Walk the Moon must be over the moon about the worldwide success of their hit Shut Up And Dance. The song has become a global smash since it was released in September 2014 as the lead single from the Cincinnati band’s album, Talking Is Hard. The retro Rock and New Wave-influenced track soared to the 4th spot on the Billboard Hot 100, took the number 1 place on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart, and has held steady in the top 10 of charts from Canada to New Zealand.
Not bad for a song Nicholas Petricca said he wrote as an “anthem for the dork” after his girlfriend told him to stop complaining and hit the dance floor at a Los Angeles nightclub. The singer went home and penned the hit, taking cues from Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl, and the Cars’ Just What I Needed, among others.
What follows are just a few of the characteristics that helped put Shut Up And Dance over the top.
[Header 1 header=”First Chorus Multi-Hook Punch”]
The first chorus features three core characteristics that “seal the deal” with the listener at just three-seconds into the song: The infectious U2 Where The Streets Have No Name-influenced guitar hook from the intro, the “shut up and dance with me” lyrical/vocal payoff, and the super-catchy “bonus” nonsense vocal payoff, “ooh-wh-hoo,” cleverly sandwiched between “she said” and “shut up and dance with me” on the last line of the section.
[Header 1 header=”Chorus Variations & Similarities”]
The infectious engagement value of the song is taken to the next level due to the musical differences between choruses 1 and 4, and choruses 2, 3, and 5. The former feature the Where The Streets Have No Name-influenced guitar hook. The latter are propelled by the powerful distorted-guitar-laden Dance/Power Pop/Rock vibe that takes the excitement factor of the song to an apex. However, the lyrics and vocal melody remain essentially the same within all of the chorus sections, keeping the chorus fully ingrained in the listener’s head.
[Header 1 header=”Grand Finale”]
The outro is a “hybrid” section consisting of some of the most infectious elements from the Dance/Power Pop/Rock choruses and the Cars-influenced instrumental-break synth solo section.
With the driving backing music from the preceding chorus still in effect, the listener is first hit with the catchy first segment of the Cars-influenced synth solo. Instead of continuing on with the solo, the last note is sustained, which leaves an opening for the most infectious segment from the chorus payoff, “ooh-wh-hoo shut up and dance with me” to shine front and center. This progression is then repeated a second time around, getting these hooks further ingrained in the listener’s head.
All in all, this section is like the grand finale of a fireworks show – all the stops are pulled to leave the listener on an excited high and wanting more.
[Header 1 header=”Clever Lyrics & Narrative”]
Shut Up And Dance’s love/relationship and inspiration/empowerment lyrical themes are conveyed using a strong blend of clever, descriptive lyrics that take its overall impact and engagement value to the next level. Some prime examples include:
The chemical physical kryptonite
My discothèque Juliet teenage dream
A backless dress and some beat up sneaks
However, what REALLY helps to take the impact of the story to the next level is the shift in the narrative that takes place in the song’s primary sectional payoff – the chorus. Following the engaging and action based, “she took my arm/I don’t know how it happened/we took the floor and she said,” lead-in from the pre-chorus, the song’s narrative shifts into an engaging “she said/he said” flow:
(She said) oh don’t you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you’re holding back
She said shut up and dance with me
This woman is my destiny
She said ooh-wh-hoo shut up and dance with me
Strong music and melody is only one part of the equation. In order to “seal the deal” with the listener, the lyrics need to be just as strong. Shut Up And Dance is a perfect case-in-point.
[Header 1 header=”Clever Influences & Genre Mix”]
Shut Up And Dance features a diverse blend of sub-genres and influences in the mix including Dance, Funk, New Wave, Power Pop, and Rock. They appear in different combinations throughout the song, which makes for a highly infectious and engaging listening experience.
The song also features a strong blend of both Retro late 70s/early-mid 80s and modern influences from artists and bands including Rick Springfield, Pat Benatar, the Cars, U2, and even One Direction.
Combined, all of the influences enable Shut Up And Dance to come across in both a retro and current manner, which is one of its strongest attributes. The diverse influences also accentuate the song’s “familiarity factor,” which makes it easier for a wide-ranging age demographic to connect with the song (i.e. kids and their parents).
What follows are snippets from songs of each of the aforementioned artists and bands that had an impact on the sound and vibe of Shut Up And Dance.
[Header 2 header=”Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar): 1980″]
[Header 2 header=”Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield): 1981″]
[Header 2 header=”Just What I Needed (The Cars): 1978″]
[Header 2 header=”No Control (One Direction): 2014″]
[Header 2 header=”Where The Streets Have No Name (U2): 1987″]
From its driving guitars to its punchy synths, Shut Up And Dance borrows the best of 70s and 80s radio to make a hit that transcends today. Combining infectious melodies and a heartfelt lyric, it reaches listeners on several levels – and won’t let go.
For a comprehensive review of everything that contributed to the song’s success, be sure to read our Shut Up And Dance Deconstructed Report.