100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #49: “Shut Up and Dance” by WALK THE MOON

The song at #49 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the rousing ear worm “Shut Up and Dance” by pop-rock band WALK THE MOON. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, the band was started in 2006 by singer-songwriter Nicholas Petricca while he was a student at Kenyon College. The inspiration for his band name came from the Police song “Walking on the Moon”. In addition to Petricca, who also plays keyboards, the band includes Eli Maiman on guitar, Kevin Ray on bass, and Sean Waugaman on drums. They first gained success on the Billboard Alternative and Rock charts with their 2012 single “Anna Sun”, but it was their massive hit “Shut Up and Dance” that brought them international fame.

The song was actually a bit of a sleeper hit. Released in September 2014 as the lead single from their second album Talking is Hard, the song first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in late November 2014, then fell off after spending only two weeks at #98. It re-entered a week later, and slowly climbed the chart, ultimately peaking at 4 in May 2015, however, it spent many weeks at #1 on the Alternative, Hot Rock Songs and Adult Top 40 charts. It was also named the #1 song of 2015 on the Hot Rock Songs and Adult Top 40 charts.

Petricca and Maiman had initially developed the infectious verse that formed the beginnings of the song, but it all came together the following weekend while Petricca was at a nightclub in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. The place was packed, it was taking forever to get a drink, and he was frustrated because he wanted to dance to the great music that was playing. His girlfriend told him to stop complaining and just dance with her, inspiring the title “Shut Up and Dance’. He envisioned the song “as an anthem for letting go of frustration and having fun”, and set the lyrics to a jubilant, catchy-as-hell dance beat, embellished with rolling riffs of jangly guitar, jazzy synths and thumping drums.

The endearing and funny video portrays Petricca as, in his own words, “an incredibly uncomfortable, awkward dork who is 100 percent me” at a bar, trying to look cool.

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