Lonely Boy (The Black Keys song)

Last updated
"Lonely Boy"
Lonely Boy - The Black Keys.jpg
Single by The Black Keys
from the album El Camino
B-side "Run Right Back"
ReleasedOctober 26, 2011
Recorded2011 at Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Garage rock [1]
Label Nonesuch
The Black Keys singles chronology
"Howlin' for You"
"Lonely Boy"
"Gold on the Ceiling"

"Lonely Boy" is a song by American rock band The Black Keys. It is the opening track from their 2011 studio album El Camino and was released as the record's lead single on October 26, 2011. The song is also the A-side of a promotional 12-inch single that was released in commemoration of Record Store Day's "Back to Black" Friday event. [2] The single was accompanied by a popular one-shot music video of a man dancing and lip-synching the lyrics.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

The Black Keys American rock band

The Black Keys are an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney (drums). The duo began as an independent act, recording music in basements and self-producing their records, before they eventually emerged as one of the most popular garage rock artists during a second wave of the genre's revival in the 2010s. The band's raw blues rock sound draws heavily from Auerbach's blues influences, including Junior Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson.

<i>El Camino</i> (The Black Keys album) 2011 studio album by The Black Keys

El Camino is the seventh studio album by American rock duo the Black Keys. It was co-produced by Danger Mouse and the group, and was released on Nonesuch Records on December 6, 2011. The record was the band's follow-up to their commercial breakthrough, Brothers (2010), and was their third collaboration with Danger Mouse. El Camino draws from popular genres of the 1950s to 1970s, such as rock and roll, glam rock, rockabilly, surf rock and soul. Danger Mouse contributed as a co-writer on each of the 11 songs alongside guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney.


"Lonely Boy" became one of the group's most successful singles. It topped several rock radio charts, including the Alternative Songs and Rock Songs charts in the US, and the Alternative Rock and Active Rock charts in Canada. On the singles charts, "Lonely Boy" was the group's highest-charting song in several countries, peaking at number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100, number two on the Australian Singles Chart, and number 33 on the Canadian Hot 100. At the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, the song won awards for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song, while also receiving a nomination for Record of the Year. [3]

Alternative Songs is a music chart in the United States that has appeared in Billboard magazine since September 10, 1988. It lists the 40 most-played songs on alternative and modern rock radio stations. The chart was introduced as a companion to the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and its creation was prompted by the explosion of alternative music on American radio in the late 1980s. During the first several years of the chart, it regularly featured music that did not receive commercial radio airplay anywhere but on a few modern rock and college rock radio stations. This included many electronic and post-punk artists. Gradually, as alternative rock became more "mainstream", the Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Songs charts began featuring more of the same songs. However, the formats would differentiate themselves by the late 2000s. Today, the Alternative Songs chart favors more indie rock, indie pop, and synth-pop bands while the Mainstream Rock Songs chart favors more alternative rock, hard rock, and heavy metal music.

The Canadian rock/alternative chart was first published on June 11, 1995 by RPM magazine under the name Alternative 30. The song which held the number-one spot on this first chart was "More Human than Human" by White Zombie. Currently, the only charts that record rock/alternative airplay in Canada are published by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.

The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the United States for songs, published weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on sales, radio play, and online streaming in the United States.


"Lonely Boy" is 3:13 in length. The song was written by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney with producer Danger Mouse. The song is played in the key of E minor, with only three chords used throughout the song. "Lonely Boy" is set in the time signature of common time with a tempo of 171 beats per minute. According to Auerbach, the guitar riff was inspired by Johnny Burnette's cover of "Train Kept A-Rollin'". [4] The guitar line features a dive bomb although Auerbach uses a Boss Super Shifter pedal to achieve the effect.

Dan Auerbach American musician

Daniel Quine Auerbach is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer, best known as the guitarist and vocalist for The Black Keys, a blues rock band from Akron, Ohio. As a member of the band, Auerbach has recorded and co-produced eight studio albums with his bandmate Patrick Carney. In 2009, Auerbach released a solo album entitled Keep It Hid. He released another solo album in 2017, entitled Waiting on a Song. In addition to winning several Grammy Awards as a member of the Black Keys, Auerbach received the 2013 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for co-producing his band's 2011 album, El Camino, and for producing records by Dr. John and Hacienda.

