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What ever Happened to The Killers?

 

By: Caroline Grand

Fun fact: After attending an Oasis concert at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Brandon Flowers heard the call to become a rock star.  

While that sounds like the kind of cringe-worthy inspiration story you might hear from the drunken frontman of A Promising Local Band, Flowers actually made it happen.  After connecting with guitarist Dave Keuning and going through a series of lineup changes (including a weird but wonderful brief stint by struggling actor Owen Wilson), The Killers released their debut album Hot Fuss in 2004 to international commercial and critical acclaim.

The Killers were named The World's Best Selling New Group at the 2005 World Music Awards, the same year they won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist and were also nominated for three Grammy Awards. The band was recognized by Rolling Stone as the "best-selling new rock band of the past year" in June 2005.  “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” were overplayed to death while Flowers was (aptly) named both Sexiest and Best Dressed Man at the NME Awards.

So what happened?

Predictably, fame seemed to go a little to Flowers’ head. The grandiose bravado of The Killers, exemplified in the use of a gospel choir for their Coachella set, and Flowers’ widely publicized  claims of superiority in the post-punk scene set the band up for future backlash. The release of their follow-up album Sam’s Town marked the slow but steady decline of Flowers’ Oasis-fueled dream.  While Sam’s Town includes equally as over-playable hits (see: “When You Were Young”), the “gypsy-chic” album strongly divided critical opinion, earning only a scathing 2 star review in Rolling Stone magazine and selling less than one-third the amount of copies of its predecessor in the United States.  

While 2008’s Day and Age fared a little better with its introduction of New Age-y synths and feathered shoulder pads, the release of its lead single, “Human,” sparked viral confusion about the song’s lyrics (dancer or denser?) and subsequent conflicting interpretations of the song’s meaning.  In an interview with Rolling Stone, Flowers remarked in a modern feat of PR destruction that he was irritated over the confusion about the lyric and the song’s dance beat: “It's supposed to be a dance song, [the beat] goes with the chorus...If you can't put that together, you're an idiot. I just don't get why there's a confusion about it.” “Human” was so far removed from the band’s early hits that most fans had to look up whether it was really produced by the Killers, and it would later be voted “weirdest lyric of all time” in a 2014 Blinkbox survey.

On that promising note, The Killers announced that they would go on hiatus in 2010, during which Flowers released his theatrical solo album Flamingo, indicative of wunderkind persona which propelled The Killers and may have very well destroyed them.  The Killers made their formal return with the 2012 release Battle Born, but by that time, the indie/alternative scene had ceased to take notice of them, having largely moved on from The Strokes/Arctic Monkeys era, and Battle Born, like its two predecessors, failed to perform commercially and critically.  I remember briefly seeing a Battle Born poster in a Hot Topic window and shuddering.

In the classic tale of bands that peaked way too early, The Killers marked the dying gasps of its rock powerhouse with the release of a greatest hits compilation in 2013: the sure sign of a band on its sad but timely way out, to be played only during waves of extreme nostalgia.  Like all good things that refuse to die, Flowers has announced that The Killers plan on releasing new music in 2016--yet one can’t help but wonder, in the immortal words of Flowers himself:

"How did it end up like this?"