Life as I know it… plus commentary

Sting versus Phil Collins

with 54 comments

This post has been a long time coming. In fact, it’s so momentous that it gets a new category…. Versus.  Mostly because I plan on revisit this idea of looking at one thing versus another.  In this case, we’re looking at male solo musical acts in terms of talent, musical greatness, and longevity.  Our contestants: Sting and Phil Collins. (Todd, we’ll get to Lionel Richie another time)

This has actually been a long running discussion between Kyle (and later me) against…. well… I’ve been asked not to use his real name but instead, his pseudonym Spartacus Bonesaw.  So Dusti… er…. Spartacus insists that Phil Collins is a greater talent than Sting.  This is simply ludicrous.

Let’s look at lyrics.  A sample Sting lyric:

In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets

and a sample Phil Collins lyric:

Just say the word, oh
Just say the word, oh

Phil Collins plays drums.  Sting plays bass, guitar, hurdy gurdy, mandolin and lute. Plus all kinds of medieval things I don’t even know the name of.

Sting writes pop, rock, alternative, Arabian influenced, classical, madrigals, ballads and jazz fusion.  Phil Collins sang the theme to Tarzan (which later was made into a Broadway play!)

Sting, in his youth, was a wild haired punker that grew into a sophisticated, jazzer who did much charity work to save the rainforests.  Phil Collins looks like one of my dad’s friends.

Clearly, the winner here in this premier version of Versus in Sting. Thoughts?


Written by arnold

January 12, 2008 at 3:31 am

Posted in Versus

54 Responses

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  1. Even putting Sting in a “versus” contest with Phil Collins is misleading. It’s like pairing Franz Liszt with…I don’t know…Victor Borge. You know, technically they “do the same thing” (both on a stage with a piano), but the comparison is not even legitimate. Borge was fine — funny guy, played the right notes. But it puts him on too high a level even to say “Borge wasn’t as good as Liszt.”

    My point: It gives Collins too much credit even to say “Collins isn’t as good as Sting.” Phil should be compared to artists on his level: Tiffany, or Mr. Mister…or Lionel Richie.

    (Spartacus Bonesaw. Holy crap, that’s funny.)

    The Kyle

    January 12, 2008 at 5:01 am

  2. Gosh, this a real toss up. Really it is. But my initial response, what my gut said was Phil Collins:
    Two Hearts livin’ in just one mind
    Together forever
    Till the end of time.
    This sample lyric beats your Stings lyric any day of the week.


    January 12, 2008 at 8:57 pm

  3. What?! Seriously? I think in third grade I wrote a lyric to my 2nd grade girlfriend Claire Bear and said we’d be together til the end of time. I have news… that’s not an original lyric.

    But I can kind of understand. You find depth in lyrics like this:

    At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
    And a freight train running through the middle of my head
    Only you can cool my desire
    Oh oh oh I’m on fire
    Oh oh oh I’m on fire
    Oh oh oh I’m on fire



    January 12, 2008 at 9:13 pm

  4. oh yeah, good lyrics for a guy named after a bumblebee…

    “You don’t need to read no books of my history
    I’m a simple man, it’s no big mystery
    In the cold weather, a hand needs a glove
    At times like this, a lonely man like me needs love”

    How many grammies and acadamy awards does he have?

    ps-phil also plays keyboard, percussion or various sorts, trumpet, and piano, plus he can sing while he plays the drums


    January 13, 2008 at 2:09 am

  5. We can’t settle the issue with a “bad lyrics” contest or by comparing how many instruments an artist plays. It’s about the music. Phil Collins did a lot of catchy and goofy music, kinda like the Barenaked Ladies of his time. He was fine. I won’t say he was bad. I’m sure he would be very popular on American Idol today — even though the majority of Genesis fans don’t even think Phil was the best singer of his band…They’d take Peter Gabriel over Phil. So would I.

    I think the best way to judge is to give it about 20 years and see who is still known. There is very little doubt in my mind that my children will know Sting and/or the Police as teenagers. I’d be surprised if they can hum along with “I Can’t Dance.”

    I also don’t think that comparing awards is the best way to judge talent either. But, since Spartacus asked about Sting’s credentials:

    Grammy – Best Rock Instrumental Performance (Police) (1980)
    Grammy – Best Rock Instrumental Performance (Police) (1981)
    Grammy – Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (Police) (1981)
    Grammy – Best Rock Instrumental Performance (1983)
    Grammy – Best Rock Performance (1983)
    Grammy – Best Pop Performance (1983)
    Grammy – Song of the Year (1983)
    Grammy – Best Music Video, Long Form (1986)
    Grammy – Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male (1987)
    Grammy – Best Rock Song (1991)
    Grammy – Best Music Video, Long Form (1993)
    Grammy – Best Pop Album (1999)
    Grammy – Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (1999)
    Grammy – Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (2000)
    Grammy – Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals (with Mary J. Blige) (2003)

    But Phil should be happy. I think he’s got almost half that many.

