Mystify
by INXS

Album: Kick (1987)
Charted: 14

Songfacts®:

  • In "Mystify," a woman has lead singer Michael Hutchence under her spell. It's one of his most poetic and romantic lyrics:

    In all that exists
    None have your beauty
    I see your face
    I will survive


    It's similar in subject to a later INXS track, "Disappear," where no matter what's going on around him, he finds comfort in this special girl.
  • INXS had three brothers in the band and didn't split songwriting credits equally, which usually spells disaster. By 1986, they were the biggest band in Australia, but had only made a dent in America, mostly with "What You Need," a track from their fifth album, Listen Like Thieves. That one was written by Hutchence and Andrew Farriss (one of the brothers), who showed a knack for writing songs that could connect with listeners. For their next album, Kick, the band agreed to let Hutchence and Farriss handle all the songwriting, which eliminated any squabbles about whose songs made the album.

    The pair wrote most of "Mystify" at a studio in Chicago. Their bandmates loved the demo and recorded it for the album, which ended up being one of biggest of the '80s, selling six million copies just in America and many more worldwide.
  • This song has a rather unusual structure. It opens with the vocal, followed by a bed of piano and finger snaps through the first chorus. It's not until the second verse that the rest of the instrumentation comes in.

    In a Songfacts interview with Andrew Farriss, he explained: "What we were trying to do with that song was just keep it feeling immediate. It doesn't have that normal pop song structure, and it's very unusual actually. The way Michael and I worked as songwriters, I like to think that we did things quite often that weren't natural or normal pop structures in our songs."

    Farriss and Hutchence complemented each other very well as songwriters: Farriss could play just about any instrument and knew the nuts and bolts of music theory, while Hutchence worked by feel - he had no formal training and didn't play any instruments. They developed a level of trust where they felt comfortable sharing ideas.
  • Most videos for the songs on Kick had slick special effects and lots of glamor shots of the band, especially Michael Hutchence. The "Mystify" video took a different approach, opening with a scene where Hutchence and Andrew Farriss are composing the song at a piano. It feels very authentic - Hutchence is wearing a tank top and has his hair in a ponytail as he directs Farriss through his lyric. When the drums come in, we switch scenes and see the full band recording the song.

    "One of the things I really love about that video is it looks like the band I played in, not just some fantasy video," Farriss told Songfacts. "That's pretty much what the guys' personalities were like and how we dressed in those years. It's a more natural-looking video of us during that period.

    As far as the songwriting goes, Michael and I, I think we had just been in Chicago. That video was shot in LA but we had already started working on 'Mystify' in Chicago. I don't know that we had entirely finished it, so we had probably picked up from where we left off."

    Richard Lowenstein, a fellow Australian who did many INXS videos, was the director.
  • The album was kick-ing around for well over a year before "Mystify" was released as a single. The album was released in October 1987, but didn't start charting singles in America until January 1988, when "Need You Tonight" rose to #1. Every few months, they'd release another single from the album, ending with "Mystify," the sixth single, which came out in early 1989. It didn't chart in America, but was a substantial hit in the UK, where it reached #14.

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