Patrick Carney American musician

Patrick James Carney is an American musician and producer. Carney serves as the drummer for The Black Keys, a blues rock band from Akron, Ohio. He is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Danger Mouse (musician) American musician, songwriter and producer

Brian Joseph Burton, better known by his stage name Danger Mouse, is an American musician, songwriter and record producer. He came to prominence in 2004 when he released The Grey Album, which combined vocal performances from Jay-Z's The Black Album with instrumentals from The Beatles' The Beatles .


Music video

The promotional music video for "Lonely Boy" features actor, musician and part-time security guard Derrick T. Tuggle dancing and lip-syncing to the song in front of the Pepper Tree Motel in North Hollywood, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The video, shot in a single take, went viral and garnered more than 400,000 views on YouTube within 24 hours. The video originally had a script and a cast of more than 40 people, but the group was not pleased with the results. Auerbach said, "A couple of weeks after we shot it they sent us the edit and it was awful. We sent it back... they sent us another edit and it was terrible. That's when we said 'what about that one guy, the extra who had that one dance scene' and that's the video – the most expensive single shot ever recorded." [5] Tuggle was originally cast as an extra who would be handed a set of keys to the band's motel room by Auerbach and Carney. While on set, Tuggle's improvised dancing drew the attention of director Jesse Dylan. He said, "The director just sort of noticed me dancing and asked me, 'Can you perform?' I said, 'I can dance, anybody can dance,' so I took some moves from everybody: John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction , the Carlton Banks dance from The Fresh Prince and a little bit of Michael Jackson, so it was a smorgasbord of everybody in there." He added, "It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. My acting teacher Mark McPherson, he has us do this thing before we start class called 'Song and Dance,' where he'll have us sing one of our favorite songs, and then while we're singing it, he'll have us do a crazy dance, or a sexy dance, and I guess it spawned from that." [6] [7] The video was nominated for a 2012 MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video. Tuggle's performance later earned him a cameo appearance in the music video for "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. [8]

YouTube video-sharing service owned by Google

YouTube is an American video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California. Three former PayPal employees—Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim—created the service in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 billion; YouTube now operates as one of Google's subsidiaries.

Jesse Dylan American film director

Jesse Byron Dylan is an American film director, and the founder, CEO and creative director of the media production company Wondros. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and TED, and the founder of Lybba, a non-profit devoted to the benefits of community, data and technology in healthcare. He is the son of musician Bob Dylan and brother of singer Jakob Dylan.

John Travolta American actor, dancer and singer

John Joseph Travolta is an American actor, film producer, dancer, and singer. Travolta rose to fame during the 1970s, appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979) and starring in the box office successes Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978). His acting career declined through the 1980s, but enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s with his role in Pulp Fiction (1994), and he has since starred in films such as Get Shorty, Broken Arrow, Face/Off, Swordfish, Be Cool, Wild Hogs, Hairspray, and The Taking of Pelham 123.

Single cover

The cover of the single release features an image of a bulldozer sitting on an empty tract of land. The lot was previously filled by the factory at which the group's 2004 album Rubber Factory was recorded. Michael Carney, the group's art director, went to take a photo of the factory but found that it had been demolished. [9] Auerbach joked about the cover's significance: "We keep stumbling into these profound artistic expressions. That's how we roll though." [10]

<i>Rubber Factory</i> 2004 studio album by The Black Keys

Rubber Factory is the third studio album by American rock duo The Black Keys. It was self-produced by the band and was released on September 7, 2004, on Fat Possum Records. The album was recorded in an abandoned tire-manufacturing factory in the group's hometown of Akron, Ohio. Rubber Factory received positive reviews and was the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200 in the United States, reaching number 143.

Art director is the title for a variety of similar job functions in theater, advertising, marketing, publishing, fashion, film and television, the Internet, and video games.

