How did it end up like this? The Killer’s debut single “Mr. Brightside” was the inescapable rock hit of 2004 and yet, in the 14 years since its release, the song has rarely been off the top 100 singles chart. In recent years, numerous publications have launched investigations into exactly what the fuck is happening here, but so far none have come to a satisfying conclusion. In his latest video, YouTube music analyst Middle 8 tries his hand at solving the riddle of “Mr. Brightside” by tracing the story back to the song’s inception.
When Brandon Flowers and David Keunig first formed their band in 2001, “Mr. Brightside” was one of the first songs they wrote together. Keunig already had the guitar riff ready to go and Flowers had just exited a relationship plagued by infidelity, which prompted him to write the song’s lyrics. As the video’s narrator says, “The rest of the song just fell into place,” ultimately resulting in a fairly simplistic, anthemic rock song with just one repeated verse and a chorus.
The simplicity of the song may have been what made it such an enduring hit. While “Mr. Brightside” was initially a bit of slow burn on the charts, it eventually peaked at number 10 and then continued to just hang around. The band has never not played it live and audiences never seem to tire of scream-singing along with the simple melody. The lyrical content, touching on themes of heartbreak, resentment, and hope, will never not be relevant to young listeners. It’s a song that seems purposefully crafted to be around forever.
One aspect of the song’s popularity that this video fails to mention is the fact that it’s recently been turned into a meme. Back in 2016, Vox published an article chronicling the song’s journey from unlikely party song to ever-evolving Twitter reference. It’s entirely possible that today’s teens are being exposed to the song through some viral joke content before seeking it out on their own, slowly pushing it back up the pop charts.
Then again, we might be over-thinking it. If you were to ask the people commenting on Middle 8's video, you’d find the reason for the continued success of “Mr. Brightside” is as simple as, “Because it slaps.”
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