    The Kyle

    January 13, 2008 at 7:57 am

  6. Since you brought up the Academy Awards, you must be referring to this incident…

    One of the more notorious incidents occurred at the 57th Academy Awards when Ann Reinking was asked by the show’s producers to give her rendition of song nominee “Against All Odds” in lieu of Phil Collins, who had rearranged his schedule to perform on the show. A humbled Collins sat in the audience while Reinking struggled onstage with his ballad. –

    “Film songs aren’t necessarily performer-driven,” notes Fox music president Robert Kraft. “They could be moody ballads or you could have a singer who isn’t telegenic.”


    January 13, 2008 at 11:20 am

  7. you guys are obviously to old and set in your ways to make an informed decision. My granpa and great uncle agree with your comments.


    January 14, 2008 at 11:09 pm

  8. In the category of “more devastating results from a simple internet search”…

    It’s interesting you should bring up age. I think you were about 5 when Phil had his last hit single.* Since then he’s been tearing it up on the “easy listening” charts. It seems that in your youthful zeal you wandered right into my mom’s favorite kind of music. But, if you want to make a case for the greatness of the “easy listening” genre, I’m all ears.

    *Since Phil’s last hit single (1990) Sting has had four top-10 albums as a solo artist…and let’s not forget about the quintuple platinum compilation album (“Every Breath You Take” 1995). More importantly, you won’t find him on the “easy listening” charts.

    The Kyle

    January 15, 2008 at 5:23 am

  9. This one time, I was really really old, and I liked Sting and argued with young person why he was better then Phil Collins…


    January 15, 2008 at 3:33 pm

  10. hey napkinology. you wouldn’t happen to know dustin or spartacus from a few comments up would you? you sound strangely familiar…

    The Kyle

    January 15, 2008 at 4:09 pm

  11. Aren’t we all forgetting the most insipid Phil Collins lyrics of them all…

    Give me just one more night, give me just one more night
    Ooh one more night, cos I can’t wait forever
    Give me just one more night, give me just one more night
    Ooh one more night, cos I can’t wait forever

    I think he should’ve stuck to drumming.


    January 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm

  12. Nice one Eric. That reminds me of another gem…

    I won’t be there no more
    So get out of my way.
    Let me by
    I got better things to do with my time
    I don’t care anymore
    D’you hear? I don’t care anymore
    I don’t care no more
    You listening? I don’t care no more
    No more!


    January 16, 2008 at 6:56 pm

  13. OK, late comment here, but Sting also wrote a helluva country song called “Hung My Head,” which Johnny Cash covered on his American IV album.

    Early one morning with time to kill
    I borrowed Jeb’s rifle and sat on the hill
    I saw a lone rider crossing the plain
    I drew a bead on him to practice my aim
    My brother’s rifle went off in my hand
    A shot rang out across the land
    The horse he kept running, the rider was dead
    I hung my head, I hung my head

    I set off running to wake from the dream
    And my brother’s rifle went into the stream
    I kept on running into the salt lands
    And thats where they found me, my head in my hands
    The sheriff he asked me why had I run
    Then it came to me just what I had done
    And all for no reason, just one piece of lead
    I hung my head, I hung my head

    Here in the courthouse, the whole town is there
    I see the judge high up in his chair
    Explain to the courtroom what went through your mind
    And we’ll ask the jury what verdict they find
    I said I felt the power of death over life
    I orphaned his children, I widowed his wife
    I beg their forgiveness, I wish I was dead
    I hung my head, I hung my head

    Early one morning with time to kill
    I see the gallows up on the hill
    And out in the distance a trick of the brain
    I see a lone rider crossing the plain
    He’s come to fetch me to see what they done
    We’ll ride together till kingdom come
    I pray for God’s mercy for soon I’ll be dead
    I hung my head, I hung my head

    Again, you can’t just do a lyrics-battle, but if you’re going to list all his genres, then you have to add country for that one.

    That said, I’m not a Sting fan, per se. Give me John Wesley Harding any day of the week over Sting. But since that wasn’t who this versus was…versus….well, I guess I’ll stick to Sting.

