If there is something that Phillip Phillips has demonstrated he can do extremely well–both on his albums and his live shows–is that he can play a mean, funky guitar riff. Another one is his ability to craft incredibly unique and distinctly sounding songs both as a solo writer and as a co-writer. “Lead On” is an example of both, an infectious, delicious funky song by Phillip and regular collaborators Todd Clark and Derek Fuhrmann. Full of lyrics you can’t help but sing along to, “Lead On” has become a set list regular during Phillip’s live performances, where it continues to evolve into one of the best and funkiest jams of the show.
Musically, “Lead On” has a great organic feel, with a driving rock beat that creates a sense of urgency from the start. Beautiful strings cruise above, contrasting with the beat but also accentuating it and counterpointing it later on. It’s vibrant, rich and very inviting.
Lyrically, “Lead On” is equally rich, with lyrics that fall effortlessly into the beat and string along seamlessly between verses and chorus. The lyrics are very visual too, creating evocative images with only a few words (“You are the blur in my eye as I wake up through the night” being one of my favourites lines). Phillip’s vocals, urgent and yearning, give an additional edge to the song, because despite the funky and rocking feel of the music, “Lead On” is not really a light song.
The lyrics describe a relationship, a slightly dependent one, even a little toxic, but one he’s not ready or willing to quit just yet. The feeling is of wanting to let go and lose himself in it, despite what this may cost him (“I can’t quit you, and I’m fine with being used”), even if it means his sanity and control (“You are the rarest drug, with every word I breathe, I feel the way you’ve changed me”). Although he yearns for release, he continues to plead to be taken along, maybe because this is actually the only way he can be free. The lyrics are probably about love, but songs, of course, can have multiple meanings, and Phillip, as we know, is never quite transparent with his words, finding ways to convey probably very personal feelings through images and stories that resonate with many while not necessarily revealing his most intimate world.
A fun but intriguing song, the sense of urgency on “Lead On” actually grows as the song moves along, culminating with that intense crescendo that literally leaves us “hanging on to every word.” In the end too, we realize that nothing has changed, as passion–like an addiction–beckons again into the night, surely stronger and more delicious, in this case, that any possible pain or doubt.
Take a look at some great fan artwork inspired by “Lead On” submitted as part of Phillip’s lyrics contest last year. And check out a couple of amazing live performances of “Lead on” below!
Among all the light and darkness that we find in Behind the Light, “Unpack Your Heart,” the second single from the album, is one of the rare ones that’s almost all light.
Where confusion, heartbreak and betrayal seem to be the dominant emotions in “Thicket,” “Unpack You Heart” speaks of a love that’s unconditional, accepting and profound. Thematically, it could work as an extension of “Raging Fire,” and musically, it’s closer to that sound as well.
Co-written by Phillip, Derek Fuhrmann, Todd Clark & Greg Wattenberg, “Unpack Your Heart” shines because of its lyrics, but also because of its production, one of the most beautiful on the whole album. Much gentler than “Raging Fire,” it starts sweetly with Phillip’s rich acoustic guitar and intimate vocals. When they come in, the drums are very crisp, but incredibly warm, as are the cello, bass, and rest of the accompaniment. It’s the equivalent to a clear morning light, and if we listen to the lyrics, they find their equivalent in the music too:
“Meet me where the sunlight ends
Meet me where the truth never bends,”
Phillip pleads warmly,
“Bring all that you’re scared to defend
Lay it down when you walk through my door
Throw all of it out on the floor
Your sorrow, your beauty, your war,
I want it all, I want it all”
The lyrics speak clearly of acceptance, of letting go of the fear of being yourself, and the magic that happens when you do. The official video, full of playful, quirky animation, really captures this idea, the lightness of a free, “unpacked” heart. Further, the song speaks of authenticity, of acknowledging our mistakes, “madness” and ideals, not only in front of ourselves but in front of those who love us–it’s certainly a gift that goes both ways.
A third notion is that in love sometimes is easier to give than to take. But unconditional love means that we must believe—gracefully accept—that somebody may love us the same way we do: in spite of all our flaws, secrets and “wars.” It’s an all-encompassing love, between lovers perhaps (as in love and in passion one can be “all-consuming”) but one that goes beyond that; maybe that’s why these lyrics have been given a multitude of meanings, from the romantic to the psychological, to the spiritual. It’s a sweet song, an invitation, an extended hand leading into the light.
Watch some cool performances of “Unpack Your Heart” below!
And if you haven’t yet, click here to buy Behind the Light!
Phillip Phillips new single Raging Fire is finally out!
The single dropped today at midnight and fans were more than ready for it.
The track was co-written by Phillip, Derek Fuhrmann, and Todd Clark, who both collaborated with Gregg Wattenberg (Phillip’s producer on The World From The Side Of The Moon) on Gone Gone Gone.
Late last week, Phillip released a 15 second teaser of the song accompanied by a video showing Phillip and some of his musicians in the studio. Although Raging Fire is not the first single to feature Phillip as a writer (that was Where We Came From), it’s the first time that he is featured as a writer on the very first single from his upcoming album.
With the release of Raging Fire, Phillip is starting a long month of touring and promotion which will most likely continue through the summer after the spring release of the album. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long to hear Raging Fire live as Phillip will return to the American Idol stage this Thursday, March 6, to perform the song.
If you haven’t already, click here to purchase Phillip’s new single Raging Fire!