Commercial performance

"Lonely Boy" became one of the group's most successful singles. It topped several rock radio charts, including the Alternative Songs and Rock Songs charts in the US (the second such Black Keys song to top both), [11] [12] and the Alternative Rock and Active Rock charts in Canada. [13] [14] On the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, it has become their highest-charting song, peaking at number five. [15] On the singles charts, it became the band's highest charting song in several countries, reaching a peak of number 64 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (which beats the number 87 peak achieved by 2010's "Tighten Up"), [16] [17] number two on the Australian Singles Chart, [18] and number 33 on the Canadian Hot 100. [19] The song was certified nine-times platinum in Canada, triple-platinum in Australia, platinum in New Zealand, and gold in Denmark. [20]

Tighten Up (The Black Keys song) 2010 single by The Black Keys

"Tighten Up" is a song by American rock band The Black Keys. It is the third track on their 2010 album Brothers and was released as the record's first single on April 23, 2010. Dan Auerbach told The Sun how the song originated: "That was the last song we did for the record. We had a couple of days off and so did Brian and since we are friends and like hanging out with each other we thought it would be fun to go into the studio and see if we could come up with a tune. We always have a blast when the three of us get together."

The Canadian Hot 100 is a music industry record chart in Canada for songs, published weekly by Billboard magazine. The Canadian Hot 100 was launched on the issue dated March 31, 2007, and is currently the standard record chart in Canada; a new chart is compiled and officially released to the public by Billboard every Tuesday.


Critical reaction

In a review of the single, Rolling Stone gave the song four out of five stars, saying that "Frustrated desire is the song's ostensible theme... but for Keys fans, this is a clean hit of instant gratification." [21] Its review of El Camino praised the song's arrangement, particularly the "sugar-crusted keyboard" that, along with the chorus, "chang[es] the swampy chug into a seductive singalong". [22] James Lachno of The Daily Telegraph said the song "blends Steppenwolf's road-tripping aesthetic with the proto-punk of the Modern Lovers" and was an example of how a "broader collage of influences allows the duo to fashion a more distinctive sound". [23] Pitchfork Media reviewer Rob Harvilla called it a "surging opener" and highlighted the "machine-gun surge of Dan Auerbach's gong-banging guitar". [24] Kitty Empire of The Observer wrote, "It's hard to resist the taut and catchy single". [25]


Readers of Rolling Stone voted "Lonely Boy" the third-best song of 2011 in an end-of-year poll. [26] Paste ranked it number 20 on its list of "The 50 Best Songs of 2011". [27] The song placed second on the Triple J Hottest 100, 2011 poll of the most popular songs in Australia. [28] According to AirCheck, "Lonely Boy" was the most-played song on Australian radio in 2012, logging more than 884 hours of playtime. [29]

At the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, "Lonely Boy" was nominated for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song and Record of the Year, winning the first two. [3]

The song has been used for the UFC Primetime event, UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos , and in the soundtracks for Need for Speed: The Run and Forza Horizon . It was also used in a highlights package prior to the Italy vs. England match in the 2012 Six Nations and for Drew Brees and Alex Smith in the pregame before a 2011 NFL Divisional Playoff game between Brees' New Orleans Saints and Smith's San Francisco 49ers. It also features on Channel 4 Racing where Jim McGrath talked through the runners.

Since the midpoint of the 2011–12 NHL season, it has been the goal song for the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers. [30] For most of the 2011–12 NHL season, it has been the song played when the New York Rangers come onto the ice before home games.

On TV, the song was featured in episodes of Workaholics , Eastbound & Down and Hawaii Five-0 , the first episode of 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, the twelfth episode of season three, "The Ties That Bind", on The Vampire Diaries , the episode "Broken" of Criminal Minds , and in the opening sequence for episode one in the Australian TV show Underbelly: Badness . It was also used in 2012 commercials for the launch of the A&E in Australia and Lee.

In movies, it was most recently heard in the trailer for the 2013 zombie comedy Warm Bodies , the 2014 family comedy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day , and the trailer for the 2016 film Monster Trucks . [31]

Ellen DeGeneres danced to this song with her audience as the opening dance on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the fall of 2012.

The Free Beer and Hot Wings radio show uses a sample of the song at times to bring the show back from commercial break.

In 2014, the Austrian company A1 Telekom Austria used "Lonely Boy" for advertisement.

Spanish TV show Late Motiv used a version of it performed by its house band as its opening theme.

In 2018, eBay used an instrumental version of this song for their UK ad campaign.

Track listing

All tracks written by Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney and Brian Burton.

1."Lonely Boy"3:13
2."Run Right Back"3:17

Charts and certifications


Additional personnel:

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