    Peggy C

    January 28, 2008 at 5:45 am

  14. It’s a tough call but i have to go with collins!
    Genesis has been around forever due to his talent and hard work. The police weren’t around as long as Genesis. not only that but some unforgetable ballads such as one more night, take me home and another day in paradise. Not only that but no jacket required sold over 16 million copies, can sting touch that.


    February 4, 2008 at 9:36 pm

  15. Robert, thanks for the comment. And I can’t believe you picked Phil Collins lol


    February 5, 2008 at 12:34 pm

  16. First of all, Phil Collins and Sting are perhaps my two biggest music-heros and I love them both, but this thing pisses me off.

    It is impossible to compare Sting and Phil Collins. They are very differnet musicians, and there is no need to do either, but almost everything that is written about Phil Collins here is misleading

    Phil Collins plays drums… so? Anything wrong with that? Phil Collins is one of the most important rockdrummers the last 40 years. Listen to Selling Enland By The Pound! On his solo-records Phil has also playd piano, synth, guitar, bass, bagpipe, trumpet and sang.

    Phil sang the theme to Tarzan…but you forgot to mention that he also has been a part of Genesis, one of the most important progrock bands of all time, he has had his own Big-band, he has worked as a producer for Eric Clapton, Phil Baily, Frida (from ABBA) and many more, he has done acting in films, worked as a sesson-drummer, been a part of fusion band Brand-X.

    The lyrics you found… A great job man. Have you heard No Son Of Mine, We Wait an we wonder, The roof is leaking, Jesus He Knows Me, Take Me Home.

    And who cares what your dady´s friends look like? Phil is a nice guy. Very funny and friendly who has suffered alot because things like this.

    Again, what is the point of compering them?



    February 16, 2008 at 1:26 pm

  17. Thanks for the reply Arild. There’s a very good point in making comparisons. When we have discussions like this, people defend their position and point out the things they like about them. In this case, you pointed out some songs you like by Phil Collins that I have never heard of. As a result, I’m going to listen to them sometime and see if I like them.

    It’s almost always good to discuss and compare, as long as we keep our minds open to change if presented with good evidence to the contrary.


    February 22, 2008 at 12:13 pm

  18. And plus we’re kind of just kidding around a lot of the time.

    (…right? aren’t we guys?)

    The Kyle

    February 22, 2008 at 2:24 pm

  19. Both Great People love both of there music but how come you have sting stage name his real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas


    April 2, 2008 at 6:50 am

  20. I think it’s actually Gordon Sumner. But he’s known to the world professionally as Sting so that’s what I call him. Thanks for the comment Jordan:)


    April 2, 2008 at 1:55 pm

  21. phil collins doesnt just play drums, he also plays piano, trumpet, keyboards and even bagpipes on one of his records. And those lyrics you picked from sussudio, there are tons of better lyrics he has written. the writer of this article is obviously has something against phil collins

    Mr x

    April 19, 2008 at 2:56 pm

  22. alos i might add phil collins doesn’t jsut write music for disney he has played progressive rock for genesis, pop for his own solo career, jazz fusion for brand X and jazz at a buddy rich memorial concert. again, the writer of this article hates phil collins and is either leaving out all the good info about phil to make him sound shit and talentless or is just plain stupid and uninformed

    Mr x again

    April 19, 2008 at 3:00 pm

  23. Easy there X, we’re just having a little fun here.


    April 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

  24. hehe. buddy rich.

    the kyle

    April 21, 2008 at 12:20 am

  25. I cant believe this is still going after 4 months haha. Wow, people get really heated over nothing. Its like arguing red is red. By the way, try arguing that with Geo sometime, you’ll lose. Those philosophy guys.

    Also, I had to wiki buddy rich. I think you guys are old. To think all this sprang from the simple truth that phil collins is better then sting….hmm…enter dream sequence….those were the good old days.

    Yours Truly

    April 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm

  26. First off I think this debate is easily warranted and justified. Reason being is that both Sting and Phil came from equally (almost I guess, Police more worldwide) successful bands. Genesis certainly began their career much earlier, constantly changing their lineup and overall sound. The Police did this to somewhat of the same effect (punk-ish, reggae, pop-rock, etc.) But The Police had a certain continuity about them that Genesis never posessed. The Police were a “MTV HIT” band from the very beginning, starting with Roxanne. Genesis’ original music was too artistic until the mid-1980’s when INVISIBLE TOUCH came out. The mid-1980’s were the pinnacle for both Genesis and Phil.

    I’m getting far too off topic but let me just say this. Take a look at the greatest hits for: Genesis, The Police, Phil solo, Sting solo. I’m sure you are going to find radio hit after hit on there. Overall I believe the scale teeters a little more towards Sting. Not because he possesses slavic good looks, but because in the time span which he has been around, his achievments outweigh Phil/Genesis.

