How Theory of a Deadman Cracked the Charts With Opioid Addiction-Focused Single

BB24 2017
Jimmy Fontaine
Theory of a Deadman

As Theory of a Deadman’s Tyler Connolly was writing the band’s new album, its sixth, Wake Up Call (out Oct. 27 on Roadrunner), stories on the news -- drug addiction, overdoses, mass casualties -- provided the impetus for a song with a chorus that cries, “I am so freaking bored/Nothing to do today,” but hints at something darker.

“I probably could have talked about anything and made the song silly and stupid,” says Connolly. Instead, he ended up with the lyric, “I guess I’ll sit around and medicate,” turning the song into a commentary on opioid addiction titled “Rx (Medicate)” -- the Canadian rock quartet’s most popular song in years. Below, Connolly traces its unlikely ascent.

REALITY CHECK 

Connolly, 42, didn’t expect the supportive reaction at first and says he was surprised when the label picked it up as a single. But, in retrospect, “now I know why the song is working, because it actually relates. People are hearing it and going, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’”

UNEXPECTED TRACTION 

Along with crowning Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart (the band’s first No. 1 in six years), the song has steadily risen in digital downloads during the last few weeks, eclipsing its debut sum in its sixth week. Mainstream rock radio, the group’s home base on the airwaves, has a strong following in areas like the Midwest and Appalachia, which are among the areas most heavily affected by opioid misuse and dependence.

STRIKING A CHORD 

The music video for the song depicts all-too-real scenes of pill-popping, smoking and snorting. “When we shot the video, all these directors we talked to were like, ‘Oh, yeah, I had a huge prescription drug problem, so this hits home,’” says Connolly.

TAKING ACTION 

The band linked with Shatterproof, a nonprofit assisting families of victims of addiction, on its current tour. Says Connolly, “This record is us having an opinion and writing the songs that we wanted to finally write.”

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 28 issue of Billboard.