Since their powerful debut in 2004, The Killers have always strived to push the boundaries of music. With his intrigue for the unusual and downright weird, charismatic frontman Brandon Flowers has created worlds within his iconic tracks that often don’t make any sense at all beyond the impressive tunes. From clever wordplay to made-up fantasies, the facts and meanings behind some of your favourite songs by the Vegas rockers just might surprise you.
Here’s 10 of our favourites.
1. There’s purposely no ‘s’ at the end of “dancer” in ‘Human’
The biggest debate of all The Killers fans is simply what the hell Flowers says in the classic chorus of 2008’s ‘Human.’ But Flowers himself has confirmed that the line is “are we human, or are we dancer?” Annoyingly with no ‘s’. Why? The track gets its inspiration from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas author Hunter S. Thompson who once quoted that “America is raising a generation of dancers, afraid to take one step out of line.” In that sense, the term ‘dancer’ becomes an entire collective, synonymous with ‘human.’ Make sense? Kind of? Yeah, we don’t really know either. Just don’t say the plural.
2. The Murder Trilogy
Unknown as to why, Flowers carefully designed a series of three songs that all played a part in a murder storyline. Although technically appearing first on Hot Fuss, ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine’ is actually the last part to the story. The first being ‘Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf,’ off the 2007 compilation album Sawdust, and the second “Midnight Show” appearing at the end of Hot Fuss. We start the story with ‘LTBOTS’, a warped rock hit that sees the narrator drinking before heading over to his ex-love’s, Jennifer, house. Where, of course, he plans to murder her for being with another man. From there we jump to ‘Midnight Show’, where the murder happens, and then to ‘JWAFOM’, the huge hit that follows the interrogation of the narrator over the death of Jennifer, his ex-love.
It’s a compelling storyline, and truly only someone as incredibly talented as Flowers could come up with such a thing. So far, the Murder Trilogy has only been played twice live and both times has ended with “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Which leaves the question, is that track part of the story too?
3. The repetition of ‘Mr. Brightside’ was born out of procrastination
It may seem like an entire army spent years crafting the magic that is ‘Mr. Brightside,’ each lyric specifically in its place according to that catchy beat, but really Flowers just ended up repeating that same verse out of procrastination. While in the studio recording it, Flowers was actually still writing the lyrics. So, the same verse just kept getting repeated and repeated, until it eventually became clear that it was the key to the whole song. “What strikes me about it is how powerful that song still is,” Flowers has previously said. “And the second verse is still as powerful as the first one, every night. There’s just something about it. It’s a moment.” And while it remains to be a massive mood-lifter, the track actually sees Flowers dealing with issues of infidelity, paranoia and jealousy over an ex who cheated on him.
4. ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ is a sequel to ‘Mr. Brightside’
Off their 2012 album Battle Born, a whole eight years after ‘Mr. Brightside’ had been released, ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ sees Flowers reminiscing on the love he had with the flame that broke his heart in ‘Mr. Brightside.’ The music video also sees the same two actors from the ‘Mr. Brightside’ video reprise their roles. And, if you listen really close, at around 3:36 minutes (album version, the music video sees it come in around 3:20 minutes) into ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’, you can hear the classic bassline of ‘Mr. Brightside’ as a way of connecting the two tracks together.
5. What is the correct meaning behind ‘All These Things That I’ve Done”?
One of The Killers’ biggest hits has been open for interpretation since its release back in 2004. The refrain in particular of “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” has been debated and discussed by fans and critics alike as they, as usual, try and figure out just what Flowers means. And the beauty of the song is that it can mean something completely different to everyone, whether it’s religion and faith, regrets, or navigating life. But in reality, Flowers penned the track for his friend Matt Pinfield, who was vice president of A&R at Columbia Records before The Killers were famous. In his spare time, he mentored wounded and PTSD-stricken musician soldiers that were returning from Iraq. The refrain was made for him, but Flowers has also stated that it references his Mormonism.
6. ‘For Reasons Unknown’ is the only song that sees Flowers play bass
The urgency of the 2006 track is representative of just how quickly The Killers actually wrote it. While on the road touring with rock band Louis XIV, they quickly pieced the track together and then recorded it live. Flowers plays bass for the first and last time, and usual bass player Mark Stoermer plays guitar. And while the track may seem to narrate a lost love, Flowers is actually talking about his grandmother who struggled with Alzheimer’s disease.
7. ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ hits close to home
The emotional 2008 track is completely biographical, with the lyrics referencing how Flowers’ parents met as teenagers, his father’s battle with alcoholism and his mother’s struggle with cancer. A tribute to their lifelong romance, the track is detailed with emotional metaphors that reference all the ups and downs of their relationship and the music video sees a ‘60s greaser storyline, taking inspiration from cult classic films such as The Outsiders and Grease.
8. ‘Somebody Told Me’ is a club banger about meeting people in the club
Another track open for interpretation, 2004’s ‘Somebody Told Me’ has caused great confusion over the classic line “somebody told me you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year.” The nature of the whole song is essentially just about meeting someone at the club, with the wild beats and synths replicating club music. Flowers wanted to write an androgynous lyric that would confuse everyone (typically), but he also just wanted to detail a night out. By the end of the night, every face starts to just blur together. Interestingly, a theory is going around that the track is actually about writing a hit song; with the classic line referencing how every hit song sounds like the other and it’s impossible to be completely original. With Flowers, who can really know.
9. ‘Read My Mind’ was almost a Simon & Garfunkel rip-off
Originally titled ‘Little Angela’, the 2006 track was a little too close to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson.’ But with the help of producers Flood and Alan Moulder nudging Flowers to “just keep the template and write a different song over it,” ‘Read My Mind’ was born and went on to be considered as one of the best Flowers had ever written. “There’s something — every night, no matter what town we’re in — when we play that song and it starts, the room just changes,” Flowers has quoted. “I don’t know what it is, I don’t know why it is, I’m just grateful to be a part of it.” Can you imagine the track sounding anything other than what it is now?
10. Flowers came up with the title and melody of ‘When You Were Young’ in just 20 minutes
Born out of a simple, repeating chord progression, the huge 2006 hit is by far one of the group’s most popular. And the whole idea for it was whipped up in just 20 minutes. Upon hearing the powerful progression, Flowers was instantly inspired. “It was one of those exciting moments that you read about,” he recalls. “And I’ve been lucky enough to be part of it a few times. This was definitely one of them.” The track has also been favoured for keeping the ball rolling after the monumental success of Hot Fuss, with Flowers noting it’s one of his favourites to play live. And with over 17 artists covering the track since, we’d have to agree that it’s a pretty good 20 minute’s work.
Check out The Killers’ new album ‘Imploding The Mirage’ here!