Back in 2002, the rock band Arctic Monkeys formed in Sheffield, England. Now consisting of Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O'Malley, Andy Nicholson and Matt Helders, the band is largely regarded as one of the first to gain public attention via the internet. Largely launching off the back of their MySpace popularity, the band has released seven studio albums, including their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, that was the fastest-selling debut album by a band in UK chart history.
On September 9, 2023, the band's game-changing album AM will be celebrating its 10th anniversary! At the time of writing this, the Arctic Monkeys are currently on tour to celebrate the milestone and to promote their latest effort, The Car. Because we adore this band so much (pretty much every audiophile on planet Earth has had an Arctic Monkeys phase at one point or another), we're presenting this list of our Top 10 favorite Arctic Monkeys hits. While we love all their LPs, you'll notice these ultimate picks come from Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Favourite Worst Nightmare, and AM.
What are our favorites from their discography thus far? Check them out below!
Our first pick from AM, "Arabella" is about a space-aged lover who keeps the speaker on his toes. It's believed that the actual Arabella is a portmanteau of Alex Turner’s ex-girlfriend Arielle Vandenberg. Arabella is also the title character from the sci-fi movie Barbarella.
With roaring guitar riffs and a steady beat, "Arabella" does a solid job of continuing AM's primary theme: the pros and cons of giving in to passion. Alex Turner once told NME that this was his favorite song he wrote on AM, and compared the lyrics to physicist Brian Cox’s show Wonders of the Universe. Some other cool things to know about "Arabella"? Turner's vocals get more frantic in the final bridge as a nod to Ozzy Osbourne's technique of vocal doubling. Additionally, the guitar in this track reminds rock fans of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," and Arctic Monkeys have added the song in at the end of "Arabella" when playing it live.
9. "Mardy Bum"
A mardy bum is slang for someone who looks upset or moody – like a child with a tantrum. In Arctic Monkey's fan-favorite song "Mardy Bum," which comes from their debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Alex Turner sings about his pissed-off lover. He persuades her to lighten up, because despite whatever grievances she may have received from him, he still loves her very much.
Despite the dramatic story being told, the melody of "Mardy Bum" is wonderfully happy-go-lucky and chill. We think the appeal of "Mardy Bum" comes from how relatable it is. If you've ever had passive-aggresive tiffs with your partner where one person says "I'm fine" when they're not really fine...that's what this song is all about. Ultimately, the message of "Mardy Bum" is that there's no consoling a woman who's made up her mind about you. We're also pretty happy this song helped to popularize the word "mardy!"
8. "R U Mine?"
A classic from AM. Saucy and encrusted with slightly reverbed vocals, "R U Mine?" is a lusty song about wanting to be alone and intimate with someone else. Alex describes himself as a "puppet" for this lover. (A puppet on Tracy Island, to be exact. Smart Thunderbirds reference.) Ultimately, "R U Mine?" has a somewhat uneasy sound to it. And that's intentional: it's a track about the questions that come with love. Wondering where it's going, and wondering what your lover is actually feeling.
At its core, "R U Mine?" is a pretty standard love song. But what makes it stand out are all the cheeky lyrical references. Alex Turner commented to NME, "There’s a few references for people to pick up on in there - ‘Some Velvet Morning’, Tracy Island. Those references are just me being a smartarse. The song, not to get too heavy, is about that uncertainty that comes with love sometimes. Wondering where you are with it all. That’s the undertone for the tune, but I threw in a Thunderbirds reference too. Just because. That particular bit is like the thing Lil Wayne and Drake do...I like that thing they do where they talk about something backwards, so they talk about it but then say what it actually is on the next line. It’s hard to explain but I guess it’s a little nod to that idea. So I say, ‘I’m a puppet on a string’, just before mentioning Tracy Island. That’s what it’s about — uncertainty."
7. "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?"
We feel like this track and "R U Mine?" go hand-in-hand, but we've put "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" above the other because of the more complex tale being told here. We love the late-night and sleek sounds of this track; appropriate considering the story takes place at three in the morning.
"Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" is about exactly what the title suggests. The speaker is dialing the person he is fancying while intoxicated, and they reply with the message, "why'd you only call me when you're high?" We love how this track makes you feel like you're a fly on the wall as we listen to the speaker attempt to seduce someone. Let this song be a message to all heterosexual men: girls can tell the difference between a guy who genuinely wants to talk and a horny drunkard who just wants to get in her pants.
6. "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor"
We're always going to love "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" because of the young, ambitious, scrappy energy Arctic Monkeys bring to it. This is the band's breakout single and earliest hit off their debut album. It has the speaker imagining what a girl he sees every day would look like during a night out.
Not only is this track a cute example of a romance that takes place without words, but it brings a lot of old-school vibes reminiscent of British punk rock bands from the 70s. On the iconic music video, Alex Turner told Prefix, "We had a program in England called The Old Grey Whistle Test, from the ‘70s and '80s. It was a live show that a lot of great bands played on. We all liked watching the program from DVD and then we just tried to recreate that. We were going to do it full-on and get the guy who used to introduce bands in the beginning, and go for that sort of thing – so that it looked like a British, '70s music show – use the same cameras they used to use and whatnot, go for an old look."
