Do you hate The Killers? If you're enthusiastically nodding right now, don't worry. You're not alone. This innocuous band inspires an astounding level of hatred in otherwise mild-mannered music fans — a hatred almost as surprising as the fact that The Killers are now bona-fide stadium-rockers.
What makes this Vegas quartet so easy to dislike? We've been giving it a lot of thought since we found out that the band would be headlining the second day of Live 105's Not So Silent Night extravaganza this year, and we've pinpointed some key factors.
The first is what we'll call the Coldplay Effect. Do you think so many people would despise Coldplay so vehemently if the band weren't wildly successful? Of course not. (Remember when that first record, Parachutes, came out? We all liked it. Some of us loved it.) The Killers are in the same boat. Hot Fuss (2004) sold more than 7 million copies, and last year, the band headlined major festivals all over the world. The fact that The Killers have pulled off this feat in the middle of a music industry crisis is an extra kick in the teeth for the naysayers. So the Killers and Coldplay inspire a special kind of rage in music nerds precisely because they were never supposed to do this well. If well-liked bands like Friendly Fires or Bloc Party blew up to that level overnight, people would suddenly be baying for their blood as well. That's just music fans: We are a hypercritical, angry lot.
What makes matters worse is that, like Coldplay, the members of The Killers don't look like rock stars — they look like those guys you jammed with after the bar that one time who weren't very good at playing their instruments. Unless you count Brandon Flowers, that is. And, really, he's more of a shiny pretty-boy type than a stadium-filling rocker.
The Killers don't sound like rock stars, either. Most of their music is the kind of radio-friendly rock that's rooted in indie, but remains decidedly uncontroversial. These are not songs that reach out and grab you by the crotch, demanding immediate attention. They certainly don't beg for the expanse of a stadium. Our introduction to the foursome was "Somebody Told Me" — one of the most annoying songs to emerge in the last decade. It's right up there with "Pumped Up Kicks" on the irritation scale: repetitive, predictable nonsense.
Predictability isn't something The Killers have entirely grown out of, if their recent video for "Miss Atomic Bomb" is anything to go by. When fans watch it, they may see a group at the top of its game, working hard on the road and rocking huge, overwhelmed audiences to the brink of hysteria. But when haters watch it, they probably see yet another rehashed version of Bon Jovi's 1986 video for "Wanted Dead or Alive." The "Miss Atomic Bomb" clip also isn't helped by the fact that, when paired with all that slo-mo concert footage, Flowers singing "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone" makes him look like a conceited buffoon with a Jesus complex.
Regardless of all these irritants, we're looking forward to seeing The Killers at Not So Silent Night. Haters might see them as a band that merely dresses up old musical ideas with an overinflated sense of self-importance. But it's also true that The Killers write songs that creep up on you and end up living in your brain forever — and that's a rare and special skill.
The Killers have a knack for making music that, on first listen, seems shrug-worthy. You don't necessarily like these songs, but you can't get mad at them, either (unless it's "Somebody Told Me" of course). Then one day, when you're least expecting it, that same old tune you've heard 25 times before comes on the radio, and all of a sudden it's a revelation! At the time "When You Were Young" came out, it bounced right off us. We felt nothing. Then one day we found ourselves barreling along on the freeway, windows down, listening to it as loud as the stereo would go. All of a sudden, it sounded like an epic, soul-lifting classic.
For the band's legions of dedicated fans, The Killers are saviors of the anthem, writers of panoramic, borderline-theatrical tunes that imbue listeners' lives with a little bit of drama, a fair amount of longing, and a whole heap of joyous invigoration. The band's latest album, Battle Born, aspires to lofty, Springsteenian heights, and it mostly gets there. So, haters: The reason you should stick around to watch The Killers on Saturday night is because these songs that you don't much care for right now might make a lot more sense onstage. That special Killers thing that only clicks for some of us after 25 listens might just happen for you with one sweating-in-the-stadium, surrounded-by-fans kick in the ass. And hey, if all else fails, at least you can laugh at Brandon Flowers' ego.