I want to preface this piece by relating that The Killers are great.
I love them passionately. Hot Fuss is the first album in years to
make me feel like a seventh grade girl again. I shamefully admit
here and now that I squeal to my dog ''Look! It's them!''when I
happen to catch the video for ''Somebody Told Me'' on MTV2. They are
my commuting soundtrack, the distance from parking space 272 at the Cortlandt MetroNorth station to Mead Street perfectly accompanied by
tracks two through nine.
In complete teeny-bopper mode, I had to check out their website for
possible wallpaper for my work computer, or maybe mp3s of the
elusive B-sides I can't seem to get my hands on, or perhaps some
gossip (to the tune of a marriage proposal addressed directly to
me). Instead, I ended up reading the monstrous history of the band.
It details the making of the album and alludes to the murder mystery
hidden in ''Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,'' ''Midnight Show,''and a
third, yet-to-be-released track.
I admit that while I have been listening to their album basically
non-stop since early August, I had accepted the lyrics as typical,
catchy, love-ish songs. Then again, I am the girl who had been
singing along to Alannah Myles' ''Black Velvet'' for something along
the lines of twelve years before figuring out that it was about
Elvis. So maybe I'm just kind of dense. It took the knowledge that
there was a hidden plotline to the album to get me to listen the
songs more closely. Then, like a bolt of lightening, a ridiculously
complex and tenuously cogent theory hit me during one of the
Killers' Irving Plaza shows in October (which was, by the way, one
of the best shows I have seen in a long time).
With this introduction, I present my pop-culture doctoral thesis. To
clarify, I am in no way stating that Mr. Flowers, or any of the
other members of the band, are themselves gay. I have no idea if
they are. I'd prefer to believe that they are not, as a sham
marriage with Brandon is something I would dutifully tolerate-but I
prefer to think big and romantic in my dreams. Any and all claims I
am about to make about sexuality apply to the speaker of the
Killers' album, a character already clearly detached from his
creator by virtue of his being a homicidal maniac.
So here it is, tentatively titled:
On the Mats with the Boys:
An Examination of the Homosexual Subtext of the Killers' Hot Fuss
It's clear to any listener that the driving emotion of the Killers'
album Hot Fuss is jealousy-a jealousy so intense that it ends with a
character's murder. However, it's only with a certain amount of
close listening and some rearranging that the secret plot of the
album completely emerges.
The key to the puzzle, without a doubt, is ''Andy, You're a Star.''
The most transparent of the songs on the album, our narrator pines
for the seemingly untouchable (and attached) high school jock. On
the field he's incredible and he's leaving his legacy on the school,
but he's also rolling around on the mats with the boys with more
fervor than wrestling demands. The narrator says, explicitly, ''in a
car with a girl-promise me she's not your world, 'cause Andy, you're
a star.''Sure, it could be a platonic envy or admiration of a
small-town boy with a too-big-for-his-britches star quality, but the
town isn't admiring him; they're judging him-and the verdict is in.
We suspect Andy likes boys. And our narrator likes Andy.
Chronologically, though, the story line doesn't start with ''Andy,
You're A Star.'' It begins with ''Smile Like You Mean It'' and
''Change Your Mind.'' ''Smile Like You Mean It'' sets the tone for
the emotional environment of the relationship between our narrator
and Andy. It's all about denying what's truly there, yet lamenting
the loss of innocence as each male character accepts his true
desires. ''Change Your Mind'' is the beginning of the connection
between the two boys. Mr. Flowers proclaimed the song ''the
sweetest''the Killers have done, and it's true. It's the most
promising, most hopeful song on the album, and reeks of the
possibilities of a new romance. Yet because this romance is between
our narrator and Andy, the sweetness of the song is somewhat diluted
with suspicion, shame, and guilt. Still, they canít deny that
they've ''both felt like this before.''
Putting the song ''Somebody Told Me'' next, the story begins to
become clearer. The twisted genders of the boyfriends and
girlfriends in the chorus become a coded inquiry from our narrator
to Andy to see exactly whether or not he's interested. The
proverbial ''somebody'' told him that he had a boyfriend, who looked
a lot like one of the narrator's old ''girlfriends.'' The narrator
has had it with playing games, and, in the overtly homoerotic ''On
Top,'' the two get together. Still, leaving each other with a
cigarette and a handshake after their trysts, they canít acknowledge
to other people whatís truly going on.
The most significant of those other people is Andy's girlfriend,
Jenny. Our narrator's jealousy over Jenny's role in Andy's life
permeates the entire album, but is specifically dealt with in ''Mr.
Brightside,'' in which the narrator is not possessive of the ''she,''
but rather jealous of her time with the ''he.''It seems that Jenny
is an acquaintance of the narrator's; she fuels his jealousy with
her presence in both his and Andy's life.
By the Killers' own admittance, a murder occurs on this album. It's
Jenny, and the narrator commits the murder. This is all a given. The
band, however, does not as explicitly state the gay love theme that
drives the murder. It seems not only that the narrator kills Jenny
(''Midnight Show''), but also that Andy was there and was involved
in the actual process; someone is holding Jenny down, imploring an
accomplice to ''drive faster.'' Post-murder (which takes place
outside, in the rain, but doesn't involve drowning-personally, I
believe she was strangled), the narrator denies the charges, telling
his interrogators that Jenny was a friend of his and he had no
motive to commit such a crime. However, if we were to believe that
this album depicts a heterosexual relationship, why would our
narrator declare Jenny simply a friend?
Guilt sets in after the crime. It seems that the two men cannot stay
together. ''All These Things That I've Done'' and, finally,
''Everything Will Be Alright'' are the narrator's attempts to not
only console himself, but also the boy he is losing.
Which leaves the listener with ''Believe Me, Natalie.How does it fit
in? I tried to make this whole theory work with the narrator having
a girlfriend as well, but I just don't think it's true. I've come to
the conclusion that the Killers are too smart not to have a good
old-fashioned red herring on the album. It's sort of in the interest
of the narrator's character to detract attention from the secret
subplot with a song that doesn't relate to the story, but rather
talks about the 1970's disco scene coming to an end. Still, though
the song is a red herring, it does invite the listener to explore
what's hidden under the Monet, just below the surface.