is a jab at music acts who have ostensibly staged goodbye tours only to hit the road again a few years later.

But Collins is adamant that he wants to stay close to home for the sake of his two small sons -- Nicholas, 3, and three-month-old Mathew.

"I figured that I could do this forever and then suddenly turn around and have missed an awful lot," says Collins, who has older children -- including a Vancouver-based daughter.

"I've missed an awful lot anyway. . . . As far as I'm concerned, this is the last tour."

So far, fans have responded to the Collins swan song.

Rolling Stone magazine listed the performer as the No. 8 music money maker in 2004.

"A lot of fans got wind that it was the last one," he said of the massive response. "That's why I took a lot of time and trouble on the DVD."

The tour will resume later this year, but after that, Collins insists he'll stay put, although he hasn't ruled out playing the odd "showcase" gig if the opportunity arises.

These days, he's happy at home working on a musical version of Tarzan and fooling around with his iPod, which contains everything from Death Cab for Cutie to the Beatles and the West Side Story soundtrack.

And although his legacy as a pop icon was cemented long ago (there is a lengthy list of tribute bands listed on his website), the singer clearly gets a kick out of the renewed Collins cool.

He notes a comment he recently heard from Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx, who is slated to star in a re-make of Miami Vice, the 1980s TV show that featured some of the singer's music.

"He said 'I can't wait to do it man. I can't wait to sing In the Air Tonight,' " Collins says with a laugh.

© Canoe.ca, by Andrea Baillie

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