Welcome to The Musical Loves of My Life, a new series similar to the New Music Crush, except we’re talking about artists I’ve loved for much of my life. You might know these artists by one or a couple songs, but I’m here to fangirl about them and tell you about some incredibly underrated songs.
This is a message for my future fiancé: I don’t mean to get all bridezilla right now, but it’s important to me that our first dance song is “When You Were Young” by The Killers. We can work out the instrumental arrangement and choreography later but I’m telling you now that it’s kind of a non-negotiable.
So why am I starting out talking to my currently non-existent fiancé in a blog post? It’s because I need to explain how important The Killers are to me.
As one of the bands that has continued to make gorgeous and fascinating music since I was a kid, The Killers have planted themselves firmly in my heart. Their music has been a source of inspiration, nostalgia, and comfort to me for so much of my life. Their innovative sounds and timeless lyrics have gotten me through really rough patches so I’m not exaggerating at all when I say that The Killers make up a lot of the soundtrack of my life.
The Killers, most known for the iconic “Mr. Brightside”, are made up of lead singer Brandon Flowers, drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr., lead guitarist Dave Keuning, and bassist Mark Stroemer. Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, the band has been active since the early 2000s. Early on in their career, they made the type of indie rock that was heavily inspired by the second British Invasion in the 90s — think like Oasis, blur, and bands like that. People literally thought they were British. They are also heavily influenced by 80s new wave bands like The Cure, The Cars, and The Smiths. Despite very English sonic influences, they found inspiration to inject a sort of Bruce Springsteen-Americana style of songwriting that reminded everyone they were not from across the pond. This innovative combination of musical styles and their iconic showmanship has really made them into one of the most iconic rock bands of the past 20 years. I love them so deeply for two profound reasons: fond memories and innovative musicianship.
My older sister was instrumental to my love for The Killers. I remember how she treasured their first album, Hot Fuss, and was frustrated when she realized she lost her copy. But it was their second album, Sam’s Town, that she was determined to get my entire family to like.
Now, I could (and at some point will) go on about how Sam’s Town is one of my favorite albums of all time. But for now I’ll explain in a few memories why that is so.
My sister added it to our rotation of albums to listen to while road tripping and it provided the perfect musical backdrop to stare out the window and just get lost in thought. I specifically remember listening to that album while going to visit my dad’s hometown of Tecate and where his aunt lived in Mexicali. There is something really magical about listening to that album while in Mexico. I don’t know why, but it just made so much sense. Also, now is a good time to mention that Mexico LOVES The Killers and that makes me so happy to know.
In addition to fond road trip memories, no album quite captured my high school angst like Sam’s Town did. The themes in the album about making it out of “a two-star town” really resonated with me. I had big dreams and ambitions as a youngin’ and I felt like no one really understood me in that. I’ve found a lot of solace in that album even post-high school.
By the time their third album Day and Age came out, I was in the middle of high school. Once again, many songs in that album brought me comfort and reminded me of who I was outside of doing musical theater. By the time I was furiously working on college applications, I had three Killers albums to rotate through. I have a really vivid memory of being mid-mental-emotional breakdown filling out college applications and listening to “Spaceman” to calm down. And then once I submitted my applications, I shed some tears while listening to “All These Things That I’ve Done” from their first album Hot Fuss. That song has been my go-to graduation song too.
Sonically up to that point, The Killers had gone from British-influenced indie rock to a stab at Bruce Springsteen rock to a hybrid of the two. Between my high school and college years, they released a couple albums: a B sides album called Sawdust and a further venture into Bruce Springsteen rock called Battle Born. I can’t remember why I didn’t pay attention to those releases at the time. Actually, I know. I didn’t pay attention because I was in my dumb “tHeY jUsT dOn’T mAkE mUsIc LiKe tHeY uSeD tO” phase — I’m gonna need to own up to that in a post one day lol.
For the majority of my college years, The Killers hadn’t released new music. Brandon Flowers put out a phenomenal solo album that was part of my soundtrack to living in Shanghai but nothing from the whole band for about 5 years.
Enter in their fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful. I was so excited about this album coming out that I asked my journalism advisor, who is also a huge fan of The Killers, if I could do an album review for the paper. Spoiler alert: I did. (Thanks Elizabeth!)
The album’s lead single “The Man” set off this era with fireworks. I was in the middle of what I like to think of as my boss era, aka when the bravado of being a college senior kicked in. I was traveling to New York and meeting important people in journalism. Then I somehow got an internship working as a marketing assistant for the band KISS. And I was about to start probably my favorite semester of classes. I felt like The Man and I felt even more powerful taking that position as The Woman.
The rest of the album had such beautifully intimate and interesting moments. I didn’t know what to expect as a fan because it had been a decent amount of time since the last album. But sonically, it started to cement The Killers’ classic combo of 80s new wave rock with Americana-style songwriting. What made this album so special through was that many of the songs were inspired by Brandon Flowers’s wife Tana her struggles with depression and PTSD. Hearing the love in those songs warmed my heart like no other and truthfully reminded me that I hadn’t done a full deep dive into The Killers’ discography, so I went all in.
I started by going back to Battle Born and I felt that it defined the struggles I faced as a second semester college senior. This album brought me the comfort and energy I needed to finish as strong as I could. From the moments I needed the reminder to not “break character” listening to “Be Still” to the moments I felt like I was marching into battle to the tune of the title track, Battle Born was the perfect album for my last hurrah of school for a while. I also realized that Day and Age was Battle Born’s more lighthearted sister album so that one was also very much in rotation.
