It’s been a veritable 21st-century British Invasion the last few years, with Adele and Amy Winehouse having led the charge on the neo-soul side of things, and One Direction and The Wanted putting a new spin on the boy band template. Then there’s Marcus Mumford and his musical mates (not sons, as it turns out) injecting the folk-rock formula with an infusion of passionate zeal not seen or heard in decades … if ever.
The band’s up-tempo, banjo-driven, British-accented bluegrass sound made it one of the surprise breakout sensations of 2010. Now Mumford & Sons is back with its first single, “I Will Wait,” from the sophomore effort Babel.
“I Will Wait” picks up where the often spiritually themed songs on Sigh No More left off. Which is to say, it’s hard at times to tell whether Marcus’ yearning vocals are describing a relationship with a woman, with God, or maybe with both. With his words carefully stacked atop a jubilant blend of blazing banjo, staccato acoustic guitar, thumping upright bass and boot-stomping drums, “I Will Wait” erupts into earnest thanksgiving and, perhaps, prayer.
As the curtain opens on the narrative, we hear the testimony of a weary road warrior singing the praises of home—and, it would seem, the faithful woman waiting for him there. “Well, I came home/Like a stone/And I fell heavy into your arms,” we hear. “These days of dust/Which we have known/Will blow away with this new sun.”
He’s home, it would seem, for good—or at least a good long while—and that thought evokes something like a spontaneous outpouring of humble devotion. “But I’ll kneel down/Wait for now/And I’ll kneel down/Know my ground.” Then the triumphant chorus kicks in, as Mumford repeatedly promises, “And I will wait, I will wait for you.”
Who is you? Entertainment Weekly reviewer Grady Smith answers this way: “So, who exactly is Mumford singing about—his lady or his maker? There’s a universality (as well as a certain sense of self-loathing) in his words that I’m guessing will help listeners of all sorts connect to the tune.”
The possibility that the you in question is God gets bolstered (if not sealed) by the spiritual language Mumford appropriates for the balance of the song: The second verse begins with him singing about his willingness to relinquish control (“So break my step/And relent”), followed by the acknowledgement that he’s been forgiven (“Well, you forgave, and I won’t forget”). Because of that, he says he needs to “shake the excess,” even as he determines to be a wiser, better man (“Now I’ll be bold/As well as strong/And use my head alongside my heart”).
Mumford knows he still needs help. Accordingly, we hear this petition, as he apparently prays for deliverance from his own weaknesses as well as from his own mind’s deceptive lies: “So tame my flesh/And fix my eyes/A tethered mind, freed from the lies/And I’ll kneel down/Wait for now.”
The last verse concludes reverently, “And I’ll kneel down/Know my ground/Raise my hands/Paint my spirit gold/Bow my head/Keep my heart slow/’Cause I will wait, I will wait for you.”
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.