This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #455: Mr. Brightsides by The Killers.
There is something cathartic about the experience of singing in public. The sense of community you feel with those singing all around you and the sense of connection you feel with the musical artist on stage is second to none. For this reason, there is a special place reserved in all of our hearts for sing-along anthems. “Mr. Brightsides” by The Killers is one such pop-rock anthem. But, “Mr. Brightsides” has proven to be more than simply, “disposable pop”. In fact, since it was released in 2004, “Mr. Brightsides” has sold over four million copies around the world. In the UK (where it is akin to their national anthem), “Mr. Brightsides” was named “Song of the Decade for 2000-2010” and is in the Top Ten all-time in terms of the number of times it has been downloaded. So, what is it about this song that people relate to and enjoy so much? Let’s discuss, shall we?
“Mr. Brightsides” is a song about a man watching his girlfriend cheat on him with another man. Ordinarily, that subject matter gets the “tears in my beer” treatment but, lead singer, Brandon Flowers, did something clever with the lyrics of this song…he made the song almost, “tactile” or “sensory”. When you think of your five senses, you can all think of how certain things taste or how they feel or sound or whatever. Because of our life experiences and our intellectual capacity, thinking about our senses is a multi-dimensional experience. Thinking about warm chocolate running down your throat will illicit a different reaction than thinking about minty mouthwash or toothpaste. Our lived experiences inform our intellectual reactions to sensory stimulus.
Now, let’s apply this to the lyrics of “Mr. Brightsides”. When the song came out, it was geared, for the most part, to a target audience in their twenties. For many people in that age bracket, life experiences at that time include dating and exploring the sensual aspect of being with other people. Many of these new experiences are sensory in nature. For example, caresses, firm kisses, skin-on-skin sensations and so on. The lyrics to “Mr. Brightsides” mine the sensory experiences of their target audience by including words that describe the illicit affair in ways the audience can feel in that multi-dimensional, lived way. Lines such as, “She’s touching his chest, now. He takes off her dress, now” cause listeners to remember how they felt being touched or how it was to remove clothing when it came to that stage of the encounter. The lyrics provoke a visceral reaction. Fortunately, despite the negative storyline, the experiences being described are pleasurable ones and, as a result, audiences happily sing along and feel great doing so.
In addition, Flowers includes some community-building moments into his lyrics when he sings that, “It’s just the price I pay, destiny is calling me, open up my eager eyes, I’m Mr. Brightsides!” These lines are usually the ones that create the lustiest sing-along moments in any live performance. And, that is the final point I will make….”Mr. Brightsides” is a song meant to be performed live. Just like “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, “Mr. Brightsides” is a song designed to cause a specific visceral reaction from an audience. When that reaction occurs, the song elevates to a much higher, special level. Therefore, in the videos I will post today, they will all be from live performances. The first one in this post will be from a live performance at Royal Albert Hall. In this performance, Flowers describes how the band came together in Las Vegas and how the song came to be. Btw, The Killers are Brandon Flowers on vocals, Dave Keuning on lead guitar, Mark Stoermer on bass/rhythm guitar and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. on drums. I will, also, post two festival performances from The Glastonbury Music Festival; one from the band’s point of view *(featuring Johnny Marr from The Smiths, on guitar) and the second video will be from the audience’s point of view. In both cases, watch and listen for the energy from the crowd. “Mr. Brightsides” is one of the most-popular pop anthems of this century and, since I am writing this post on a Friday, why don’t we all kick back, sing along and have a little fun. Something about that feels right to me. Enjoy.
The link to the music video for Mr. Brightsides by The Killers from Royal Albert Hall can be found here.
The link to the music video for Mr. Brightsides by The Killers from The Glastonbury Music Festival (the band’s POV) can be found here.
The link to the music video for Mr. Brightsides by The Killers from The Glastonbury Music Festival (the audience’s POV) can be found here.
The Killers have a great website that can be linked to by clicking here.