After a long and frustrating delay, the 2019 Worlds theme is finally here. Phoenix is a haunting, powerful anthem accompanied by a video featuring some of the game’s most popular players and champions. But with the monumental hype that has been building around the song, does it stand up to expectations?
In general, the crowd consensus seems to be that Phoenix is good. Not amazing, certainly not the best ever, but good. Fine. Average, at least. And after less than two days, it already seems to be growing on people.
To be fair, there was a lot stacked against this year’s song from the start. RISE, the theme from last year’s Worlds, was widely considered a masterpiece, and set the bar incredibly high for 2019. On top of this, the delay of Phoenix, which didn’t come out until after the Play In stage was already over, built incredible anticipation. The longer fans waited, the better the song would need to be to meet their expectations, until it eventually rose to unattainable heights.
Despite this, there seem to be few completely negative reactions. There are things people wish were different, sure. But overall, it’s basically what was expected. Inspiring, League appropriate lyrics? Check. A stylized video featuring Champions and/or players? Check. Impressive vocals thanks to Cailin Russo & Chrissy Constanza? Double check.
Each Worlds theme has had a central idea that tied it together, a point to drive home to the audience. RISE followed the path of Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong as he conquered the best players on the best teams in the world to lift the Summoners Cup the year before. In a more general sense, this reflected the huge challenges any player must face if they want to reach the top. The year prior, Legends Never Die focused on the immortality achieved by those who work hard enough to become the greatest.
Phoenix, unsurprisingly, is about rising from the ashes, and the idea of using your biggest challenges and defeats to make you stronger. What becomes more obvious with a closer analysis of the lyrics, and especially the video, is that the biggest challenge for many players likely lies inside of them.
In a similar fashion to Warriors from 2014, the video works with a number of different scenes to convey its point rather than one linear story line. It showcases Song “Rookie” Eui-jin, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winther in heavily stylized and semi-animated scenes. Working against each of them is a shadow version of themselves. Opposite these scenes are animated action clips of champs that they have recently been famous for – Lissandra, Karma and Irelia, respectively. The champions also have shadow versions, facing off against them in a battle to the death. This literal depiction of the intangible challenge that all players must face becomes more powerful with each viewing.
The lyrics drive this concept home just as powerfully. “You gotta conquer the monster in your head and then you’ll fly” embodies the entire message of the theme, which was likely chosen because it is an issue that speaks to any serious player. Self doubt, the thought of giving up, distractions, salt, tilt – whatever it may be, all players have it. Part of what sets the best apart is that they face their inner demons and use them to grow.
A million voices in your head that whisper, ”Stop, now”
Another twist of the knife, turn of the screws
It’s all in your mind and it’s fighting you
Arm yourself, a storm is coming
Well, kid, what you gonna do now?
Speaking of the best, it’s obvious why these players were chosen to be featured in this theme specifically. Other than just being some of the biggest names in the game, being the three best Mid Laners in the world comes with a lot of scrutiny. Whether it’s talks of them being past their prime, if they’re the real deal or not, or doubting their consistency, this scrutiny magnifies any internal doubt tenfold. Without having a complete mastery of these shadow-selves as depicted in the video, they would easily take over. Faker, Caps and Rookie have all risen from the ashes of self doubt to become some of the greatest.
Phoenix is a very good song accompanied by a great video, featuring some of the most popular players. So why isn’t it the best ever? It seems to simply come down to how they chose to do it. Little fault can be found with either the song or the video, but instead the overall piece is just lacking a little something. Phoenix doesn’t have either the in-depth story line or the plethora of references like RISE, Ignite or Legends Never Die do. However, what it does, it does very well and should be applauded for it. As of this writing, the video is fast approaching six million views on YouTube in under two days, so it seems that many agree.