100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #83: “Madness” by Muse

The song at #83 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Madness” by British alternative/art rock band Muse. Like “Thrift Shop”, this was another song I loathed the first couple of times I heard it. At the time of its release in 2012, I wasn’t very familiar with Muse or their music; the opening lines “Ma ma ma ma ma ma madness” nearly drove me to the point of madness until one day the song suddenly clicked for me, and I fell madly in love with it – as well as Muse, who is now one of my favorite bands.

Formed in 1994 while they were in high school, Muse is comprised of the immensely talented Matt Bellamy on lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, Chris Wolstenholme on bass and backing vocals (who I think is one of the finest bassists around today), and Dominic Howard on drums. “Madness” is from their sixth studio album 2nd Law, and was inspired by a fight Matt Bellamy had with his then girlfriend Kate Hudson. He later said in an interview that the song was also an attempt to strip down the sound of the album.

To me, the song seems to be somewhat in the Bolero style, starting off slowly with Wolstenholme’s pulsating, almost wobbly double bass-driven melody that creates a sensual vibe, perfectly complementing Bellamy’s breathy vocals and chants of “Ma ma ma ma ma ma madness“. The music gradually builds to a dramatic crescendo, highlighted by Bellamy’s phenomenal guitar work and enthralling vocals that soar to the heavens, covering me in goosebumps. “Madness” was a modest hit, peaking at #25 in the UK and #45 on the Billboard Hot 100, however it spent an astonishing 19 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart.

Fun fact: Bellamy’s father George was the rhythm guitarist of the 1960s British pop group The Tornados, who had a #1 hit in 1962 with “Telstar”.

Rather than the official video, I’m sharing one of their electrifying live performance of the song at their triumphant 2013 concert at Rome Olympic Stadium.

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