    Let me conclude by saying that I absolutely adore both of these guys/bands. Fundamental for Rock and Pop, they are virtually equal with the only pull being from my personal opinion. CHEERS


    April 25, 2008 at 4:49 pm

  27. Phil Collins kicks Sting out the water musically to me up till the 90’s….in bands and solo..I mean come on..Roxanne vs Sussudio- equal mess but at least phils more uptempo 7 catchy. Phil is a pop genius and Sting likes doing weird sounds etc, how many singles has he had on his one to reach anything like the decade + of phils singles. I do think “coolness” is the main factor in those that decide Sting, or Peter Gabriel for that matter is better then Phil…so what they have more hair. Phil brings the social lyrics, tribal and brass sounds together with thoughtful and touching lyrics that actually get through to the masses not just people who think to much about music when the best music lets you stop thinking.


    May 6, 2008 at 6:11 pm

  28. Well put, GenesisPolice.


    May 16, 2008 at 7:33 pm

  29. I agree with Arnold!

    He clearly makes more sense!

    -V. ♈


    May 18, 2008 at 12:08 am

  30. Just go and search the top selling recording artists, both genesis and phil have sold well over 100 million albums each. The police are somewhere around 50 million and Sting isn’t even on there. This has nothing to do with my preferences, I like them both. This just reflects on which records people actually bought.

    This author, arnold, picked the most shallow phil collins song and compared it with one of the deepest sting songs…whats the deal. I think both Phil and Sting’s best albums were their first(Face Value and The Dream of Blue Turtles) and while both are fantastic, Face value is just a better album in my opinion (In the Air Tonight is an absolutely fantastic song). I also think both artists are very different, if I had to put my finger on it I would say Phil’s songs are more emotional and Sting’s are more lyrical. Sting is a very talented artist who was awesome with the police and pretty damn good on his own, however you should give Phil some credit. Phil was one of the premier drummers of that era and a frequent collaborator with sting and vice versa. He is also an extremely talented musician and played practically every instrument on his latter albums.

    I think the author of this post is doing a little “dick riding” on sting, just step back and realize both artists are talented.

    If you want my humble opinion on another matter, Peter Gabriel is a better lyricist and composer and is more creative with the types of instruments he uses on his albums than either Sting or Phil. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.


    June 3, 2008 at 8:14 pm

  31. Nice post from someone who seems to be a rapper of dubious moral fiber. (Just kidding Coolio).

    It’s true I picked the most inane Phil Collins lyrics and the best Sting lyrics, mostly just to provoke conversation. I’m really surprised no one brought up “Do do do do, da da da da” as an example of s Sting lyric.

    And I like the addition of Peter Gabriel into the mix. I’d say he’s definitely the better performer of the three, bring theatrical elements into his live performances.


    June 4, 2008 at 8:32 am

  32. Phil Collins was a sub-par drummer. He couldn’t keep a beat if you stapled it to his forehead.

    The Kyle

    June 4, 2008 at 4:16 pm

  33. Come on now, it’s a formidable forehead.


    June 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

  34. Wow, I was just looking up sting, phil collins and peter gabriel and found this discussion. How can we compare the three? I love them all, but consider sting to be the more poetic, gabriel to be the more socially conscience and collins to be the more popular, but all three are phenomenal artists that deserve this type of comparision, because they all are geniuses. Of the three I prefer Sting the most… I love poets (Jim Morrision and other lyricists that make you think) but Gabriel, while surpassing Sting in lyrical content, just doesn’t get the press to keep his name fresh in my mind. Collins and Genesis are just fun to listen to and should not be taken as seriously, imho.

    Sting Gabriel-Collins

    July 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  35. Hey that was a pretty good comparison.

    I just watched American Psycho on cable last night and Christian Bale’s character has some funny things to say about Phil Collins (in a not very funny movie. at all)


    July 12, 2008 at 7:55 am

  36. Love ’em both, but preferably in their respective bands. For years I was blissfully unaware of Phil’s drumming skills. As a drummer myself, that’s pretty poor, but my teens fell in the 1980s, so that was the Phil Collins I knew (both solo and in the ‘pop’ Genesis years). As has already been mentioned above, you should really check out Collins’ work on those early Genesis albums. He was a phenomenally good drummer – check out their early work if you can, from 1972 until Steve Hackett’s departure. Yes, I can’t say I’m a big fan of his solo 1980s work, but I can at least appreciate where he was coming from. He’s actually more modest (if plain-talking) than you’d give credit, and still states that he’d be happy to take place in a Genesis reunion featuring the classic 5-piece line-up and just hit those drums again.

