Do you ever think when Mr Brightside opened up his eager eyes people would still be talking about him on his 15th birthday.
Don’t pretend you don’t know who I’m talking about, as soon as you hear the ‘Do bi do bi do bi do’ intro you’ve got about three and a half minutes before you’ll be screaming ‘I never!’
For 15 years he’s been coming out of his cage and would you believe it, he’s been doing just fine ever since.
Whether you’re wet behind the ears and enjoying the excess of Freshers’ Week or long in the tooth and long out of education, The Killers’ debut single unleashes incomparable joy to its listeners whether played online, at a club or a wedding.
How can you measure the true beauty of a song? Well, aside from the fact that it’s probably bouncing around in your head now as you read, there’s some mind blowing stats to back up this heartbreaking ballad.
Take for example its chart performance. While on initial release in 2003, the track didn’t break into the mainstream it quickly became a buzz track on the indie scene getting air play by Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq when they were at BBC Radio 1 and on XFM, which now goes by Radio X and still plays the track.
I don't actually remember ever learning the lyrics to mr brightside?? Are we all born automatically knowing all the words???
— amy (@weirdworld0famy) June 19, 2016
Since its reissue on the back of the success of Somebody Told Me in 2004, Mr Brightside celebrated his 200th week in the chart earlier this year in March. The Official Charts recorded, in the year leading up to March, the track had been streamed 45 million times, while in 2018 it’s averaged 878,000 plays a week. Not bad for a song that came out around the same time mobile phones only just started having colour screens.
In terms of streaming, the British Phonographic Industry revealed Mr Brightside to be the most streamed song of any released before 2010. Any song before 2010, think about it, that’s like 99 per cent of music being put to shame by a chap imagining getting cucked by a jilted lover.
And that’s where Mr Brightside’s sad appeal comes into its own. Despite the obvious tones of rejection and humiliation it’s a go to track not just (bizarrely) on wedding dance floors but also at funeral wakes. In 2016 Brian O’Sullivan posted a video of a rendition in a Kerry pub as a tribute to his friend Ger ‘Farmer’ Foley, and racked up over 635,000 views in three days. On top of that, The Killers picked up on it and sent Brian a message on Twitter, saying ‘Brian O’Sullivan, if Brandon ever needs a fill-in, we’re calling you! May we all have friends like this #farmersrule’.
— The Killers (@thekillers) March 27, 2016
And that’s just the tip of the social – in the online sense – appeal of Mr Brightside. For as long as we’ve all lived on the internet there’s been a meme or a tweet that encapsulates our love for the eternal smash hit. And as we all know, there’s nothing like a good meme to show the measure of somebody’s importance in our lives.
when you're falling asleep and she's calling a cab and he's having a smoke and she's taking a drag pic.twitter.com/XkQrnLHeTu
— Shout Out To All The Pear (@NECROMANClNG) July 29, 2016
while he's having a smoke
n she's takin a drag
now they're going to bed
and my stomach is sick
and bees are dying globally at an alarming ra
— elliot (@deadnightagain) April 14, 2016
he's making a list
and checking it twice
and i'm falling asleep
and she's calling a cab
— Sid Menon Xtreme Legends (@BeamSplashX) December 6, 2016
WHEN YOU'RE HITTING IT FROM BEHIND & SHE MOANS I'M COMING OUT OF MY CAGE & I'VE BEEN DOING JUST FINE pic.twitter.com/PSDA2gxr1X
— bauhausfanaccoun jameson enema extravaganza ☝🏻😪 (@hypedresonance) April 28, 2016
But if the internet has Mr Brightside’s back in terms of carrying our collective nostalgia now, it wouldn’t necessarily be such a friendly place if The Killers hit the scene 10 years later than they did.
The band’s lead singer, Brandon Flowers, explained in an interview with ShortList in 2015:
Record deals have changed. The radio now only looks at the charts. They play a song a few times, see how well it’s doing on iTunes and if it’s not doing well, they’ll stop promoting it.
That would have been a disaster for The Killers. Mr Brightside was released twice. It didn’t go down well first time. It wouldn’t have the opportunity in the current climate.
How did it end up like this, how did it end up like this?!
One explanation is that Mr Brightside is just simply an earworm of a tune from a time when most of its audience were in a better place. The world the early noughties for those of us old enough to remember was a time before the global financial crash, a decade of austerity, polarised political movements and general unease – if we conveniently forget all that stuff that happened with the War on Terror and the Iraq war then you have the simple fact music draws raw emotion from our very beings.
Speaking to Shaun Keaveny on his BBC Radio 4 show Earworms, Phillip Ball, author of The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can’t Do Without It, explained:
There are a lot of levels of how we respond emotionally to music. We read some kind of emotional content from the surface of the music, so sad music tends to be soft and slow and happy music is quite jaunty. But beyond that I think the things that excite us about music are more subtle. The things that really capture the emotions.
And a lot of it seems to be about he fact that music plays with our expectations. It sets us up to expect something, and then maybe it does something slightly different. And that causes tension. If we eventually get what we expect, as we often do in music, we get the release. And that’s a satisfying cycle to go through that engages the emotions. Music goes straight to that tendency to predict and respond emotionally.
Apply this theory to Mr Brightside and you see that it’s the perfect cocktail of a tune. The immediately recognisable arpeggiated guitar intro sets you up for what’s to come; easily singalong-able and memorable lyrics of pain, sickness, jealousy, destiny and ultimately redemption.
The incredible feat is Mr Brightside hasn’t lost any steam despite coming out of his cage 15 years ago.
While there was a rush of memes in 2016, if you type his name into Twitter today you’ll still find a steady stream of people going crazy for the guy.
I just 'Oh fuck yeah'd out loud when Mr Brightside came up in my random playlist.
am i old now
— Byndo Gehk 💋 (@byndogehk) September 27, 2018
When the drums start in on Mr. Brightside pic.twitter.com/N9ZMjP58kg
— David “Hype” Luzader (@davluz) September 28, 2018
white people when Mr. Brightside comes on https://t.co/2Uk0XOz7hg
— Lydia Branch (@lydiabranchh) September 28, 2018
Imagine being the girl who inspired Mr. Brightside by cheating on the lead singer of The Killers.
Millions of drunk white kids lose their shit when that song comes on about her two timing ass 15 years later.
— Dysentery Gary (@GrantFrohock4) September 28, 2018
In a world before smartphones, international access to broadband internet and the streaming capabilities of the history of music at the world’s fingertips, would Mr Brightside have imagined everyone would still be singing his name 15 years after he was born. I never.
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.