Phil Collins Changed This Song so It Wouldn’t Sound Too Much Like Prince’s ‘1999’

Prince and Phil Collins usually made significantly different songs; however, the press felt one of Collins’ most famous songs was derived from Prince’s “1999.” Collins defended himself, saying he changed the song so it wouldn’t sound too much like Prince’s music. Collins wasn’t a huge fan of this controversial hit because he felt he wasn’t being himself when he wrote it. Regardless, the song in question was a bigger hit than “1999.”

Phil Collins raising his hands
Phil Collins | L. Cohen/WireImage

Why music critics thought Phil Collins was trying to deceive the public

According to Rolling Stone, Collins decided his album No Jacket Required would feature authentic R&B music. R&B had long been one of his sources of inspiration. Collins’ love of R&B caused some critics to believe he was trying to deceive people about his race.

“Because of my love of R&B and the fact that I surround myself with Black musicians, music critics think I’m trying to convince people that I’m half-Black,” Collins said. “I have never been under any misconception of who I am or where I come from.”

Critics also claimed his single “Sussudio” sounded too similar to Prince’s single “1999.” Collins defended himself. “If anyone thinks I’m ripping off specific songs, that is up to them, but I’m not plagiarizing Black music,” Collins said. “‘Sussudio’ was changed once because it was starting to sound a bit too much like Prince. I could never write a song like Prince, because I’m not from that environment.”

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Phil Collins wasn’t satisfied with the songs from ‘No Jacket Required’

Looking back on “Sussudio” in a 2016 Rolling Stone interview, Collins revealed he wasn’t a huge fan of the track. “It’s from one of my least-favorite records, No Jacket Required,” Collins said. “I wanted to work with different people at the time, people that could do things I wasn’t capable of doing. So I got ahold of Dave Frank [from the synth-pop band The System], and I said, ‘Do you fancy having a go at this?’ And he programmed the whole song. There’s a killer horn section.”

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In retrospect, Collins said he wasn’t being authentic when he wrote “Sussudio.” “At the time, I wasn’t being me,” he said. “I’ve grown up a bit now and much prefer to play songs that are me. I only play a bit part in that one.”

“1999” reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 30 weeks. The song’s parent album, 1999, was a hit as well. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 163 weeks.

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“Sussudio” was a much bigger hit. The track reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 17 weeks. No Jacket Required was also popular, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and staying on the chart for 123 weeks. The public seemed to embrace “Sussudio” — even if some critics thought it was derivative.