“It started out with a kiss,” and now, The Killers are one of the most well-known rock bands of all time. The band’s debut album, “Hot Fuss,” just turned 15 years old. And although it’s a bit disconcerting that the album’s chart-topping single and most widely-appreciated song, “Mr. Brightside,” has existed longer than a high school sophomore, a nostalgic look back is in order. After all, everyone needed The Killers when they were teenagers, so it’s only fair that we’re here for them as they too make it through their formative years.
While some die-hard fans may have been jamming out to the Las Vegas-born band at bars and garage concerts long before “Hot Fuss” hit radio waves, the album is what brought The Killers into the mainstream. Released in full by June 2004, the record was a combination of previously released singles and songs produced specifically for the album. Including classic hits like “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It,” the album set up the vibe for what The Killers were about to unleash on the music scene for years to come: glamorous indie rock n’ roll.
Frontman Brandon Flowers noted that much of the band’s influence derived from the new wave movement of the 1980s, with bands such as Joy Division, The Cure and Duran Duran making their way onto the group’s list of inspirations. Still, The Killers burst into the music industry doing something entirely their own. In fact, one could even argue that “Hot Fuss” helped to define what we presently think of as alternative rock.
Upon its release, the album landed No. 7 on the US Billboard 200 and is estimated to have sold seven million copies worldwide. What’s more, “Hot Fuss” took the No. 1 spot on the UK Album’s chart and held that prestigious ranking longer than any other album in a decade. Whether you’d consider Jenny a friend of yours or not (for appreciative fans), there is no denying the contagious impact “Hot Fuss” had on listeners. No wonder it made Rolling Stone’s lists of both the “100 Best Albums of the 2000s“ and “100 Best Debut Albums of All Time.”
Taken as a whole, The Killers’ impact with their first record would be considered an extraordinary achievement for any band. But for The Killers, it was nothing more than a first step towards being immortalized in their craft. Weaved between the band’s chart-topping singles like “All These Things That I’ve Done” were cutting-edge, innovative tracks, including the likes of which nobody had ever heard before. From the rock opera-esque melody of “Andy, You’re a Star,” to the dance-worthy new wave beats of “Change Your Mind,” “Hot Fuss” transformed rock music of the 21st century. Let us not forget that hidden inside it all was also a murder trilogy worthy of the silver screen with the B-side “Leave the Bourbon on The Shelf,” “Midnight Show” and “Jenny was a Friend of Mine.”
The most well-known track off the record, of course, is the millennia-defining “Mr. Brightside.” Released as a single one year prior to “Hot Fuss,” it might just be one of the most iconic songs of all time. Bold statement, I know, but there’s simply no denying the immediate visceral, gut reaction when one hears the opening to “Mr. Brightside.” You immediately have to get up and start dancing, or better yet, start belting out the lyrics (that, let’s be real, every person in the world must know). The music video for this tune won The Killers their first VMA, when they snagged the award for “Best New Artist” in a video. Not to mention, it’s the most streamed song in the United Kingdom released before 2010, and it literally hasn’t left the UK ‘s Top 100 chart since it came out.
You would be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t love the song and even harder pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least heard of it. And although “Mr. Brightside” has become the butt of an internet joke or two, it has also become a sort of anthem, a calling card for the band that aids as proof of their ongoing popularity and influence.
After “Hot Fuss,” The Killers were officially a band to look out for, and released their second album “Sam’s Town” just two years later. We can thank this record for classic hits like “When You Were Young” and standout videos for songs such as “Bones,” which became indicative of the band’s bizarre, film noir, storytelling style. Just one year later, “Sawdust,” made up of B-side tracks and rarities, was released; once again, the Nevada natives had proved that they could do something entirely different and innovative with their sound.
“Day & Age,” their third studio album, offered an otherworldly sound to listeners in 2008 and begged the ongoing, grammatically frustrating question, “Are we human or are we dancer?” The answer, of course, is still unknown. The band wouldn’t be back with more music, however, until 2013, releasing “Battle Born” as a further testament to their distinct style. This album seemed like it was made to tug at fans’ heartstrings, with its compilation of soulful, nostalgic tracks. The Killers’ knack for storytelling even returned with “Miss Atomic Bomb,” a direct parallel to their “Hot Fuss” hit “Mr. Brightside.” The tear-jerking song adds a more in-depth background to the two titular character’s love and loss in their dustland fairytale.
It seemed as though Flowers and the rest of the band were just as big suckers for nostalgia as the rest of us when they released “Shot At The Night,” a powerful, heartfelt song made to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their debut show in London. What followed was a record comprised entirely of The Killers’ direct hits, obviously containing more than a few gems from the beloved “Hot Fuss.” Alongside “Shot at The Night,” they included another new track titled “Just Another Girl.” The song’s sad lyrics but upbeat melody was emboldened by a short film featuring a jaunt through all The Killers’ prior music videos, starring actress Diana Agron as Flowers himself.
The band’s evolution didn’t stop there. In 2016, they released their first holiday album, “Don’t Waste Your Wishes,” which featured gritty takes on the idea of Christmas classics like “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” and even a song written and performed with none other than Sir. Elton John.
These days, The Killers are using their platform to promote more politically charged songs. With leading singles from their most recent album, “Wonderful Wonderful” and “Run For Cover,” the group alludes to the current political climate and the “fight or flight” response many people were experiencing upon the album’s release shortly after the 2016 election. The band also came into 2019 with “Land of the Free,” another anthem of protest against the current state of the nation, calling for gun reform, immigrant rights and an end to police brutality, among other things.
With each generation comes a few great defining moments in music. For our grandparents, perhaps it was The Beatles’ “White Album.” For our parents, many might say it was U2 and “Joshua Tree.” For generations Y and Z, well, how could it be anything but “Hot Fuss?”