“Stand By Me,” heard that one before. Ben E. King’s soul classic is probably one of the most covered songs of all-time, both in and out of reality TV competitions, to the point where both doing it faithfully and putting your own spin on it is something of a cliche. The best bet for Phillip Phillips doing a song like that is probably just to do it the way that feels most natural—so it’s probably a good thing that he plays it as a Damien Rice song on acoustic guitar.
To Phillip’s credit, it doesn’t feel like a coffee-shop performance—possibly the only ascription in Idolverse as bad as “karaoke” or “cruise ship”—it just feels like a song that Phillips genuinely feels and connects with. His cover does take a risk in eliminating the four-note bass hook that provides the song’s musical signature, but that ends up being a smart move, as it allows his version to not stand in direct competition with the original, a battle Phillips couldn’t have won and was best not to try. He doesn’t try for notes he can’t hit, and those he does sound legitimately soulful and heartfelt.
Ultimately, it’s not a stunner, but it’s a version that makes you appreciate what a good song “Stand By Me” really is, without sounding like a carbon copy of the original. All Idol performances should be so lucky.