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Track Review

Each May, flowers bloom, students graduate and American Idol crowns a new champion. And just as colorful petals arch toward the warmth of the sun and graduates' caps soar into the baby blue sky, so sales of the Idol winner's "coronation song" predictably spike.

Phillip Phillips, the last singer standing at the end of American Idol's eleventh season, has had a particularly big spike. The week after winning, Phillips' debut single "Home" jumped into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and boasted sales of 278,000 digital downloads. That's the second-biggest digital sales week ever for an Idol alum, trailing only Kelly Clarkson's 2009 hit "My Life Would Suck Without You" (which sold 280,000 units).

Phillips' likeable, down-to-earth persona no doubt played a significant role in his song's sales surge. But its substance matters too. And it does have substance … unlike some Idol coronation songs that have amped up saccharine sentimentality to "Wind Beneath My Wings" levels. Or, as spin.com put it in the headline of its review, "American Idol Shocker: Phillip Phillips' Coronation Song 'Home' Doesn't Suck."

Built upon upbeat acoustic guitar chording that immediately brings to mind folk rockers from across the pond such as  Mumford & Sons and Glen Hansard, "Home" majors in a message of hang-in-there encouragement that's every bit as positive as the song itself sounds. "Hold on to me as we go," Phillips instructs someone he cares about in the tune's opening line. "As we roll down this unfamiliar road/ … Just know that you're not alone/'Cause I'm going to make this place your home."

Similar sentiments infuse the second verse as Phillips warns against letting darkness take root. "Settle down, it'll all be clear/Don't pay no mind to the demons/They fill you with fear." No matter what happens, he says, no one is ever so lost that they can't be found again: "The trouble, it might drag you down/If you get lost, you can always be found/Just know you're not alone."

Phillips, who's been described as a soft-spoken Christian, likely knows a bit about what he's singing (even though he didn't write "Home" himself). The 21-year-old from Leesburg, Ga., suffered through significant kidney problems during American Idol, undergoing eight surgeries to remove kidney stones over the course of the competition.

So it seems Phillips himself has what it takes to persevere through difficulty. And his first hit aims to help others do the same.

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Peaked at No. 6.

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May 23, 2012

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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