The Meaning of “Mr. Brightside,” by The Killers

It’s never a bad idea to look on the bright side of things, even the revelation of a cheating partner. Waking from his sleep one night, Brandon Flowers had a gut feeling that his then-girlfriend was seeing someone else, then headed to a local Las Vegas pub the Crown and Anchor, and saw it for himself.

“I knew something was wrong,” said The Killers frontman, who said the song was born at the Crown and Anchor that night when he was around 20. “I have these instincts. I went to the Crown and Anchor and my girlfriend was there with another guy.”

Hot Fuss Hit.

Originally written around 2001 with The Killers’ guitarist Dave Keuning about Flowers’ experience, the song was later featured on The Killers’ 2004 debut album Hot Fuss, and was one of the pair’s earlier songs that made the cut. The song later reached No. 1 on the UK charts and peaked at No. 1 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 10 3 on the Adult Top 40 and Alternative Songs.

To date, “Mr. Brightside” remains an anthem for cheated hearts… and looking on the brighter side of things.

It started out with a … cassette tape.

At the time, Keuning and Flowers were writing a ton of songs and trying to see what made them “tick,” said Flowers in 2012. “I remember us going into the Virgin Megastore to buy ‘Is This It’ [The Strokes’] on the day it came out and, when we put it on in the car, that record just sounded so perfect. I got so depressed after that, we threw away everything, and the only song that made the cut and remained was ‘Mr. Brightside.””

Flowers added, “It came from this cassette of ideas that Dave gave me, and one of them was the ‘Mr. Brightside’ riff. I was able to slap a chorus and some lyrics onto it, and I knew I liked it. But it wasn’t until we first tried it out with a drummer that I knew it was special. We went to the guy’s house and showed him the song, and I got the goosebumps after that.’

It was only a riff. It was only a riff.

“When I first heard those chords, I wrote the lyrics down and we didn’t waste much time,” said Flowers in a 2015 interview. “That’s also why there’s not a second verse. The second is the same as the first. I just didn’t have any other lines and it ended up sticking.”

I’m coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine
Gotta, gotta be down, because I want it all
It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I’m falling asleep and she’s calling a cab
While he’s having a smoke and she’s taking a drag

Now they’re going to bed and my stomach is sick
And it’s all in my head, but she’s touching his chest now,
He takes off her dress now, let me go
‘Cause I just can’t look, it’s killing me
They’re taking control

A sweeter Iggy Pop?

Flowers has said that he was trying to capture something in Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life-era vocals on “Mr. Brightside,” but it just came across sweeter.

“If you listen to the ‘Lust for Life’ record, Iggy does a monotone delivery on ‘Sweet Sixteen,’ and I was trying to sound like that,” admitted Flowers. “It’s just that I have a sweeter voice than Iggy, and I was a kid, so it came out the way it did.”

Eric Roberts plays the “bad guy.”

Upon release, the video for “Mr. Brightside” took the song to another dimension. British director Sophie Muller, who worked on videos for Annie Lennox, Gwen Stefani, Shakesepeare’s Sister, and more, captured Vegas glitz of the band flair and the flash and burn of unrequited love with actress Izabella Miko playing the “girlfriend,” and Eric Roberts as the “bad guy.”

Pandemic PSA?

The CDC recommends effectively washing the hands with soap for 20 to 30 seconds. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Mr. Brightside” took on new meaning, and purpose as Flowers shared a musical public service announcement on handwashing using the lyrics.

And the song goes on…

In 2021, The Official Charts Company revealed that “Mr. Brightside” spent 260 non-consecutive weeks, or five years, in the top 100 of the UK singles chart since its release.

Highly revered by British fans from the start, “Mr. Brightside” has since become an anthem for fans of British football teams, and in 2013, the song re-entered the charts in the UK Top 40, after the band performed it on the UK competition show The X Factor.

“All the emotions in the song are real,” Flowers said. “When I was writing the lyrics, my wounds from it were still fresh. I am ‘Mr. Brightside,’ but I think that’s the reason the song has persisted because it’s real.”

Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies, choking on your alibis
But it’s just the price I pay, destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes, ’cause I’m Mr. Brightside

“Mr. Brightside” belongs to everyone.

“As fans, we know what that feels like,” said Flowers of the song’s longevity. “Whether it’s ‘Enjoy the Silence’ from Depeche Mode or ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ from U2, those songs belong to everyone. To be a part of it, on the other side of it, it’s nothing that we can really explain. But it’s really cool.”

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