Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM


Wanting to Be Someone Else | “Unknown Phantom” by Ricky Montgomery

Wanting to Be Someone Else | “Unknown Phantom” by Ricky Montgomery

Cloaked and covered, you wander aimlessly through a haze of fog as you pass mounds of people. The streets are clogged with all sorts of characters – caped heroes and all-stars alike. Nervous, yet anticipating the excitement of the evening, you walk down the street, blending in with those around you. Whether you wear a fancy dress, a skintight Spider-Man outfit or a crooked cobalt pointed hat, for just one evening you can pretend to be something more than yourself.

Ricky Montgomery released the atmospheric depiction of such a narrative, “Unknown Phantom,” on March 15. The last time I had written about Montgomery we saw evolution in his sophomore release Rick, grappling with personal turmoil that took years to finally reckon with.

Now on a long stretch of touring, Montgomery is back with a single to add some fun to setlists. Described as the first song he wrote that “only Ricky Montgomery could sing,” “Unknown Phantom” feels like a welcome return to childhood days. His last work reflected on the past with a solemn eye, but this time around, a taste of bittersweet shines through the darkness with beautiful harmonies and lifted guitar lines.

The song begins by detailing the outfit a child wears on Halloween. Wearing a “grim reaper robe,” the kid travels carefully through a party. The eyes of the kid are described as bright enough to cut through the smoke blasted into the room, representative of one’s cautiousness and attentive observance of a new environment. Our protagonist stays hidden — not from avoiding open space, but by wearing the hood that masks their face. As they grow used to the environment, the kid starts to enjoy how free it feels to be anything they want to be, enjoying “dancing alone.”

I feel so dumb, so in my head /

Right next to you, I’ll just pretend

I feel so lucky to have a friend /

Don’t leave before me, stay ’til the end.”

As Montgomery tenderly sings the chorus, we learn more about the inner thoughts of our narrator. He feels “dumb,” perhaps having overcome great social anxiety to even attend the party. Our narrator details a closeness to “you,” referring to another individual that he is thankful to call a friend.

What works so well is the anonymity of this secondary character. It isn’t clear whether this is a real person our protagonist met at the party or if Montgomery suggests a comfort in the fictional version of yourself one might create to fit in at a party. The kid pleads for this figure to stay with them even when the party ends, wanting their fear of social confrontation to leave their mind for more than just one night.

These uncertainties and questions ring out as the song chants a vocalization of the chorus’ melody, leaving unresolved thoughts behind. The drums are crisp, the bass is mixed wonderfully and the guitars walk up scales as the intensity increases. Montgomery suggests that it is important to let loose from time to time — one should accept that you can be your desired self at any point if you allow it. It’s perfectly normal to envision yourself as a wizard, a rockstar or even Batman!

If you’re interested in finding some peace with chill indie vibes, check out this track, alongside Rick by Ricky Montgomery.

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About the Contributor
Ryan Wilbert
Ryan Wilbert, Writer
Ryan Wilbert (he/him) is a freshman at MSU studying Information Science. He is usually found either playing his guitar or eating Crunch bars from the Sparty’s markets. His favorite artists include Car Seat Headrest, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys, accounting for a good portion of his CD collection. “The ocean washed over your grave.” - Car Seat Headrest

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