This Just In: Phoenix Dive Deep on Dreamy New Song “J-Boy”

Phoenix © Emma Le Doyen

True to their name, Phoenix always return stronger – renewed, revitalized, and more vibrant than ever. The French indie pop band reaffirmed that today (4/27/2017), when they emerged from their slumber to share “J-Boy,” the lead single off their forthcoming sixth album, Ti Amo (out June 9 via Loyaute/Glassnote Records). With summer on the horizon, “J-Boy” has been quickly embraced for its warmth, described as an “irresistible,” “feel-good” and “explosively upbeat” song sporting a “breezy vibe” and “happy” outlook.

On the surface, the above certainly appears true: The Parisian quartet build upon their signature guitar-pop with shimmering synth pads and a heavy dance beat that lends their new song a dreamy, almost euphoric atmosphere. Yet in spite of itself, “J-Boy” – which stands for the repeated chorus lyric, just because of you – is far more complex than it initially lets on. Within Phoenix’s pulsing rhythms and hypnotic melodies lies a deeper reflection on the ins and outs of love, romance, and companionship. Before we all start belting “J-Boy” at the top of our lungs, let’s take a minute to appreciate and acknowledge its substance.

Just because of you
These things I have to go through
Is it so bad? Is it so true?
Is it still you?
Just because of you
These things I have to go through
It’s more than that, we’re chained
And there’s no else to blame
For us two
Listen: “J-Boy” – Phoenix

Even after seventeen years, Phoenix still have a few tricks up their sleeve. With its cryptic allusions and colorful stories, “J-Boy” sets itself apart as one of Phoenix’s most lyrically ambitious songs to date. Frontman Thomas Mars assumes an aloof attitude, half-singing and half-rapping the verses in an affectionately casual manner.

J-Boy - Phoenix single art

J-Boy – Phoenix

Each verse tells a different part of the same love story, starting with the word, “something” and going from there. It’s an easy-to-follow structure; one can imagine Mars’ wife asking him, What is it that keeps us in love? and him answering that it’s, “something ’bout the jewels you wear,” or “Something ’bout how hard you learned Kamikaze in a hopeless world…” Each verse introduces a new scene with its own intimate language that only a special few can fully decipher, and that’s the charm of these lyrics: Only those closest to Phoenix may fully understand the experiences and emotions that went into the song.

In the band’s recent profile in the New York Times, Mars reflected on what he calls the romantic sci-fi feeling of “J-Boy”: “That direction came in part from being bored with my own voice; I tried to find a sci-fi voice that’s kind of a character.” Such new ways of approaching age-old concepts makes “J-Boy” feel exceptionally fresh, and the band certainly reflect that inspiration in their own instruments as well.

Ti Amo - Phoenix

Ti Amo – Phoenix

Still, one cannot help but feel this lingering melancholy – a darkness on the edge of town, creeping slowly into Mars’ voice as the song progresses.  He struggles to balance the elation and personal joy of his relationship with the conflict in the world around him. “The truth is we’re all to blame, there are lies and moral consequences,” he sings in the third verse. “We started at the end of the line, to end up giving up to a couple, who cares?… No more coral on the atoll.” The individual’s voice is only so strong, yet it is easy to carry the burdens of climate change, war, famine, death, disease… the list goes on. Surely anyone who keeps up with current events can relate to these complicated, delicate feelings.

Impressively, the character and plot development (if we can call it that) in “J-Boy” mirrors the natural order of emotions in most long-term relationships, starting with infatuation in an insulated corner of the world, and expanding to become ever-appreciative of the big and little things, while life continue to play its merry game of ups and downs.

Do you remember the last time you laughed
And I laughed and you left and I left?
Send me on the lonely other side of the world
With a couple of guys and alphabet
Put two and two together
We’ll make it last forever

The song’s final verse drives into increasingly personal territory as Mars appreciates the connection he has continued to cultivate, despite the unorthodox nature of his profession. Phoenix have always had a way with words, but this self-aware confession is particularly enriching; it casts aside the barrier between musician and listener, allowing us to connect to the words and music in a much more meaningful way.

