Phillip Phillips surprised us all with his debut album The World From the Side of the Moon. And I say “surprised” because most American Idol contestants who ventured off to work on their own projects didn’t quite succeed. Look at David Cook’s dismal album David Cook, which was released back in 2008. It seems like American Idol alums have a trend of performing on the show and using their newfound “street cred” to release whatever they want and expect it to sell well, no matter how bad it is. Because of this I can’t blame anyone for rolling their eyes when a past contestant releases something new. But I have high hopes for Phillips. His last album was a hit, with the song “Home,” topping charts and selling thousands of copies. It was well written too, and for that I became a supporting fan. Surely if he wowed us before, he can wow us again with Behind the Light.

I’ll be honest here, one of the things I have trouble with when I review a pop-folk album is trying to find solid, distinct positives and negatives in an attempt to set it apart from the mass of other pop music that is unrelentingly released every other day. I’ll go ahead and say that the instrumentals in Behind the Light isn’t all that different from a lot of alternative music that creeps its way onto the iTunes store homepage. If you didn’t know it, you could mistake some of the music as something that came from a Coldplay album. Behind the Light is an album of fresh, feel-good music, and its biggest flaw is that it sounds almost identical to The World From the Side of the Moon.

The lyrics are what make Behind the Light a fantastic album that rekindled my love for this kind of music. Here’s a surprising fact: Phillips had a hand in writing the lyrics to these pop-folk songs, once again teaming up with producer Greg Wattenburg. Working with the same producer and creating the same sound as his first album, Phillips might be playing it safe this time around, but if it means having a successful sophomore album then I’m not really complaining. That isn’t to say I don’t wish for Phillips to experiment with his next project. I think as an artist he is creative enough to bring something new and interesting to the table in the future.

In the meantime, Behind the Light is still creative lyrically. Let’s take a look at the lyrics of “Raging Fire,” which is currently the most poplar song on the album: “If you listen close, you'll hear the sound/ Of all the ghosts that bring us down/ Hold on to what makes you feel/ Don't let go, it's what makes you real.” It’s not quite as cliché or as cheesy as a lot of similar music that’s out there. The album also has some great musical moments. “Face” for example, has a kicking beat carried out by the finger tapping on a classical guitar, something the classical enthusiasts can appreciate as well. “Don’t Trust Me” isn’t afraid to get a little on the loud side with electrified trumpets.

If you’re a fan of Phillip Phillips, you will certainly love Behind the Light for it’s creative lyrics and fresh, up beat melodies. And while I do wish Phillips did more with the album, it’s nice to see an ex American Idol contestant succeed in his own projects beyond the show. Not to mention the album’s cover art is sick.

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