When a genre is dominated by over-adored teenage bad boys and abusive users of auto-tune you tend to get a bit annoyed with it. That is the way I feel regarding the male pop scene. It is filled with artists who make too much money from songs they don’t write themselves and I shall have no part in that. This is the moment when Phillip Phillips steps in. Armed with an acoustic guitar, an angelic voice, and a drum kit, he is set to prove that pop music can actually be good. He emerged victorious from the 11th season of American Idol and dropped the bombshell that was his debut album, The World from the Side of the Moon. Emerging from this success he released his second album Behind the Light.
Behind the Light takes the country-infused acoustic sound that Phillips made his own on his debut, and expands on it much like a student would expand on a point in an essay. It is a healthy breath of fresh air that the pop scene has needed for a while. The album is dominated by gentle acoustic melodies, up-tempo drum beats, and beautiful lyricism. Sure, the album is a bit clichéd as it pretty much just explores the concept of love in conjunction with hopeless romanticism. Except Phillips does it in a way that actually makes it worth listening to and doesn’t drown you in sappy three-chord riffs and regurgitated drum samples.
The album bursts open with the acoustic folk ballad “Searchlight”. Fueled by a crashing kick drum and rapid acoustic chords, the song builds up into the tremendous sing-along chorus that is “I’m sending out a searchlight / Shine it out until I find you”. The lead single “Raging Fire” is a throw-back to a sound that Coldplay favoured in Mylo Xyloto, yet chose to abandon while recording their latest album Ghost Stories. It is a staggering crescendo of area-styled kick drums and crowd-based sing-along choruses. There is no holding back as Phillips launches into this track with untempered gusto. The chorus of “Come out/ come out /come out/ won’t you turn my soul into a raging fire” is an instant hook that will become your earworm for the rest of the day.
The album is punctuated by other gems of songs, such as the hopelessly romantic song “Alive Again”. The track “Fool for You” demonstrates that Phillips can use clichés with such confidence that he actually sounds genuine. The lyrics “Say it loud/ You know it’s true / I’m just a fool for you” reek of clichéd romanticism, but at the same time it is an utter gem of a song. “Midnight Sun” closes the album with a nostalgic burst of frantic energy imbued with hooks that will get the song stuck in your head. ‘Thicket” shows Phillips’s ability as a songwriter and shows that he is capable of composing delicately beautiful pieces.
There are moments where Phillips falls short of glory, though. “Fly” is his attempt at being a John Mayer styled rocker, yet failing hopelessly. It points towards a direction that he could grow towards, yet seems to out of place with the rest of the album. “Trigger” and “Lead On” hold certain promises within them that they fail to deliver. They attempt to obtain glory upon the chorus, yet fall short of success as they leave you wanting more.
In all its glory Behind The Light is a truly tremendous album that knocks all other male pop artists out of the arena or at least, it should do that. But we all know the pattern of pop music: if you don’t have any beats and terrible lyrics about getting bitches, then you’re not going to be successful. Phillip Phillips has produced a tremendous album and it makes me sad to know that people will just brush it under the rug.