Something in the middle of the side of the store
Got your attention you would ask for more
I was excited to be part of your world
To belong, to be lost, to be mostly the two of us
Something I was stealing for no reason at all
They hang me higher than a disco ball
But you talked them into letting me go
It’s no Picasso, Michelangelo

Something ’bout the jewels you wear
Shiny, shiny bangles on your wrists
And at the Masquerade ball
You feel trapped in a vault, in an empty aquarium
If suddenly you’re out of the woods
Then inside of an alley you’re out of words
Well I thought it was radium at first

Some things they don’t matter
’til they matter to you

They stole that money from a homeless girl
The truth is we’re all to blame
There are lies and moral consequences
We started at the end of the line
To end up giving up to a couple, who cares?
When you talked me into letting you go
No more coral on the atoll

Something ’bout how hard you learned
Kamikaze in a hopeless world
Do you remember the last time you laughed
And I laughed and you left and I left?
Send me on the lonely other side of the world
With a couple of guys and alphabet
Put two and two together
We’ll make it last forever

Just because of you. The words carry the weight of a relationship that has weathered its fair share of both good and bad. “J-Boy” is not an exclamation of love, nor is it a lover’s lament. Rather, Phoenix’s song is about all that a love can bring: Mars focuses on the physical and emotional experiences he’s had, that are intrinsically connected to his relationship. In essence, the entirety of the song is a tapestry of stories within the greater novel of a shared romance: “Just because of you, these things I have to go through. Is it so bad? Is it so true? Is it still you?” croons Mars, donning his signature falsetto in the song’s undeniably infectious chorus.

“J-Boy” could only be made after years and years of working at a relationship. A potent mixture rich musical, emotional and lyrical content, it carries the mark of a seasoned artist that continues to fill the room with vibrant life and resilient energy. It’s no Picasso, Michelangelo; it’s Phoenix.

Ti Amo‘s lead single may be a sonically irresistible, feel-good bit of dance pop, but it’s so much more than what those words convey, and Phoenix ought to be awarded the credit they deserve for trying, perhaps harder than ever before, to craft catchy music with substantial meaning. Now when you start belting “J-Boy” at the top of your lungs, you’ll sing it knowing the full weight of this remarkably warm song.

:: purchase/stream “J-Boy” HERE ::
:: pre-order Phoenix’s Ti Amo HERE ::

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:: Phoenix :: 2017 Tour Dates ::

5/12/17 – Miami, FL @ Fillmore *
5/13/17 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues *
5/14/17 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival
5/15/17 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium *
6/2/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore +
6/3/17 – New York, NY @ Governor’s Ball
6/4/17 – Toronto, ON @ Field Trip Festival
6/5/17 – Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom +
6/7/17 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks + %
6/10/17 – San Francisco, CA @ Live 105
6/11/17 – San Diego, CA @ X-Fest
6/13/17 – Phoenix, AZ @ Marquee Theater +
6/14/17 – Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl +
6/15/17 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl + &
6/21-6/25/17 – Worthy Farm, Pilton @ Glastonbury Festival
6/29/17 – Vilanova i la Geltru, Spain @ Vida Festival
6/30/17 – Marmande, France @ Garorock Festival
7/1/17 – Montreux, Switz @ Montreux Jazz Festival
7/6/17 – Lisbon, Portugal @ NOS Alive
7/7/17 – Bilbao, Spain @ Bilbao BBK Live
7/8/17 – Hérouville-St-Clair, France @ Beauregard Festival
7/9/17 – Belfort, France @ Les Eurockéennes Festival
7/13/17 – Aix-les-Bains, France @ Musilac Festival
7/14/17 – Carhaix, France @ Les Vieilles Charrues
7/12-16/17 – Dour, Belgium @ Dour Festival
7/16/17 – Berlin-Ferropolis, Germany @ Melt! Festival
7/20-22/17 – Wiesen, Austria @ Out of the Woods
7/22/17 – Roma, Italy @ Rock in Roma
8/6/17 – Bandol, France @ Lunallena festival
8/11-12/17 – Bali, Indonesia @ Sunny Side Up Festival
8/11-13/17 – Jakarta, Indonesia @ We The Fest
8/12-8/13/17   Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia @ Good Vibes Fest
8/15/17 – Manila, Philippines @ Araneta Coliseum
8/17/17 – Bangkok, Thailand @ Moon Star Studio
8/18-20/17 – Osaka / Tokyo, Japan @ Summersonic Festival
9/1/17 – Stockholm, Sweden @ Popaganda Festival
9/2/17 – Laois, Ireland @ Electric Picnic
9/24/17 – Munich, Germany @ Tonhalle
9/25/17 – Cologne, Germany @ Palladium
9/26/17 – Hamburg, Germany @ Grosse Freiheit
9/28/17 – Luxembourg, Luxembourg @ Rockhalle
9/29/17 – Paris, France @ AccorHotels Arena
9/30/17 – London, UK @ Alexandra Palace
more info @ wearephoenix.com

Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com