Phil Collins

Phil Collins’ el mundo no escuchará/ the world won’t listen is a project of ultimately utopian karaoke that takes the 1986 record by The Smiths its starting point. Collins recorded a backing version of the entire album with musicians in Bogotá and then invited local fans of the original to a karaoke session centred around just that one album. Performing their favourite tracks for each other as well as Collins’ video cameras, they produced the ‘double’ cover versions, which were then edited into a video that follows the sequence of the original album.

Collins pushes karaoke’s democratic promises by applying them to the kind of music normally absent from the sphere of enforced mass circulation. The very nature of karaoke requires tracks to be immediately recognisable so that the performance can be set against the well-known original, and industry interests require as generic a base for this interaction as possible. Collins turns this model inside out when he mobilises its machinery to address and activate a minority niche and its specific preferences. Mirroring the way in which each individual enactment of a track customises and appropriates it, Collins uses the album of moody individualism as a trigger to assemble a group of people normally dispersed in a city of over ten million and held together simply by this one particular musical preference.

In drawing on their coming together, the project unpicks the different types of absorption at play. The recording of the video is effectively a performance by and with a closed group of people who are both singers and audience; it produces rather than shows a situation where fans are absorbed in themselves and the album, and then, also increasingly in each other. Simultaneously though, the entire project is also Collins’ looking back on the The Smiths from Bogotá and across the distance of at least one generation. The time and space between Manchester in 1986 and Bogotá in 2005 allows for this translation to generate its own spin-offs, meeting points and knowing fascinations—once removed from its original visual and acoustic milieu, the entire album is re-charged with details, biographies and idiosyncrasies well beyond the lyrics’ supposed universality. In the process of multiple mixing and shifting perspectives, the music ceases to belong anywhere in exclusivity and becomes a template to inhabit. Even if ‘the world won’t listen’ in the song, all kinds of worlds listen and then sing back from somewhere completely different in the course of the project.

By Edgar Schmitz



"the world won't listen" (2005) Courtesy the artist & Kerlin Gallery