There are at least two commercially available versions of Phillip Phillips‘ second album Behind the Light: a regular version with 12 songs, including singles “Raging Fire” and “Unpack Your Heart,” and a deluxe version containing three additional songs, two of which are written solely by Phillip (a third, limited release by Target includes another additional track, “Grace”).
The first of these additional tracks on the deluxe album is “My Boy,” a song of such profound beauty–musically, lyrically, artistically–that it alone makes it worth owning this version of Behind the Light. And much like “Thicket,” “Fly,” or “Face,” “My Boy” reveals yet again another completely different colour and flavour to Phillip’ song writing.
On “My Boy,” he teams with Fin Greenall, singer-songwriter and frontman of British trio Fink, who lends the song a quiet, atmospheric moodiness that’s characteristic of a lot of Fink’s music. Phillip, who has already shown his ability to create intense melancholic landscapes ( “A Fool’s Dance” on his first album, or even “Creatures,” a gorgeous, still unreleased song), absolutely thrives in this mood, making “My Boy” one of the most fully realized songs on the album, and one of Phillip’s most conceptually sophisticated songs to date.
Phillip has said many times that he is a guitar player first and a singer second, but in “My Boy” it is Phillip’s vocals that really shine, managing to be stirring and raw, but also subtle and fully in control, a true display of skill meeting emotion. The same can be said of Dave Eggar’s cello, which matches Phillip’s singing with what I consider to be his most elegant, most masterful contribution on the whole album. The string arrangement, by Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer, brings to mind the intimacy and richness of chamber music, a small but deeply expressive piece full of emotion.
Lyrically, “My Boy” seems to portray a conversation made up of very few, very cautiously chosen words; a moment of such intimacy and sadness we almost feel witness to something we shouldn’t hear. “It’s hard to say what’s in your heart, the truth can break it all apart,” Phillip sings on one of the verses, and though we never hear what these truths are, we certainly feel the fear that the possibility of this pain may cause. Silence then, is the answer, unuttered words to delay making real what until then have been abstract ideas and feelings, and we hear this in the sparseness of words, in the spaces left in between the words, in the boomy percussion and the echoing voice. The guitar, played brightly and warmly by Phillip, is constant, repetitive, a reminder of the time going by amidst all the silence.
“Everything will be okay my boy” Phillip repeats quietly throughout the song, like a lullaby, gentle words of comfort from a father or mother to a son. Yet we know there is perhaps no comfort, that innocence is gone, that the world has been revealed in all its harsh truths. The song, as a warm embrace, rises and surround us, the chorus swelling, soothing and reassuring, yet still incapable of curing an irreversibly broken heart.
Check out some beautiful performances of “My Boy” below. And click here to buy Behind the Light!
Every week until May 19 we are writing about one song on Behind the Light. Check out our previous Songs of the Week.