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Why ‘Mr. Brightside’ Has Remained on the Charts for a Decade and Counting

Anyone who has heard The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” has an almost Pavlovian response to the song’s opening lines. Once it starts playing, it’s almost impossible not to hear a room or crowd immediately start singing along to the synth-rock classic.

First released in 2003, the song would become even more popular when it was re-released a year later, helping skyrocket the band to superstardom. While it’s not only a hit in the U.S., the song has had a massive reach globally, becoming the third biggest-selling song of all time in the U.K., as well as the longest-charting song in the U.K., too. The group’s synth-rock sound, mixed with Brandon Flowers’ New Wave vocal delivery, helped make the track about jealousy and deception and calling a cab one of the most irresistibly catchy classics in pop history.

On this week’s episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield discuss the story of “Mr. Brightside” and break down the song’s gargantuan global success. From the Eighties pastiche of Hot Fuss to the song’s entry into the pantheon of wedding DJ must-plays, the hosts unpack what it is about this single that has kept it charting in the U.K. for over 400 weeks.

Plus, Rob and Brittany are joined by mixing engineer Mark Needham, who was working with members of Fleetwood Mac when he got the call to work with this burgeoning Las Vegas band. Needham was instrumental in developing the band, alongside two of his business partners from San Francisco. They worked hard to find a label home for the group, even in the face of multiple rejections.

In 2004, Rolling Stone launched its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Tabulated from a massive vote that had artists, industry figures, and critics weighing in, the list has been a source of conversation, inspiration, and controversy for two decades. It’s one of the most popular, influential, and argued-over features the magazine has ever done.

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So we set out to make it even bigger, better, and fresher. In 2021, we completely overhauled our 500 Songs list, with a whole new batch of voters from all over the music map. Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs takes a closer look at the entries on our list. Made in partnership with iHeart, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs finds Brittany and Rob discussing a new song each week, delving into its history and impact with the help of a special guest — including fellow RS colleagues, producers, and the artists themselves. It’s our celebration of the greatest songs ever made — and a breakdown of what makes them so great.

Check out the latest episode above, on iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts, and look for new episodes every Wednesday.

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