Arctic Monkeys Take a Cinematic Turn with “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball”


British band Arctic Monkeys returns to the rock scene after four years. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Lauren Lombardi, Contributing Writer

Arctic Monkeys and frontman Alex Turner are back from their stay at the starry Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, the fictional hotel centered in their 2018 album. In the band’s first song in four years, “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” they dial it back from the jazzy supernova that was “Tranquility Base” to a classic breakup song with piano.

The single’s scope is more down to earth lyrically than their past albums. Whether it is one of the many stories told of a chaotic night out in their 2006 album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” or the stripped down but fully cohesive track “Despair in the Departure Lounge” that includes a beginning, middle and end, Turner is known for his storytelling abilities. However, there lacks a backstory outside of the heartbreak he feels as he relies on these lyrics being far more tangible and, in turn, timeless. Still, his vivid imagery is underscored using the titular analogy in the line, “So can we please be absolutely sure that there’s a mirrorball for me?” As the sight of a mirrorball is bright and jubilant, Turner hopes he will not regress to someone filled with emptiness as he exits the safety and comfort he shared with another.

Despite the Arctic Monkeys’ exposed fears of dullness, they allow no room for it in their sound. The lyrics are easily digestible but “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” is nothing short of musically grandiose. The ballad includes an introduction that is 35 seconds of pure piano which sounds as if it were plucked from a James Bond villain’s entrance. Not only does the elongated intro give the most mature sound the Monkeys have ever had,  but Turner utilizes the richness of his voice in a way we have never seen before: making it the main instrument on the track, before anything else. The cinematic element of the song infers that it would sound over the top, but the balance of the instruments and understated lyrics culminates to a raw expression of emotion that is difficult to imagine coming from any other band. 

Arctic Monkeys’ poignant English rock music has become synonymous with 2010s online culture, namely in the world of Tumblr. However, the correlation between the band and the internet has not trivialized their palpable success, but rather given them another platform to succeed on. This is clear in the fact that they have had six number 1 LPs in a row in the U.K., and are shooting for a seventh with their album out this fall, “The Car.” The success they have accumulated for staying true to their sound has never faltered with new releases because, as Turner told Big Issue, “You have to follow your instincts in the same way you did in the first place.” Their allegiance to the classic rock sound has solidified the Monkeys’ stance as one of the defining rock bands of our generation. Still, they manage to find new ways to experiment and challenge themselves, with techniques like the long string sequences placed in the bridge of “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball.” The class displayed by the band falls right in line with the British decades-long series James Bond. I feel they could be a contender for the next 007 theme song and they similarly have the perfect leading Englishman in Alex Turner. Except Bond, of course, would never be able to express the same fervor.