    I feel similarly about Sting, although at a push I’d have to say I prefer Sting’s solo stuff to Phil Collins – just because I prefer Sting’s jazz style and varied themes to his lyrics to Collins’ pop/brass/motown-tinged work with the same old themes.

    In essence though, they’re both great in their own ways and I’m still struggling to think of any names in the popular music scene who have emerged in the last twenty years who could hold a flame to either of them or their respective bands.

    Have we really had no more ‘supergroups’ with staying power since U2?


    April 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm

  37. phil collins blows.

    • Nope. He definitely hits.


      June 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm

  38. John, you’ve hit the nail on the head… they were both better in their original bands. As for supergroups since U2… how about Coldplay?


    April 28, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    • Coldplay? Are they really that big a band? The obvious one would be those wannabe Beatles, (gulp) Oasis. There… I’ve said it. Can’t stand ’em myself, but they seem like they may endure a while longer, albeit under various line-ups.


      June 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm

  39. I list two reasons for Coldplay being a big band:

    1. Most downloaded album ever…. that seems pretty nifty.

    2. Frequent poster “Spartacus Bonesaw” cannot stop talking about them.

    Oasis though, I don’t get. They never seemed that big to me. Maybe they are in the UK.


    June 18, 2009 at 4:14 pm

  40. sting & police > phil collins & genesis > phil collins solo > sting solo


    June 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

  41. Now there’s something I can understand… math. And that equation is brilliant. I don’t know about Sting (solo) being last though.


    June 30, 2009 at 8:34 pm

  42. Hey Everybody!!!!

    The two guys in this question are amazing, stop the fight please…

    But, PHIL COLLINS HAVE A OSCAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And Sting?????!!!!!

    Louhan Sodré, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    ps.: Ohhh, man!!!! It’s very very hot in here.


    July 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm

  43. Sting is a real poet—that is his greatest talent. Mr. Collins is one of those workmanlike guys of mediocre talent and enormous good fortune who lucked into a megacareer, although he has worked very hard at it.

    Nothing wrong with being a drummer. Hes just a pretty terrible one.


    October 19, 2009 at 10:45 pm

  44. no jacket requiered has sold over 30 million copies and it is in top 100 best selling albums of all time, while …but seriously has sold 20 million copies and it also appeares in top 100 list


    November 7, 2009 at 10:59 am

  45. stins best selling album is nothing like sun and it has sold 11 million copies.(phil’s first album face value has sold 14 million copies)


    November 7, 2009 at 11:00 am

  46. phil’s best known singles are: against all odds, another day in paradise, in the air tonight, sussudio, you’ll be in my heart, easy lover. sting’s best known singles are: every breath you take, roxxane, fields of gold, fragile. shape of my heart, englishman in new york, desert rose; compare these songs to eache other 🙂


    November 7, 2009 at 11:05 am

  47. with number of grammy award sting appeared really more succesful than phil collins.phil collins has 25 nominations and 7 wins, while sting has 20nominations and 10 wins.but phil has also won american music awards, academy award and two golden globe awards.these awards are won during there solo career.genesis had 4 nominations and 1 win.while the police had about 10 nominations and 6 wins.5 of therm are for there single every breath you take which almost won grammy for album of the year in 1984 but michael jacksons thriller appered anourmously succesfull 🙂


    November 7, 2009 at 11:10 am

  48. and phil collins plays every intrument which has been ever invented.


    November 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

  49. Do we get a verdict, geo?

    the kyle

    November 12, 2009 at 11:39 am

  50. Btw, with the way you framed the question in the original post, Arnold, you should seriously consider going to work for a certain fair and balanced news network.

    the kyle

    November 12, 2009 at 11:40 am

  51. This article is funny and did make me laugh, but is very slanted towards Sting, which I suppose the author admitted in the comments.

    Way late to this discussion but I wanted to add a comment.

    I agree that Phil Collins is probably considered ‘uncool’ and while Sting is probably not exactly cool, he is offbeat enough to never be considered as uncool as Phil Collins. He’s better looking, and his songs aren’t all easy listening late 80s hits (although you can find many of Sting’s songs on easy listening as well, like Fields of Gold).

    That being said, I personally prefer Phil Collins music. I don’t think he’s better or more talented- I simply like most of his songs and most of the Phil Collins led Genesis songs, whereas there are only a few Sting solo songs I like, and I don’t like anything the Police did.

    If being 27 years old and turning up the volume when One More Night comes on Sirius 80s on 8 makes me look like a loser, so be it.


    April 29, 2011 at 5:39 am

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