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'Mr. Brightside' Will Never Die, And Here's Why

With its propulsive, tension-drenched emoting about jealousy and paranoia, The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" became a hit rock anthem back in 2004. Thirteen years later, it goes without saying that we're in a different world. Yet "Mr. Brightside" has never entirely left us — a fact that hasn't escaped watchers of the U.K. singles charts. Somehow, the song has hit the U.K. Top 100 at some point during 11 of the past 13 years. As recently as January, it climbed all the way to No. 49.

The website Noisey recently published a far-flung assortment of theories as to why the U.K. continues to embrace "Mr. Brightside," from elaborate and unlikely political machinations to the fact — the cold, scientific fact — that the song is an absolute jam, perfect for parties and breakups and countless occasions in between. But there are more mundane reasons for "Mr. Brightside" to keep cracking the U.K. charts, including the rise of streaming services like Spotify (which lessen the power of radio-programming gatekeepers) and the fact that England, and by extension its music scene, is far less populated than the U.S., and is thus more capable of registering the whims of lightly inhabited constituencies within its audience.

Still, there's more to it than that. When The Killers' song was first hitting the charts back in 2004, many of the songs that surrounded it now sound like relics — and, with good cause, are not still hovering somewhere on the U.K. charts. The biggest reason of all for the endurance of "Mr. Brightside" may just be that, as sung by Brandon Flowers, it expertly and efficiently taps into feelings that never entirely go away. Who among us hasn't, at some point, felt our feelings so hard that we feel like they're actually killing us?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)