The Yeah Yeahs Yeahs have returned, so in honour of Karen O and her two cohorts returning to the album charts after a three year absence with Mosquito, we’ve decided to look back as to why their best known song ‘Maps’ is a modern masterpiece.
‘Maps’ isn’t a one off though, as the band isn’t particularly short of talent. Over the years, they’ve released songs like ‘Zero’, ‘Heads Will Roll’ and ‘Pin’ that have brought them as close to being a modern day Blondie as it’s possible to get without causing copyright infringement. Which is always a good thing.
Despite all of these cracking tracks though, ‘Maps’ is still the song they will always be remembered for. While it may be a burden for most bands to still be known by a song off their first album, those same bands would kill to have a record as great as ‘Maps’.
This is an ode to a relationship on the brink of collapse, as Karen pleads with her then boyfriend Angus Andrew to stay with her instead of going on tour again. Put it this way, ‘Maps’ isn’t talking about cartography; it stands for ‘My Agnus Please Stay’.
It’s a song so deeply personal to lead singer Karen O that she even cries during the filming of the video as the song’s focus hadn’t yet shown up to see the band play as he said he was going to. This emotion is contained not only in the lyrics, but in O’s heart breaking delivery, as her trailing syllables are filled with longing that words can only barely contain.
It’s not just the vocals from Karen O though that leave their mark, with Nick Zinner’s guitar perfectly managing to seem both grand and epic yet deeply personal at the same time, much like any high-drama relationship.
What makes it all the more striking is that the song is completely different to anything else the band has made. ‘Maps’ is a grandiose letter to doomed love, rather than the supercharged rock and roll that the band has become synonymous with.
While the song may have cruelly denied at The Grammys, with the song somehow not even getting a nomination for either ‘Record Of The Year’ or ‘Song Of The Year’. Despite this though, it has become a real favourite amongst music fans, ranking in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, sitting 6th in Pitchfork’s songs of the 2000s and was voted as the greatest ever alternative love song by NME in 2009.
A decade on and the song hasn’t lost any of the power or emotion it had at the very dawning of its life. ‘Maps’ remains one of the best songs of the decades and one that any band would be proud to have their name attached to.