“Mr. Brightside”: Discussing The Nostalgic King of the Socials
Issue   |   Tue, 04/26/2016 - 23:12
Photos courtesy of en.wikipedia.com
“Mr. Brightside” was released by the Killers in 2004 on their album “Hot Fuss.”

When I arrived on campus back in September, I expected a lot of things: rigorous courses, new friendships, food that was infinitely better than what the Philadelphia public school district offered. The first two expectations have since been met, though the jury is still out on Val. But this isn’t an article indicting Valentine Dining Hall. This article is about the one thing I would not have anticipated upon attending Amherst.

Yes, I’m talking about the intense and fervent love for the Killers’ 2004 song, “Mr. Brightside.”

The very first night I went out to the Socials, I heard the song twice at the same party. Any given weekend night, and occasionally Thursday, one can hear the song blasting from any number of Social dorms. Additionally, many formals and off-campus parties will play it later into the party when the partygoers are less “inhibited.” It’s instantly recognizable, as its sound is so drastically different from the usual dance tracks and rap songs. As Patrick Yang ’16 so adequately put it to me, “It’s a classic.”

And if you’re in the room when it comes on, you’ll be able to witness first hand the electric reaction. People cheer as the opening riff plays, before singing along with the incredibly depressing lyrics while simultaneously jumping up and down like they did at middle school dances. The love is intense, matched only by the OutKast classic “Hey Ya!” for more than obvious reasons.

But “Mr. Brightside” is not so obvious. I had only seen such desire for a song when my graduating class fell in love with “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa. However, while my high school class of 2015 had very emotional reasons for loving a song about reunion, the intense infatuation with “Mr. Brightside” is a mystery. I had to know why, in an era where pop songs are played out faster than Kanye West’s Twitter rant-responses, a song more than a decade old is a keystone at most parties.

A few answers were to be expected. Asking the DJs at several parties gave me some answers on the opposite side of the spectrum. “I’ll play it if I have to. It’s a crowd pleaser,” said Tyler Baldwin ’16. His thoughts on why were enlightening, however: “I think it’s played so often because it reminds people of high school.”

This was unexpected. “Mr. Brightside” came out in 2004, at least four years before the graduating seniors would have entered high school. Behind the lens of pop music, four years is a lifetime, as most tracks are played out after a few weeks. But every now and then a song comes along that defies the natural order of the world of pop music and extends far beyond its expected lifespan. It’s for this reason that many of us know and sing along to songs from the 90s, 80s, 70s and beyond. “Mr. Brightside” is one of these songs. It was as popular during my high school experience as it was for the current senior class. But so were a hundred other songs often referred to as “jams.” So why “Mr. Brightside”?

I spoke with several students about this phenomenon, and every answer seemed to say more about the song than the people listening to it. While rap and dance music might be popular on campus, people also like change. “Mr. Brightside” provides that relief.

“I think a lot of people don’t like rap or dance music, and it’s like something different, explained Jason Seto ’19. “It’s content is clean and it’s really catchy.”

“It’s got a good beat and it’s fun to sing along to,” said Anastasia Sleder ’19.

As for nostalgia’s sake, the song’s receiving end felt the same way. When asked if the song reminded listeners of high school, the sentiment was confirmed.

“For sure — it’s one of those nostalgia songs,” Seto said. “Everyone knows it.”

For incoming underclassmen, it reminds them of a place they were before the radical change they’re undergoing. For upperclassmen, it takes them back to a place they called home as they prepare to leave the one they’ve grown to love. High school was that home, and as college both begins and ends for many students, recalling memories of those youthful days long passed is just another part of a good time, an excellent juxtaposition between the past, present and future to come.

“Mr. Brightside” is just a placeholder for these feelings. It conjures up different thoughts for different people: some happy, some sad, but the sheer fact that the thoughts are there allows a bond between people in a sweaty, overcrowded room for three and a half minutes.

At least, that’s the case for many students. However, like all pop culture sensations, the song can be very polarizing, as many believe the song is played out.

“It’s overplayed, but I don’t hate it,” Lindsey Turner ’19 told me.

To each their own, but the sheer fact that “Mr. Brightside” is so polarizing means that it has an effect on people, good or bad. And with the overwhelming volume of students who shout the lyrics off-key in harmony with those around them, it’s unlikely that the song is going away anytime soon.