Hot Fuss by The Killers
Every great album has its own unique elements that separate it from all the others. In this case, Hot Fuss molded the path to a 4 1/2-star rating on iTunes through a murder trilogy, a song about wanting to do something unforgettable, and several tracks about love with aspects to them that you won’t find anywhere else. Formed in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2001 by Brandon Flowers (the lead vocalist), The Killers made their ultimate breakthrough with Hot Fuss, their debut album, in 2004. Songs like “Mr. Brightside,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” “Somebody Told Me,” and “All These Things That I’ve Done” gave the album a catchy feel and all ranked in the Top 10 in both the UK and US. So, did the other songs deserve the same attention?
“Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” | The Killers made their murder trilogy tricky, but understandable to those with open ears. The first track is actually the last part of the triumvirate, the first part being “Leave The Bourbon on the Shelf” (part of their third album, Sawdust) and the second part being one of the later songs in Hot Fuss, “Midnight Show.” “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” has one of the more literal set of lyrics, discussing how the narrator kills his friend (Jenny) and is going in for frequent questioning. The classic rock vibe mashes excellently with the panicked tone of Flowers’s voice, which leads to more signs pointing in the direction of the narrator being guilty. As it is known in The Killers’ songs, the lyrics in the second verse can unexpectedly alter – thus, making the song all the more fascinating. The backstory is revealed in the first two parts, but “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” ties up as many loose ends as it can whilst still leaving the outcome vague and pleasantly mysterious.
2. “Mr. Brightside” | The logical question here would be, “Who doesn’t know this song?” Upon listening to this song on the radio, I instantly fell in love and wanted to look into the band. A week later, I bought the whole album. Nine years after the album was released, and the local radio station is still playing this song? Yes, this song did deserve all the attention it got. The chorus encompasses the overall meaning of the song – the narrator finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him (“She’s touching his chest, now/he takes off her dress, now”), or at least a friend that is with another guy. But, in this case, he doesn’t murder her. While the song holds just as much significance as the others, it’s clear that it’s known more for its popular lyrics than its simplistic meaning. The perfect use of synthesizers combined with the stuck-in-your-head tune made this the catchiest song on the album for many fans, and rightfully so.
3. “Smile Like You Mean It” | The intended meaning of this track seals the deal as one of my favorite songs on Hot Fuss. For those wanting to listen to a reflective song about childhood and fast-forwarding into the future, but not having that too-frequently-used, depressing ambience of looking back at the past, “Smile Like You Mean It” is the perfect fit. It’s not even the least bit surprising that this made the top charts in two countries. As Billboard stated, the song “seems to deal with coming to terms with growing up and getting older.” Each verse, backed by the impressive guitar chords, consists of memories that the narrator had through childhood and adolescence, and the thought-provoking fact about how it’s vital to think through your decisions and make the best choices you can before it’s too late. It doesn’t sugarcoat reality, but it “Smile Like You Mean It” still provides the most optimistic outlook on life while simultaneously being realistic.
4. “Somebody Told Me” | Even though the song has been praised to and fro by critics across the globe, even the biggest fan of The Killers has to admit that its main line is odd. “Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend/who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year.” For several days of listening to this particular song over and over again, I wondered if it was as unusual as it seemed, so I contemplated alternate meanings that I may have been missing. It turns out, however, that I was over-thinking it. Brandon Flowers is as literal as can be when he talks about an ex-girlfriend that possibly swapped genders. The verses build up to an even bigger picture that ends up being a guy (the narrator) chasing a girl that won’t pay any attention to him, and then finding out that little secret. It’s obvious that Flowers pours emotion into all his songs, but in “Somebody Told Me,” it pertains to the order of lyrics, which makes the storyline all the more realistic. In the opening verse, “Breaking my back just to know your name/seventeen tracks and I’ve had it with this game,” you can clearly tell, just by the tone of his voice, that the narrator is sick and tired of chasing this girl that seems to not want to be found. Then, in the chorus, he becomes frantic because he wants to know the truth behind the rumor. Not to mention the exceptional use of the synthesizers and guitar, of course. This song is a rock masterpiece, and I applaud The Killers for this stunning track.
5. “All These Things That I’ve Done” | If I had absolutely had to pick one favorite, this would be it. Now, if a song is over five minutes, some of them have a tendency to just be too long. Nobody wants to have that song that they’re inclined to skip over because of the extreme and unnecessarily longevity of it. And then there are those that are very catchy, use every minute to its advantage, and is still loved by thousands of people. “All These Things That I’ve Done” executes that perfectly. Though the meaning is momentous, it’s also quite basic and very relatable. There are many people who want to do something memorable – this song’s example is being a soldier, but you can interpret that any way you choose: a soldier could be someone who does something memorable, or it could only be someone in the army. (Yes, there’s a difference.) My favorite line, “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” is the line I would use to represent this song. The narrator feels like he and many others have the potential to do something big, but just don’t know how to get there, and I’m sure we’ve all felt that way to some extent. Listening to this song sends chills through my spine and I’m certain it’s done the same to others.
