In the musical and emotional roller coaster ride that is Behind the Light, no song reaches a higher musical and emotional peak than “Don’t Trust Me,” the second additional track on the deluxe version of the album, and the fifth written solely by Phillip. Little is known about this song, though Phillip recently indicated in a tweet that it’s an older song he wrote when he was younger.
While Phillip is still very young, “Don’t Trust Me” certainly captures an energy that’s a little different from the one we find throughout Behind the Light, and which I think actually finds its parallel on another older song, the amazing opener from Phillip’s first album, The World from the Side of the Moon, “Man on the Moon.” Like “Moon”, “Don’t Trust Me” explores some big themes lyrically, while also highlighting Phillip’s talent for delivering rich, fast-paced, rhythmically strong lyrics that take almost precedence from the music, the message flowing almost like a stream of thought, guiding the song much more than the music does.
This doesn’t mean that the music in “Don’t Trust Me” takes a back seat, quite the opposite, as the more complex the ideas get, the richer the music becomes, going from a bare bass line and snare drum on the verses, to beautiful, dream-like strings on the bridge, to a full band accompaniment–including a gorgeous horn arrangement–by the end of the song. The effect is exhilarating, inspiring, transformational–a lot to take in, specially coming from a song that’s only three and a half minutes long.
Still, this powerful effect is due very much to the lyrics, which remain the driving force of the song, both because of their form–long, rich sentences that often have no clear beginning or end– and because of the ideas they explore: identity, self-doubt, self-discovery; the quest to understand one’s place in the world. In the process, Phillip transforms probably very personal experiences into universal themes, touching on ambition and humility, luck and free-will, on the idea of individual potential and fulfillment. Ultimately it’s about being present, fully conscious of being alive and able to seize all the opportunities that come our way.
I have said before that trying to understand Phillip’s lyrics is like trying to find shapes in the clouds, we could make them out to be about almost anything we want. This is certainly true of “Don’t Trust Me.” Still, when a song is able to touch us, to make us curious, to move us in ways we haven’t been moved before, it must mean that we are able to recognize ourselves in it, however intuitively or briefly.
In the end, “Don’t Trust Me” conveys a vertiginous feeling, that of understanding the vastness of the universe and our place in it: we remain small and insignificant, yet each of us unique and capable of the extraordinary. The feeling is also that understanding is fleeting, but that we go on, our quest for meaning, eternal.
Listen to an awesome live version of “Don’t Trust Me” below. And, if you haven’t gotten it already, click here to get Behind the Light!
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Read about our previous “Songs of the Week.”