“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Heads Will Roll” has been interpreted as some type of treatise against rave culture, i.e. the type of dangerous drug use which is considered part and parcel of said lifestyle.  But taking the understanding of this song that far may prove a bit of a stretch. What we do know is that some of its wording, as well as the title itself, were influenced by a character, the Queen of Hearts, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). 

And what we also know is that when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrote it, they were actually seeking to put together a tune that “was just fun to write”. In other words, whereas the lyrics are intentionally macabre, there doesn’t seem to be any direct indication that the band actually meant it to be a criticism of ravers. And it should be noted that ravers happens to be some of the band’s biggest fans. It would therefore be strange for the band members to criticize this category of people.

But that being said, there is definitely some type of horror motif going on here. And it is a bit strange, so to speak, that partygoers would take a liking to a song with such dark lyrics.

Facts about “Heads Will Roll”

This song was made public on 29 June 2009 as the second single from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ third album, It’s Blitz. It has become better known by its remix as rendered by a Canadian DJ named A-Trak, which also came out in 2009. In fact Interscope had not intended to release this song as a single until the aforementioned remix rather blew up.

The Richard Ayoade-directed music video features a nod to Michael Jackson (who died just days before “Heads Will Roll” was released) and went on to be nominated for a MTV Video Music Awards. And the clip itself is also known for being quite graphic.

Meanwhile the track was more solidly successful, topping Billboard’s Hot Dance Singles Sales chart as well as the Ultratop 50 Flanders in Belgium. Additionally it has been certified gold in Belgium, Germany and the UK.

Later in 2011, the cast of Glee performed this song, mashed-up with “Thriller” (1982) by Michael Jackson (which the aforementioned video is said to have been inspired by). Said rendition broke onto the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and thus became the first track written by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to do so.

“Heads Will Roll” has maintained an enduring presence in pop music. For instance, the A-Trax remix has appeared in the movies Project X (2012) and Goosebumps (2015), in addition to the videogame DJ Hero 2 (2010).

Lyrics of "Heads Will Roll"

Who wrote “Heads Will Roll”?

The composition of this classic is credited to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Individually, the members of the band are as follows:

  • Karen O
  • Brain Chase
  • Nick Zinner 

And the producers of the track are D.A. Sitek and N. Launay.

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