We unfortunately know the type of sleazy guy the Arctic Monkeys describe in "Brianstorm". The band tells the story of a man named Brian in this Favourite Worst Nightmare track, and how he's blessed us with his effortlessness. He wears a t-shirt with a tie, picks up chicks despite how annoying he is, and steals other guys' thunder. (Hence the "storm" at the end of "Brianstorm.")
With rapid guitar strumming and a drum beat that seems to go 100 mph, "Brianstorm" will leave you energized and maybe a little angry. Hilariously, this track was inspired by a real guy the Arctic Monkeys met in their dressing room while playing in Osaka, Japan. We're not sure if he was actually named Brian, but Alex Turner said about the song's protagonist, "I can’t remember Brian now...I don’t know if he were in my imagination or what...it’s a blank spot in my brain...I think that’s what [Brian] wanted."
4. "Fluorescent Adolescent"
Another hit off Favourite Worst Nightmare. Just like an actual fluorescent adolescent, this song is fun, bright, and bouncing off the walls with energy. It's a concert staple for the band, and to be honest, we think it deserves more credit than it's received.
“Fluorescent Adolescent” is a track about growing up and discovering that life isn’t as fun or spontaneous as it used to be. It describes a woman who dreams of her youth while her current life is unsatisfying and boring. There's also an emphasis on her sex life ("You used to get it in your fishnets / Now you only get it in your night dress") and the lyrics contain a lot of erotic imagery.
"Fluorescent Adolescent" was written by Alex Turner and his ex, Johanna Bennett. The song’s roots lie in a Mediterranean holiday Turner and Bennett took. They were in a quiet hotel room and started reminiscing about characters they knew in school. What started off as a joke turned into one of Arctic Monkeys' greatest hits.
3. "Do I Wanna Know?"
Perhaps the sexiest song the Arctic Monkeys have ever dropped. "Do I Wanna Know?" is the most popular tune off AM and is recognized for it's iconic boom-clap sound, sensual vocals, and meaty guitar melody. The band first premiered the song live at the Ventura Theatre on May 22, 2013. It's since become a signature piece in their catalogue. If you want to get into the Arctic Monkeys, listening to the outlaw-ish "Do I Wanna Know?" is always a good place to start. Like other songs on AM, it's about paranoia in regards to passion.
On the making of the track, Alex Turner told Q Magazine, "We had this idea for a record where you take the compositional perspective of an R&B producer and apply that to a four-piece rock'n'roll band. Manipulating our instruments to make building blocks for the song in a way I’d imagine Timberland or someone constructs music. That’s one way of looking at it. The other way is we just made it up! I had this tune in my head...you know what I mean? We got a good end of that bargain, I think."
Nostalgic and full of romantic depth, "505" marked a turning point in Alex Turner's songwriting abilities. This Favourite Worst Nightmare bop has him returning to a place - whether it be an apartment number, an area code, a freeway, a bus route, or a literal time, we're not sure. He is determined to go back to 505 in order to revisit the feelings and memories of a lover who got away.
If you've ever longed to go back in time with an ex or someone who you could have built something with, this song will completely destroy you. Not only is the message emotional, but the musical production on this track is masterful. The lonely, bittersweet key and not-too-cooked sound helps to emphasize the singer's struggle within himself. We love the opening organ chord melody that seems to reference Ennio Morricone's final standoff score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Additionally, some believe the title is a reference to “Flight 505” by The Rolling Stones. Both songs share the theme of going somewhere to recapture a feeling, a moment, or a person.
1. "A Certain Romance"
Boy, does this song hit hard when you've reached a certain age. We're surprised the band dropped "A Certain Romance" as early in their career as they did. The production of this Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not track is very detailed and glittering with rock goodness. It's a phenomenal closer to the album, and lyrically defines what maturity is through a unique story.
"A Certain Romance" starts off with Alex Turner scorning his fellow local townies. He slyfully degrades the boozy, fight-heavy atmospheres of the venues he frequents...even though he isn't outright saying it within the song. He is frustrated because they don't understand the problems they're causing upon themselves. ("They'll never listen, because their minds are made up / And course it's all okay to carry on that way".) Turner is like that sober friend who acts as the parent of the group while everyone else gets wasted. He feels there's a certain level of intellectualization that's missing, there's "A Certain Romance" he craves that isn't there.
However, the final verse takes the song through an unexpected twist. Turner sings, "But over there, there's friends of mine / What can I say? I've known 'em for a long long time / And they might overstep the line / But you just cannot get angry in the same way." It means that even though he feels his friends are immature, he still loves them and will stick with them. Additionally, "A Certain Romance" seems to subtly comment on the state of the music industry in the early 2000s, and the kinds of environments that were present during that time. A listen through "A Certain Romance" will have you feeling some kind of way, and may even make you long for the unpredictability of your youth.
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