Sunburn (song)

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Muse song
Name Sunburn
Length 3:54
Alternative titles -
First live performance Unknown (guitar)
8th April 2001 (piano)
13th May 2006 (guitar+piano)
Latest live performance 19th January 2004 (guitar)
16th March 2016 (piano)
13th May 2006 (guitar+piano)
Recorded 1999
Writer/composer Matthew Bellamy
Producer John Leckie
Chart position 22



A piano arpeggios driven intro followed by a heavier guitar chorus. One of the last songs written for the album, if not the last. While most songs on the album had been written between 1996 and early 1998, Sunburn and Falling Down were the only two to have likely been written in late 1998. Despite going on to be the most played song from the album and the only song to make consistent appearances in every tour, Sunburn was originally performed very rarely live. Between January and June 1999, there are just two known performances of Sunburn. When the ban had entered studios in May 1999 to record the album, Sunburn had still featured the early lyrics seen in the famous Reading University 1999 performance. These would be changed towards the end of the sessions after releasing the demo on a promo CD with Overdue.

According to Dom, "Sunburn is a song that happened in the studio about two years ago. I remember Matt playing around with a line on the piano and then on the guitar. Then the rest of us joined in. It's a song we still love playing live and always will. It's about moving into a new world, mentally or physically, realising it's not what you thought it was going to be. It was written at a time of change for us - we'd gone from painting and decorating and signing on, to flying first class to LA!"[1]

Matthew Bellamy declared that while the band were recording, this song was one of his favourites, but found it a bit weak at first: "I wanted to make it sound good. So that was when John Leckie, our producer, had this idea to work out the guitar part on the piano. That was the first time I played piano in years it seems, and I had to spend two or three days just practicing Sunburn, which is a pretty simple part".[2]

Matthew said that Sunburn: "It's about, like a moth flying to the light bulb, it's like that but a spaceman going towards the sun wanting to get away from the earth 'cause it had nothing".[3] and according to Matt, his own "lightbulb" are women, as he explained in 2000:[4]

Matt: "Moths use the moon for navigational purposes when they want to mate, They don't know that, it's just programmed into their brain to fly at a certain angle to the moon all the time, non-stop. And then sometimes they hit a lightbulb. Can You Imagine what that feels like? Bzzt, Bzzzzt ... "
Interviewer: "What's your lightbulb?"
Matt: "Women. The thing about the lightbulb is that it's a man-made instrument that's made a moth alter its course unnaturally..."


Matt wanted to play the song live with the piano, but couldn't learn how to do it properly in 2000 according to a speech given after doing TFI Friday in 2000. He finally managed to learn this in early 2001, where it was rotated between guitar and piano versions until Paris Bercy 2003, when the piano version has been the only version played since, with the only exception being at a show in Sydney in January 2004 where the guitar version was performed instead.

A staple of the live set prior to the Black Holes and Revelations tour, it has made occasional appearances throughout The Resistance and The 2nd Law tours as well as very rare appearances during the Drones tour.

The band has continued playing this song once again during The 2nd Law tour, along with Falling Down, but both were never played in the same gig. In the stadium leg, it is being played along with Unintended.

According to Bellamy, Sunburn was composed whilst in the studio.

Sunburn was added to Radio 1's C playlist on, or shortly before, 31st January 2000.[5]

As of 18th July 2007, the piano and drums from the intro of Sunburn were used in the BBC's TV coverage of the Open golf championship


It is possibly about the band struggling money wise before they were signed.

Lyrics could also suggest the possibility of it being about a stripper or prostitute, or a strip club.

Alternative meaning: seems to be about a girl who was associated with the band before they made it, who Bellamy regrets having to leave behind, due to him seeing her as a star.

Alternate versions

An early demo recording of Sunburn features different lyrics and has an extended ending. The entire song is played on guitar, and is seemingly the original version, before John Leckie decided that a piano version would sound stronger. The lyrical focus of this early version appears to be the end of a relationship. Also a live performance of Sunburn acoustic was broadcasted over the radio [Watch]

Three remixes were created entitled "Sunburn (Timo Maas Sunstroke Mix)", "Sunburn (Timo Maas Breakz Again Remix)" and "Sunburn (Steven McCreery Remix)".


Sunburn was one of the last Showbiz songs to receive its live debut, likely sometime in late 1998. For the first half of 1999 the band had completely ignored Sunburn, only making two known appearances before July 1999. The famous Reading University 1999 performance was the only known performance from before June 1999 today. Sunburn would finally begin making regular appearances starting with the Paris New Morning 1999 performance, and it was performed at nearly every 1999 date from that point on. Early into the Showbiz tour, the band stated that Sunburn was a song that they loved to perform live and would always love to play.

More here


Come waste your millions here

Secretly she sneers Another corporate show, A guilty conscience grows

And I'll feel a guilty conscience grow And I'll feel a guilty conscience grow

She burns like the sun and I can't look away And she'll burn our horizons make no mistakes

Come let the truth be shared No one ever dared To break these endless lies Secretly she cries

She burns like the sun And I can't look away And she'll burn our horizons Make no mistakes

And I'll hide from the world Behind a broken frame And I'll run forever I can't face the shame

And I'll hide from the world Behind a broken frame And I'll run forever I can't face the shame

Alternative lyrics

Instead of

Another corporate show

It was changed to, on some live versions:

Just like a virgin blows

Whilst Showbiz was still being recorded it was:[6]

Just like an angel glows

Demo version

Let the truth be known

Life just carries on When you're dead and gone I'll still feel your glow

And I'll believe I'll still feel your glow And I'll believe I'll still feel your glow

She burns like the sun And I can't look away And she'll burn our horizons Make no mistake

Let the truth be heard True love is absurd And I'll leave Just to feel your glow

She burns like the sun And I can't look away And she'll burn our horizons Make no mistake

She burns like the sun And I can't look away And she'll burn our horizons Make no mistake

She burns like the sun And I can't look away And she'll burn my horizons Make no mistake


  1. Q Magazine - January 2000
  2. Innocence and Absolution 200506
  3. Vimeo. (2011-10-22). Muse - Sunburn on G-Spot. Retrieved 2015-06-29 from Vimeo.
  4. Melody Maker. (2000-02-23). Melody Maker 23.02.2000. Retrieved 2015-11-26 from
  5. 20000131
  6. Muse. (2000). [Making of Showbiz]. Retrieved from

See also

Go back to Showbiz