With its timeless riffs and tortured lyrics, The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ has inspired fans far and wide to pick up guitars, banjos and trumpets in tribute since its 2003 release. We sifted through the best and worst and learned, if nothing else, that you can’t judge a song by its covers.
Everyone’s favourite Busted protégés, McFly prided themselves on writing all their own songs, except when they didn’t, and here’s a fine example of the latter. With little to add to the original besides an implacable boyishness, the fringed four-piece make it through the track without totally embarrassing themselves, which is probably as much they were hoping for.
9 Paul Anka
This big-band cover sees the Canadian crooner straighten out the original’s hoarse vocals and nervy undertones like a tablecloth at the Ritz. Taken from Anka’s schmaltzy covers album ‘Classic Songs, My Way’, the louche, brassy vibe is everything rock’n’roll shouldn’t be. Still, it swings gloriously along with such shameless fanfare it’s hard not to love.
Eric Lewis, aka ELEW, invented the hybrid genre “rockjazz” to denote his eccentric take on solo piano. Slightly less cringey than the genre suggests, this reverent take merges criss-cross piano lines and angelic surges to ramp up the track’s innate melodrama. Coming soon to a weepy teen drama near you.
7 Abi Sampa
It’s always tough hearing five-years-late talent show contestants torture your favourite indie tunes one by one, so here’s Abi Sampa on The Voice UK killing two histrionic birds with one stone. An odd blend of M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ and the music (and finale) of ‘Mr Brightside’, the acoustic mashup hangs together with unnerving elegance – right up until a chorus so far out of place it’s barely in the same continent.
6 Fall Out Boy
As the emo overloads stumble into the fingerpicked intro, you’d be forgiven for calling for the nearest sick bucket. But as the track finds its feet, all straining wails and hefty power chords, a weird sort of logic creeps in – what better subject for the emo treatment than spying on your girlfriend as she has an affair?
5 Frank Turner
Thought you had Frank Turner pegged as a post-hardcore icon turned folk firebrand (turned Etonian rights activist)? Turns out there’s another string to his bow. This acoustic cover, performed in NME’s very own offices, imbues the tune with such palpable desire and vigour you barely notice when he fluffs the words.
4 MIT Resonance
On this evidence, MIT Resonance are everything you want from an a capella covers band – earnest facial expressions, impassioned dad dancing and one excruciatingly awkward group jump. Their take on ‘Mr Brightside’ doesn’t disappoint.
3 Pickin’ On
In 2015, even Appalachia’s mountain hillbillies are over this sort of thing, so proceed with extreme caution into this banjo-heavy offering from the ‘Pickin On’ series. As it happens, our barn-dance threshold permits passive enjoyment of one quirky bluegrass cover per year, and hey, we’ve heard worse in our time.
2 Tommy Reilly
We all love a good eyeroll at contrived indie covers on TV talent shows, but Tommy Reilly’s throat-scraping tribute to ‘Mr Brightside’ bends the formula just enough to charm. Hold out for its hyperspeed second half and prepare for a mildly pleasant surprise.
1 Nick Mowery
There’s nothing like diving in to indie chiptune covers to remind you you’ve spent too long on the internet. But after the initial eyeroll, this bells-and-whistles, 8-bit symphony skyrockets from head-in-hands to hands-in-the-air, leaving you in full possession of both your marbles and will to live. An unlikely triumph.