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Released: 2018

“Us” by James Bay is a heartrending lyrical confession that grapples with the tribulations and complexities of life in a modern world, underpinned by an unyielding belief in the redeeming power of unity and shared human experience.

The song begins with James acknowledging life’s challenges and the weight of urban living: “Sometimes I’m beaten / Sometimes I’m broke / ‘Cause sometimes this city is nothing but smoke.” He depicts an image of desolation and anguish, which speaks to the artist’s inner turmoil. Moreover, “this city is nothing but smoke” is a classic symbolism of illusion and uncertainty, inferring societal pitfalls and life’s unpredictabilities.

The recurring phrase “I believe in us” is a powerful affirmation that despite these struggles, there’s a persistent hope in unity and shared strength. It speaks to both a personal relationship and humanity as a whole. The ask in the lyrics “Tell me how to be in this world / Tell me how to breathe and feel no hurt” reflects the need for guidance amid life’s tumultuous nature, articulating a universal sentiment that resonates with many.

Bay takes us on a ride down memory lane in the line, “We used to be kids living just for kicks / In cinema seats learning how to kiss.” He nostalgically recalls simpler times, back when the world seemed more lustrous and carefree, cleverly juxtaposing the past and the present. This revisiting of youthful innocence sets the stage for the chorus, where the overarching theme of believing in “us” and finding a way out, even when “the light goes down,” is reiterated.

By repeating “I believe in us” and “I believe in something”, Bay is downright steadfast in his optimism despite the gravity of the issues he presents, essentially transforming the song into an anthem of hope and resilience in the face of life’s adversities.

The faded echoes and gradual decrescendo into the closing lines “(I believe) / I believe in us / Yeah / Oh-oh / Oh / Ooh” give a lingering, echo-like feel, leaving listeners with a haunting, yet empowering sense of resilience. What a masterstroke.

“Us” is more than just a song; it’s a rallying cry for unity and hope amid chaos and uncertainty. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s ability to rise above all odds and find connection in shared struggles. Simply put, James Bay’s “Us” is a poignant ode to our collective struggle and resolve.

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