6. “Andy, You’re a Star” | It may surprise some of you, but not all songs with names in the title necessarily mean they’re about love. Brandon Flowers confirmed that the sixth track on Hot Fuss is not about him complimenting a girl, but reassuring a boy. The meaning of this song is so valuable, and provides so much insight into the hellhole that high school can be and one example of that. Andy is one of the top athletes of his school, and has noteworthy skills; but his 10 minutes of fame takes a turn for the worse, because that 10 minutes could’ve transformed into something so much bigger. Andy sacrifices this by doing drugs, wasting his time by having sexual interactions with a girl (“In a car with a girl/promise me she’s not your world”), and not concentrating on things of vitality. The people that are glorified for their athletic abilities take that recognition for granted, and the narrator wants Andy to know that he could make it big if he halted these dumb and costly actions. The song is short, simple – but I believe that it’s inspirational. It’s not degrading those who are popular, but lifting up the ones who deserve it. The bold bass chords blend remarkably with Flowers’s serious tone, making it another favorite of mine on the album.
7. “On Top” | The interpretations for this particular song have varied, but from what I’ve concluded (after a bit of research, I might add), this song is about a man’s sexual intercourse with a girl. The first line, “Remember Rio, and get down” obviously has to do with the hotel/casino in Las Vegas (where the band formed). The narrator has been waiting all night to find a girl he wants to have sex with, and then finds that one girl who seems to be shy and hesitant. From that point on, people seem to interpret the song differently, but I acquired some information about Rio and found out that it has roof access. The title of the song seems to refer to the narrator and the girl he had sexual interactions with going on top of the building. It could be a stretch, but it’s a theory in progress. Even though “On Top” isn’t one of my favorites of the album, it is, nevertheless, very catchy, and it’s a nice refresher from the common songs that, unlike this one, don’t get down to the nitty-gritty.
8. “Change Your Mind” | This is definitely one of the more basic songs on the album, but it doesn’t lack the the classic rock semblance that all the other songs carry. Sure, it’s a little slow and not nearly as energetic as, say, “Midnight Show,” but adding this one track even made it more apparent that the songs don’t blend together at all. The lyrics are practically transparent: the narrator is telling how he was in love with a girl, how they tried to make their relationship work, and how it failed. Now, he’s burdened by these constant feelings that sneak up on him about how he still feels something for the girl. The result isn’t insinuated; the song just discusses the problem itself, which I love. Many beautiful songs tell a thorough story, but this one sticks solely to the predicament, which is uncomplicated yet soothing to listen to.
9. “Believe Me Natalie” | After talking to many people who have a mutual interest in The Killers (and, more specifically, Hot Fuss), about half those people talked nonstop about “Believe Me Natalie.” Several of them said that not only was this track their favorite of the album, but their favorite song of all time, which was incentive enough for me to go listen to it. Although I couldn’t say that it’s my favorite of the album, you can’t fully understand Hot Fuss without listening to “Believe Me Natalie.” It’s beautiful in its entirety; it consists of The Killers’ signature rock theme, but has a complex, underlying meaning of the song that leaves fans puzzled at the first listen. Despite the fact that what the narrator is trying to convey seems quite obvious, you end up second-guessing yourself. The compilation of lyrics doesn’t just talk about Natalie’s bucket list or that she should literally “dance to disco.” Just like in “On Top,” interpretations start to differentiate from here, so take it as you will: it could be about love, about a girl not daring enough to do the things she’d always wanted to do, etc. It’s undeniable, though, that Hot Fuss wouldn’t be the same without this in-depth and solemn yet gracious song.
10. “Midnight Show” | The second part of the murder trilogy is my favorite for numerous reasons. The music alone is unpredictable and powerful, but when accompanied by the lyrics, it unites several of the missing pieces of the murder trilogy – and then, followed by “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” which completes the sequence. “Midnight Show” trails the physical events of the murder itself (“She turned her face to speak/but no one her cry”), but avoids the gruesome details by the flawless use of metaphors. As “screwed-up” as this trilogy may be to some, Flowers went down a new road that I haven’t seen before and took his chances. This trilogy is a legitimate example of how, as an artist, you have to learn how to take risks. Taking on a task like this was bold and showed their maturity, which I loved. “Midnight Show” is an exciting, thrilling track that provides a one-sided but riveting experience that will change your perspective of The Killers.
11. “Everything Will Be Alright” This last song formally completes the album with no disappointment. Even as the slowest and longest song on the album (almost 6 minutes long), it doesn’t cease to impress. Barely anything is used literally, but that’s the beauty of it: uncovering what the song truly means. After some thought and consideration (and research, of course), I finally understood: the narrator has been searching for “the one,” and when he’s given up hope, he meets this girl who seems perfect. The catch? She’s already in a relationship. At least, that’s what I got out of it – and even though it’s cliche, I certainly don’t expect every song to be out-of-the-box thinking. The Killers make up for that by the alluring use of the synthesizers, and that beat we know all too well that lies within every song of theirs. It may not be the most enthralling track on the album, but it closes the album with a replenished and finished feeling.