Mr Brightside was the Killer’s debut single, released in 2004. It was voted best song of the 2000s in many polls and is the most streamed track released before 2010. So why is its appeal so enduring?
Here’s a reminder:
The track consists of a guitar intro, two sequences of verse, pre-chorus and chorus, and an outro. The chords of the verse run down repeatedly from C major, to C with a B bass, to F major but what is interesting is how the melody stays on the notes B and C throughout, creating an irresistible tension.
That tension is partially released in the pre-chorus, which descends twice from A minor to G major to F major, while the melody remains, on the first run down, on the same B and C notes. Further, but not complete release comes on the second run down as the melody finally breaks free of its confines, shifting up to E and F and then holding an E note on the G major and a D note on the F major. We really need a complete release now.
And that’s what we get with the chorus. A repeated C major, F major, A minor, G major progression seems simple enough but again we get stuck on those B and C notes. The B is dissonant in the C major, the F major and the A minor, creating a fabulous new form of tension. The melody breaks free of this in the second half of the chorus but now we have a new dissonance as an F note is suspended on the C major, a D on the A minor and an F on the C major. This chorus is really a masterclass in suspending dissonant notes as each chord changes and then immediately resolving them to the normal harmony below.
All you need to complete the effect is a guitar riff that mimics the vocal by adding interesting notes to the chords (in the intro it adds a D to the descending chords and in the main riff it adds a G to the F major). Otherwise, the band just creates a wall of sound which places the focus 100% on the vocal.