Editor’s note: in the time it took to write this, the Philadelphia Phillies were eliminated from postseason contention. Sorry, City of Brotherly Love. Just pretend they’re still in contention for the length of this article; many baseball pundits would like to do the same. Also, go Snakes!
COMING OUT OF MY CAGE
You’re reading a University of Michigan blog, so I can assume you know every word to “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. Aside from being a true classic, it’s been the hype song for the Michigan Wolverines for some number of years. There’s simply nothing like chanting it when we’re beating up on another B1G West team by a margin of 50 points. I would never claim to know better than the Big House music selectors; however, when you listen to the lyrics, isn’t it an odd choice for a hype song? It’s an alt rock ballad about the end of a relationship, which isn’t exactly a “send in the backups to score another 20 points” anthem.
While pondering this, I came across another curiosity. The Philadelphia Phillies, always in the running for silliest name and currently in the running for the MLB World Series (SEE DISCLAIMER AT THE TOP OF THIS ARTICLE), have rallied around one song for the past two years: “Dancing On My Own” by Calum Scott (which is a cover of the original by Robyn) as remixed by DJ Tiësto. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a perennial powerhouse comes together around a hit about observing a former partner with a new lover. What gives?
A TALE OF TWO ANTHEMS
First off, it’s worth noting (again) how oddly similar these songs are. Let’s go over those similarities:
- A theme of looking, even when you know it will hurt you (“Open up my eager eyes” / “But I just gotta see for myself”).
- Falling to pieces in the face of the end of the relationship (“And my stomach is sick” / “And I’m all messed up, I’m just so out of line”).
- A repeated line about a kiss (“It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?” / “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her”).
- Good for chanting in a crowd, especially if…indisposed in some way.
- A part where you yell a vowel (the end of Mr. Brightside / “o–o-o-ohhhh” at the end of parts of the chorus).
- Both tracks were their respective artists’ debut in some way (first single for The Killers / Britain’s Got Talent audition song for Calum Scott).
- Both songs are sung incredibly loud; “Mr. Brightside” because it’s being shouted by the better part of 100,000 people, “Dancing on my Own” because Philly loves its team so, so much.
- Both artists have recognized the new life of their songs as sports anthems.
Of course, it’s not all similarities:
- “Mr. Brightside” is performed by American pseudo-Christian Rock band The Killers. “Dancing on my Own” is performed by British singer-songwriter Calum Scott, covering Swedish pop/house star Robyn, and remixed by Dutch DJ Tiësto. A truly international effort!
- Mr. Brightside is a bit more high-energy, making it slightly more appropriate as an anthem.
- Actually, there’s really an odd amount of similarities compared to the differences. Wow.
Now that we know the uncanny territory we’re in, let’s go through both songs individually and their origin story.
OPEN UP MY EAGER EYES
“Mr. Brightside” has long been a classic of parties of all kinds, from frat basements to weddings (the one use perhaps even more inappropriate than a football anthem). It has an undeniable scream-along energy to it. An MLive investigation found that it first graced the Big House in 2016. Kurt Wisenbaugh, director of game presentation at the time, explained that the idea was to create a feeling of crowd fun and unity. It’s been played at every single Michigan home game since the start of the 2017 season, usually near the end of the third quarter when we’re up 50 points and featuring an acapella rendition of the chorus. Here, the answer isn’t complex or mysterious, it was just that the DJs figured out a fun way to hype up the crowd and create a lasting tradition that now features a light show.
I JUST GOTTA SEE FOR MYSELF
To figure out the origin of “Dancing on my Own” as a sports anthem, we have to go northeast of Philly to the city of Dunkinly Donuts, Boston. See, when the Phillies signed Kyle Schwarber in 2022, they got much more than the oddest leadoff hitter in baseball. Schwarber brought Dancing on my Own with him as an anthem, one that the Phillies used to the fullest in their 2022 postseason campaign. After falling to the ever-inevitable Astros, the Phillies planned to retire the song, but they brought it back to recover from a midseason slump. After that, there was no stopping it (SEE THE DISCLAIMER AT THE TOP OF THIS ARTICLE). So, why did the Red Sox use it?
For the best possible reason, an NYT investigation found: an extended in-joke that went on for slightly too long. See, in 2020, Red Sox catcher Kevin Plawecki was introduced to the song by one of his roommates (first baseman Mitch Moreland). Plawecki has a one-track mind and speaker, so he kept playing it over and over again, to the point where he made it his walkup song when he played Moreland as a callback. As luck would have it, he cracked a home run. After that, he could never drop the song, and—in a case of musical Stockholm Syndrome—the entire team adopted it as they gathered steam through their 2021 playoff run. Guess who ended that run.
HOW DID IT END UP LIKE THIS?
So, “Mr. Brightside” arose from the simple desire to create a fun sense of community for Michigan fans, while “Dancing on my Own” was the product of a game of musical telephone. No matter how odd these songs are, both teams have ridden their anthems to incredible success and created a rallying for their fans. Let this be a lesson to lesser teams: you’re one sad song away from playoff contention.