After diving into all the new music, I realized I hadn’t given their first album the love it deserves. As a kid, I liked a few songs (namely the singles) from their masterpiece first album Hot Fuss but I felt like the non-singles were unrelatable, so I didn’t listen to them as much. As I got a little older, I felt like it was also overrated because radio stations only played “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me.” I wanted to shake the radio station heads and be like ‘THEY HAVE MORE MUSIC WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING IT.’ My view on Hot Fuss as an album changed when I saw a video by Middle 8 last year that explained the narrative behind a few of the songs. This totally brought a deeper meaning to their debut album; it was so cool. Highly recommend watching it and listening to the album after.
So now, if you’re still with me, we come to present day. Last year, The Killers released their sixth studio album, Imploding the Mirage. This album took me by the hand and said ‘you don’t have to try to be strong by yourself, I’m with you.’ And you best BELIEVE I bawled in the dark while listening to this album for the first time. The themes of love and enduring partnership furthers what Brandon Flowers wrote about in Wonderful Wonderful to his wife. And My God, it is gorgeous. It’s anthemic yet intimate — like a proud declaration of love. Hearing this album during probably the darkest period of my life gave me the strength to keep going, to keep pushing on for better days. I can tell you that when I finally quit my miserable job, it was “like the weight [had] been lifted.”
Believe it or not, I have only scratched the surface with my love for The Killers. I could literally talk for DAYS about their brilliance. We haven’t even talked about Brandon Flowers’s solo music, the fact that they’ve collaborated with rock royalty, the damn good live shows they put on, and why I think Brandon Flowers is almost the blueprint for the man of my dreams. Although, I feel like you can probably guess why if you read the lyrics he’s written to his wife and if you saw the video to “The Man” lol.
To me, The Killers are the last great rock band, but they are so much more than that. They have seamlessly blended alternative and 80s synth-heavy sounds with vivid folk and traditional country-Americana storytelling that feels so personal yet brings people around the world together. They’re wise and homey yet grand and meant to be played in full arenas. There’s a grit and a glitter to them and I feel so connected and understood in that.
They have a new album coming out soon and you better believe I’m excited. Especially because I’m still soaking in Imploding the Mirage. According to Brandon, it’s heavily inspired by his childhood in small town Utah.
This band is so important to me and truthfully, it’s important to my family. So I don’t know, I think it’s pretty fair for me to say that my future life partner (if I do happen to find one) better appreciate The Killers. Maybe not as much as I love them, but just enough to be on the same page about having “When You Were Young” as our first dance song.
Believe Me Natalie — Ok this one has been a recent gem. My older sister had her second child at the end of last year and she named her Natalie. She asked me for recommendations on her birth playlist and of course, we had to include this one. I remember listening to it on my way to meet my new niece. Ugh, she’s grown so big in just a few months. I can’t wait to show it to her when she gets older.
For Reasons Unknown — This song has such a unique yearning in it. One thing I’ve dealt with a lot in my life is not knowing why I don’t feel ok. Literally every time I don’t know why I feel off, I listen to this song to think through the foggy feelings.
Sweet Talk — Funny story about this one. Because it was on their B-sides album, I hadn’t heard it — until I was shopping at Nordstrom Rack a few years ago. After I asked Siri what song it was, I was like ‘How did I miss this gem??’ So shoutout Nordstrom Rack in Pasadena for playing good music and having good finds in stock. #notsponsored #butcallmeIhaveacreditcardwithyall
Joy Ride — This one was probably my favorite off of Day and Age in high school. It vaguely reminds me of when my sister got us in a fender bender with a lady she recognized as the waitress at the Denny’s she always went to. There’s a carefree joy in this song that I feel captures those moments of youthfulness I indulged in as a high schooler. Also, I love me some disco influence in rock songs.
The Way It Was — I first heard this song in preparation to see them live for the first time in 2018. I was struck by the second verse melody and lyric: “Maybe a thief stole your heart or maybe we just drifted apart…” It just conveys so much sadness and longing in so few words. It hurts in such a beautiful way.
Some Kind of Love — Speaking of songs that hurt in such a beautiful way, Brandon wrote this heartbreaking yet encouraging song for his wife. Wonderful Wonderful as a whole was basically a love letter to her as she struggled with depression and PTSD from her past. This song is just exactly the kind of love song that a married man should be writing to his wife who is going through a rough time. The ending of the song makes me cry every single time because he got his three sons to sing the ending with him. I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE CRYING RIGHT NOW. C’MON.
When the Dreams Run Dry — This one has been hitting different for me lately. I jetted off to Maui for a couple days before I started my new job (which has been a literal dream come true) and found a lot of comfort in this song as I reflected on all the blessings that this year has brought so far. In so many words, I’ve been in awe and anxiously wondering, ‘what now?’ The themes in this song really hit a lot of the existential issues I’ve been dealing with in the past year. (Literally the “we’re all gonna die!” lol) But like a good word of comfort from the Holy Spirit, the lyrics “I’ll be by your side, when the dreams run dry” have been reminding me that even if I run out of dreams (which for now feels impossible) I’ll still be held and deeply loved as I am.