Help Is on the Way
|"Help Is on the Way"|
|Single by Rise Against|
|from the album Endgame|
|Released||January 25, 2011|
|Recorded||September 2010–January 2011 at The Blasting Room, Fort Collins, Colorado|
|Rise Against singles chronology|
"Help Is on the Way" is a song by American rock band Rise Against, featured on their sixth studio album Endgame (2011). Inspired by lead vocalist Tim McIlrath's visit to New Orleans, the song addresses the slow response time for aid to disaster stricken areas. The lyrics make reference to Hurricane Katrina as well as the BP oil spill, and the broken promises made to survivors of the disasters. "Help Is on the Way" first premiered on January 17, 2011, on the radio station KROQ-FM, and was later released as the album's lead single on January 25, 2011.
"Help Is on the Way" polarized critics, with some praising the furious and emotional nature of the track, while others criticized it for being bland and repetitive. Despite the mixed reception, it remains one of the band's highest charting singles to date, becoming their first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at 89, as well as number 2 on the Rock Songs chart.
Recording and inspiration
"Help Is on the Way" was written by lead vocalist Tim McIlrath in collaboration with the song's producers, Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. The latter engineered the song alongside Andrew Berlin, while Chris Lord-Alge served as the mixer. It was recorded at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado and mastered by Ted Jensen. Rise Against unveiled the song on the California radio-station KROQ-FM on January 17, 2011.
The song's lyrics make reference to Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as their effects on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. In an interview with Dying Scene, McIlrath explained that the song was inspired by a trip he took to New Orleans: "I was there to hang out with other musicians and activists to discuss politics and music and how to fuse the two, and we did it in the backdrop of New Orleans. While there, I came into contact with a lot of the culture and also got to see places like the Lower 9th Ward, the Gulf Coast, and many of the places that were destroyed in the flood ... As New Orleans seemed to drift from the spotlight, I felt compelled to put what I was feeling into a song."[a] In a separate interview, McIlrath noted how he was critical towards the United States government and its handling of each disaster. He called Hurricane Katrina "as much a man-made disaster as it was a natural disaster" while citing the lack of legislation to prevent another oil spill.
A 24 second sample of the song's chorus. During the chorus, McIlrath alludes to Paul Revere's Midnight Ride with the lyrics "one by land, two by sea."
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"Help Is on the Way" is a punk rock song with elements of melodic hardcore, and has been described as an "anthemic". According to the sheet music, the song is written in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 108 beats per minute. It is composed in the key G♯ minor and the melody spans a tonal range of D♯4 to B♭5.
The song, spanning three minutes and 57 seconds, begins with a staccato guitar riff. Seven seconds in, the band performs a unified double stop, which leads into the opening verse. The pre-chorus follows suit, and the opening guitar riff is played, which is used to setup the chorus. In order to attain a smooth transition from the chorus to the next verse, small pauses of silence are used. After a second verse and chorus cycle, the bridge begins with guitar picking and a drum beat reminiscent of Coldplay's "Clocks". As the song reaches the conclusion, the opening guitar riff is once again employed.
Lyrically, the song addresses the slow response time for aid to disaster stricken areas. The opening verse makes reference to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, with the lyrics "the bayou is burning, the cypress has died". The second verse references the Deepwater Horizon explosion and its affects on the Gulf of Mexico, with the lyrics "5,000 feet below as black smoke engulfs the sky, the ocean floor explodes, eleven mothers cry"[b] and "choking on the black gold upon which we rely." During the bridge, McIlrath screams "Right Here" six times, before recollecting on broken promises.
Critics were polarized when reviewing "Help Is on the Way". Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone wrote that "If success hasn't done much to brighten McIlrath's worldview, songs like the rousing Katrina-themed scorcher ‘Help Is on the Way’ manage to fist-pump in the face of doom." Tim Newbound of Rock Sound praised the song, describing the track as "impressively structured and equally furious". Rob Parker of NME commented on how "Help Is on the Way" and fellow Endgame track "This Is Letting Go" are able to "strike the perfect balance between punk fury and melodic accessibility without losing any of frontman Tim McIlrath’s personality". Billboard commended the track, citing it as "understated enough to capture radio attention and plenty explosive to please Rise Against's devoted fan base". Genevieve Koski and Steven Hyden of The A.V. Club were divided in their opinions, with Koski praising the powerful lyrics, while Hyden criticized the track for being "run-of-the-mill". Thomas Nassiff of AbsolutePunk criticized the weak intro guitar riff, while Johnny Firecloud of CraveOnline felt that the song "suffers from a blandness so paralyzing and repetitive, it's a wonder fans haven't clued in to the formula".
The accompanying music video was directed by Alan Ferguson and filmed in New Orleans. Described as a "dramatic and compelling narrative of Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of a family", the video follows an African-American family as they're forced to move into their house's attic, and eventually their rooftop to escape the increasing floodwater levels. Real footage of Hurricane Katrina and the survivors are also shown throughout the video.
Released on March 23, 2011, the band opted not to appear in the music video, as they felt their presence "might diminish the importance of this video and skew its reception".
Personnel and credits
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Endgame.
- Preformed by Rise Against, with backing vocals by Chad Price
- Written by Tim McIlrath
- Produced by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore
- Recorded at The Blasting Room, Fort Collins, Colorado
- Audio engineering by Bill Stevenson, Jason Livermore, and Andrew Berlin
- Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge
- Mastered by Ted Jensen
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We were told just to sit tight, cause somebody will soon arrive...but it never came
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