Background Information of the Song ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille
Released in February 2013, ‘Pompeii’ is an infectious indie-rock track written and composed by English alternative rock quartet Bastille. The single, part of the band’s debut album, ‘Bad Blood’, was received with widespread critical praise and widespread commercial success, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart as well as topping the charts in both Italy and the Czech Republic. The inescapable chorus inspired millions of people to download the song immediately, transforming Bastille from a virtual unknown to an international sensation.
In an interview with the Guardian, frontman Dan Smith attributed the song’s success to its combination of lively background and melancholic lyrics that tell the story of a person’s bittersweet struggle towards redemption and hope set against the metaphor of Pompeii, an even more bittersweet story of a moment’s grandeur frozen in time.
Music and Composition
Musically, ‘Pompeii’ stands out through its cheerful yet infectious rhythm and beautiful layering of melodies, using an array of instruments that range from a thunderous drum to a soulful guitar riff and ethereal synth sounds. It jams wide-ranging music genres from the rhythmic nature of the track, which is characteristic to indie-rock, to its almost melancholic chorus which contains a hint of indie-pop.
Throughout the track the band creates tension and builds up to an emotionally powerful chorus, with the second half of the chorus going from a slow, gentle piano intro to a breathtaking climax. The song peaks with a brilliant harmony between Dan Smith’s crisp vocals, the guitar, and the drum section creating an unexpected yet mesmerizing orchestral effect.
The Impact of the Song
The commercial success of ‘Pompeii’ cemented Bastille’s status as one of the most distinguished indie-rock bands of the late-2010s. According to critics, the versatility of the song made it easily digestible and unforgettable. In that same respect, it was not hard to notice the influence of ‘Pompeii’ in the music that followed in the years after, with many artists attempting to replicate the success Bastille achieved with this truly ground-breaking track.
The sheer success of the single and the accompanying album also compelled major labels to embrace the indie-rock genre, marking a monumental shift in the music industry of the time. As The Atlantic notes, “it was a key moment where indie rock was brought into the mainstream”.
Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’ achieved the perfect harmony between a summery beat and the intensity of the lyrics, which boosted its popularity and its ability to appeal to a cross-section of tastes. Its influence made itself felt particularly in the indie-rock music of the time.
In its more than seven-minute-long documentary on ‘Pompeii’, the band points out how the single’s sound was largely inspired by the music of James Blake, Foals and Mumford & Sons. The mix of electronic and orchestral sounds was later emulated by artists like Coldplay and Imagine Dragons, both of which released popular singles that followed a similar production style.
Touring and Performances
In the wake of ‘Pompeii’’s success, the band’s concert dates soon started to sell out. Bastille followed the single with a sold-out tour of 17 countries, playing venues such as London’s O2 arena, Sydney’s Operahouse, Palace Square in St Petersburg, and Madison Square Garden.
The band would often end the show with ‘Pompeii’, usually as a mini-orchestra of four-piece band and four backing singers. Frequently, Dan Smith would begin the finale a cappella, until he was later joined by the rest of the people on stage to create a powerful, vibrant atmosphere.
Six years after its release, the song continues to be one of the most iconic tracks of the latter part of the decade and is still being played live during Bastille’s concerts. The song has also been covered in a multitude of occasions, most notably by the acoustic duo Pomplamoose, as well as Pentatonix in a mash-up with Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pool’.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the band released its own stripped-down version of Pompeii, performed under the starry London night sky along the River Thames. The performance was released in the remix album ‘Night of Chaos’, a charity album meant to raise money to assist in the fight against the pandemic.
Legacy of the Song
‘Pompeii’ is a timeless number, beautiful in its simplicity and complexity at the same time. It was the breakout moment for Bastille and it is the song of the decade for indie rock. It dropped at exactly the right time, when the music industry was looking for something, anything, to push them further. The band found the answer, and hundreds of millions of fans around the world can’t get enough.
It was praised for its moving yet optimistic message and its minimalist arrangement, which uses the instrumentation to perfection. The track has inspired countless artists over the years, paving the way for the genre’s mainstream appeal and for Bastille’s eventual rise to stardom.
Influence on Other Genres
Not only has it inspired indie rock bands, ‘Pompeii’ has also had a significant influence in other genres including hip-hop and pop music. Its opening piano riff, while subtle, set the groundwork for other artists to base their ideas off. DJ and producer The Chainsmokers has openly credited ‘Pompeii’ as the major influence for his breakthrough track ‘Roses’, which went on to limitless success.
The dramatic melody of the track has been popularized for use in the media, mostly for television commercials and shows. It has been used in the television shows ‘American Idol’, ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, and on the video game ‘Just Dance 4’.
Overall Impact on Popular Culture
‘Pompeii’ continues to be one of the most beloved and iconic songs of the decade for its fragile but hopeful message, which has been echoed in the band’s post-2013 music. The track’s magical soul is omnipresent in indie music, and its influence can be seen in Bastille’s later works such as ‘Joy’ and ‘Another Place’.
Not only that, but its influence has gone beyond music, inspiring dozens of film and television productions, video games, and commercials.
The meteoric success of ‘Pompeii’ has been proof that a global audience can appreciate innovative music and be moved by it in a way that transcends generation, gender, race and nationality. If anything, it has taught us that it is possible to have a powerful, uplifting message and still be commercially successful, giving hope to musical artists all around the world.
Awards for Pompeii
The song was entered for several awards. It received a nomination for the Brit Awards for British Single of the Year, a Global Platinum Sales Music Award for over 1 million sales in the UK and another for 6 million sales worldwide. The track was also nominated for Song of the Year at BBC Radio 1’s Teen Awards and BBC Music Awards, as well as Album of the Year at the 2014 iTunes Music Awards.
In addition to that, ‘Pompeii’ won the ‘iHeartRadio Music Award’ for Alternative Rock Song of the Year and was awarded a pair of ASCAP Pop Awards for Top Digital Song and Most Performed Song. It also placed at number 48 of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list by Rolling Stone magazine.
‘Pompeii’ has become an unforgettable anthem of the latter part of the decade, transcending the boundaries of music and contributing to the ever-evolving influence of the indie rock genre. Its influence spread like wildfire and produced a global impact that is still felt to this day. Captivating both fans and critics alike with its remarkable sound, this influential single by Bastille is here to stay.