By Hannah Kruse
The year is 2004. “Mr. Brightside” has just been released as The Killers’ first single. After two years of walking around Las Vegas passing out demo tapes, Brandon Flowers’ cheeky heartbreak pierces into pop culture. You are sitting in the backseat of your Mom’s minivan when you hear the track for the first time.
You do not know that your life has been changed forever.
“Mr.Brightside” comes on the radio when you’re stuck in late afternoon commuter traffic on the way to pick up your kid sister. You reach to turn the dial and to change to a much cooler station, because that’s you, you’re cool I swear to God. But with your fingers outstretched and your foot easing off the brakes, bright flashes of last Friday’s solo cup house party and blue eye’s snarky comment in AP Literature today bolt through your head. You choke it out, Brandon whelping in unison, “it started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?”
You turn the volume down a bit. […]
You’re 20. “Throwback” is now a normal part of your vocabulary and no longer something you hashtag on Instagram.
You’re at a new friend’s apartment on a weeknight after a mind-numbing seminar. None of you have class tomorrow and it’s still warm enough to wear shorts at night. There’s a bottle of white wine in your left hand and a white iPhone in your right hand when someone screams “PUT ON MR. BRIGHTSIDE!” You’d queued up that super lit J. Cole song, but you’re laughing and the words “ohemgeeyess” are tumbling out of your mouth before you can have second thoughts.
Two of your friends are thrashing around yelling the lyrics like a battle cry. Someone grabs their phone and records The Best Snapchat Story Ever of the chaotic interpretive dance. The chorus crashes around the room and somebody breaks a glass outside. You’re chanting along now, thinking to yourself, “screw that Kanye song, anyway… wait… Kendrick, maybe? Ehh whatever…”
You’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, because really, you can’t finish that project until Angela emails you the year-end report anyway. A Vice News article queues up after a picture of your smiling ex and their newborn child. The headline reads, “Why ‘Mr. Brightside’ Will Never Die,” with the sub-header noting that the song was released twenty years ago, today.
You listen to the song a few times on your lunch break. It’s better than you remembered. With an overpriced chickpea salad in your hand and a bittersweet sarcasm in your heart, you hum along involuntarily, “But it’s just the price I pay, destiny is calling me…”
Where did The Killers go, anyway? You wonder. The year-end report laughs at you from your email inbox. That night, as you lay awake in the rented studio apartment you can’t quite afford, you can’t seem to get the song out of your head.
You drive your family out of the suburbs and into the city, an hour from your driveway to the baseball stadium they’ve sold out. Your 13-year-old daughter doesn’t get why she couldn’t have just gone to the basketball game tonight instead and is currently sulking in the backseat.
Halfway through the set, that opening guitar riff rings across the stadium. The crowd swells. Live video Brandon Flowers’ aged (yet still undeniably handsome) face is projected up onto the monitors. Just as he’s about to start the iconic chant of their first single, he flashes that wide grin and hold the microphone out to the audience.
You know every word. Literally everyone over the age of thirty in that stadium can recite it by heart, and none of them are really sure when they first heard it. The crowd pulses to the driving beat.
All of that pain, jealousy, apathy, and alcohol combusts into the soaring hope of the melody and in that moment, you are all hyper aware of your collective humanity. The world is flawed. We are all broken.
The song comes to a roaring close, with the crowd echoing the chorus even after the band stops playing. They stand in cautious awe on the stage, looking at each other as if to say, “yeah, I guess we did okay after all.”
Your nine-year-old son leans over and shouts through his ear plugs, “Wait, which song was that??”
With tears in your eyes, you respond, “That was ‘Mr. Brightside’.”