"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 is about the slow response time for aid to disaster stricken areas. It incorporates elements of punk rock and melodic hardcore, with lyrics that allude to Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. "Help Is on the Way" premiered on KROQ-FM on January 17, 2011, and was later released as Endgame's lead single on January 25.
"Help Is on the Way" polarized critics, with some praising its lyrics and song structure, 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. It peaked at eighty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached number two on the Hot Rock Songs chart. The accompanying music video depicts an African-American family, as they attempt to escape increasing floodwater levels that engulf their neighborhood.
"Help Is on the Way" was written by American rock band Rise Against, with lyrics by lead vocalist Tim McIlrath, and produced by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. Stevenson and Livermore 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 was mastered by Ted Jensen. Rise Against unveiled the song on the California radio-station KROQ-FM on January 17, 2011, before releasing it as Endgame's lead single on January 25.
McIlrath was inspired to write the lyrics for the song following a trip he took to New Orleans. While he had initially gone to discuss with local musicians how to merge politics and music, he was able to visit several areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flood, such as the Lower Ninth Ward. As McIlrath had felt that news outlets were quick to discuss less important stories following the disaster, he compiled his thoughts and wrote the song's lyrics. McIlrath also noted that his criticism of the United States government's handling of various disasters influenced the lyrics; he called Hurricane Katrina "as much a man-made disaster as it was a natural disaster", and lambasted the fact that no legislation was passed to prevent another oil spill following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
"Help Is on the Way" is a rock song containing elements of punk rock and melodic hardcore, and has been described as "anthemic". According to the song's sheet music, the composition is written in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 108 beats per minute. It follows verse-chorus form, and is composed in the key G♯ minor, with a melody that spans a tonal range of D♯4 to B♭5.
Lyrically, "Help Is on the Way" is about the slow response time for aid to disaster stricken areas. While Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club found that the lyrics could pertain to any difficult situation, the song primarily focuses on Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as their affects on the Gulf Coast of the United States and New Orleans. McIlrath maintains clean vocals throughout the majority of the song, but temporarily switches to screaming vocals during the bridge.
Critics were polarized in their opinions when reviewing "Help Is on the Way". Tim Newbound of Rock Sound described the piece as "impressively structured and equally furious", while Evan Lucy of Billboard.biz thought it was "understated enough to capture radio attention and plenty explosive to please Rise Against's devoted fan base". Rob Parker of NME felt that "Help Is on the Way" and fellow Endgame track "This Is Letting Go" were able to "strike the perfect balance between punk fury and melodic accessibility without losing any of frontman Tim McIlrath’s personality". Chad Grischow of IGN complimented the music, saying that "as powerful as the lyrical content of the song is, the storm of guitars rolling over it like a gristly, foreboding cloud kick you in the chest just as hard".
Koski and Steven Hyden of The A.V. Club were divided in their opinions, with Koski praising the powerful lyrics, while Hyden belittled the song as "run-of-the-mill". Thomas Nassiff of AbsolutePunk wrote that "Help Is on the Way" was one of the weaker moments from the album, criticizing the intro guitar riff, while comparing the lyrics to those of another Rise Against song, "Re-Education (Through Labor)". Johnny Firecloud of CraveOnline was heavily critical of the song, stating that it "suffers from a blandness so paralyzing and repetitive", and ultimately summarized it as "totally flaccid".
Commercially, "Help Is on the Way" is one of Rise Against's most successful singles to date. In the United States, it remains the band's only song to reach the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at eighty-nine, and reached number two on the Hot Rock Songs chart. The single also achieved international success, reaching number ten on the Australia Hitseekers chart, number forty-five on the Canadian Hot 100, number four on the Czech Republic Modern Rock chart, and number nineteen on the UK Rock & Metal chart.
The accompanying music video was directed by Alan Ferguson and filmed in New Orleans. It 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 caused by Hurricane Katrina. The video follows the song's lyric thread, while real footage of Hurricane Katrina and the survivors are shown throughout. It ends with a message encouraging donations, and a link to the band's activism website.
The video was released on March 23, 2011. It does not feature any band members, who opted not to appear in it, as they felt their presence would be detrimental to the video's message. This decision was commended by critics, with Katie Hasty of HitFix stating that band "went for an artifact of truth".
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Endgame.