James Bay's Chaos and Light Refreshing Array of Genres

James Bay’s May 2018, album Electric Light, takes a step away from the soulful pop-rock of his first album Chaos and the Calm into a refreshing alternative array of genres. In the 28-year-old’s first concept album, he tells the story of love, loss, and forgiveness.

In the “Intro,” Bay introduces the story of two people in a relationship, unhappy but not quite ready to let go of one another. It fades into the first song of the album with the downbeat carrying through from the “Intro” into the opening electric guitar riff of “Wasted On Each Other.” This song explains the pain both people feel in their relationship but their unwillingness to let go because their feelings towards each other are still present.

The first half of Electric Light continues in the same manner, telling the story of the highs and lows of love and how it can prevail. In “Us,” the fifth song of the album, Bay describes the tragedies taking place in the world-the pain, and the loss-and how through it all the only thing that can keep the people sane is each other. In the lines, “After the wreckage, after the dust/ I still hear their howling, I still feel the rush/ Over the riots, above all the noise/ And through all the worry, I still hear your voice,” Bay explains sometimes the only clarity in the world can be found in love.

The album soon fades into the “Interlude.” Bay continues the story of the two people with them waking up together. As tires begin screeching in the background, they start to fight. The tires soon fade when there is a knock on the woman’s door, and the man asks her if he can come in. Bay seamlessly continues his story with the next song of the album entitled “Just For Tonight.” In this song he sings about pretending that the couple’s problems do not exist and that they are still together for that night.

In the following songs, Bay continues to describe the pull the two have for each other even though they are no longer together. Throughout the next few songs, Bay sings about how the man and woman really only need one another when they are in a dark place and are looking for support and comfort.

Bay uses the twelfth song of the album, “Stand Up,” as a turning point. He sings of the importance of seizing the day while the two still have the ability to and of taking chances, like they did when they were teens, while they are still young and bold enough to do so. This is my favorite song of the album. It starts with an electro funk beat and is built upon by Bay’s electrically tuned voice. The electric beat and vocals break away and are replaced by those that are much more acoustic in the pre-chorus buildup. The chorus continues in an acoustic manner as well, but the electro singing and beat return in the second verse before they are lost once again in the pre-chorus buildup. The chorus then rises into the interlude before transforming into the bridge of the song, which is my favorite part, where Bay takes on a different tone. His voice is raw and filled with emotion as he reminisces about the best times of his life. The song then takes a softer approach as it exits the bridge and moves into a modified version of the chorus, which is the outro of the song.

Bay’s second-to-last song of the album discusses the pain the man feels as he still wants to be with the woman, but she only wants to be with him “when no one’s around.” He concludes the song with the man describing that he lets her play him out because he still loves her and wants to be with her even if it is only on her terms.

In the last song of the album, entitled “Slide,” Bay concludes the couple’s story. He recalls from the time their relationship began to the broken state they are both in now, using lines like, “From the hot strobe lights and the spiked punch bliss/ And the long walks home in the dark we’ll miss/ Nobody teaches you how to reminisce/ Nobody teaches you to hurt like this.” The song continues in this fashion until reaching the chorus, where Bay reveals the two “slide into the arms of someone else,” unable to make their relationship work even though they desperately want it to. Bay ends “Slide” with a reading of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Song” by musician David Ryan Harris. It leaves a powerful impact, not only on the listener, but also on the meaning of the album.

James Bay’s second album, Electric Light, displays nothing but the talent and potential the young artist has. The instrumental aspects and vocals are flawlessly raw and real, reaching a wide array of people without disappointment. The alternative genre of this album is a perfect fit for the musicality Bay and his band have to offer. The only place Bay can go from here is up.



Header Photo: James Bay / Live 2016, 16 March 2016. pitpony.photography. Wikimedia Commons.

Thumb Photo:  James Bay performing at ACL Live in Austin, Texas on December 17, 2015.17 December 2015, 20:09 James Bay (Austin, Texas, 2015-12-17) Ralph Arvesen from Round Mountain, Texas. Wikimedia Commons.


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