Something had to give. The music scene was being choked-out by mundane rock slop, mindless hip-hop drivel and generic pop pablum. And for those still nursing a hangover from the ‘90s anti-party, somebody had to hit the reset button. The Killers not only hit it, they obliterated it.
Simply put, Hot Fuss had balls. Gloriously gutsy and without apology, the sparkly 2004 debut from the Vegas pop / rock darlings had balls to be bold and beautiful — fresh and fashion-forward, while daring to be inspired fabulously by the past — at a time when “fabulous” seemingly had been dismissed as just another four letter “F” word in the narrowing artistic vernacular of modern rock.
The band certainly was “Made in the USA.” However, Hot Fuss demanded British citizenship. Released across the pond a week earlier, the record dropped in America 15 years ago this week (June 15, 2004). Produced by The Killers and Jeff Saltzman, this super-sexy, 11-tissue aural chub fest ravaged the Billboard 200 and was one of the last great blockbusters from back in the day when an artist’s music was respected enough to be purchased. It has since been purchased more than seven million times worldwide.
Easily the band’s biggest hit, “Mr. Brightside” is one catchy tune:
Despite being riddled with hit singles, the record’s non-single opening track was arguably the best of the batch. Glazed with magical Duran Duran-flavored keyboards and driven by a heart-pumping bassline, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” tells the intriguing tale of a young guy brought in for questioning by authorities regarding a girl’s murder. Frontman and song co-writer, Brandon Flowers delivers a convincing and compelling vocal performance, taking the tragic narrative and making it a delightful sing-along.
A songwriting collaboration between Flowers and guitarist, Dave Keuning, the lead-off single, “Mr. Brightside” is a gritty, irresistible, high-energy head-turner, depicting a tension-tinged love triangle and has become one of the band’s signature tunes. Then came the second single, “Somebody Told Me.” Penned by Flowers and bassist, Mark Stoermer, it owns one of the most clever and iconic lines of the era — “Somebody told me you had a boyfriend, who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year.” Crackling with heart-stopping urgency it’s proved for many to be the record’s “golden ticket.” Spewing infectious keyboard riffage, the third single, “Smile Like You Mean It,” has been compared stylistically to The Smiths, only more fun, and without any depressing aftertaste.
But Hot Fuss offered much more than catchy singles. “All These Things That I’ve Done” rolls out an authentic-sounding church-style organ intro and soon gives into a Buick-sized hook before surrendering to the infamous tagline, “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” only to return to church, just in time for a heavenly, gospel-inspired choir outro. “Everything Will Be Alright” takes a bit of a left-hand turn. In a vein similar to David Bowie’s Heroes era, Flowers’ droning love song closes out the record in epic fashion.
The Killers looking killer in a press shot from 2004:
Subsequent Killers studio sets, Sam’s Town (2006), Day & Age (2008), Battle Born (2012) and Wonderful Wonderful (2017) all would invade the Top 10. However, it’s Hot Fuss that remains the sweetest seduction in the band’s celebrated catalog.
Hot Fuss Track Listing:
01. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine (4:04)
02. Mr. Brightside (3:43)
03. Smile Like You Mean It (3:54)
04. Somebody Told Me (3:17)
05. All These Things That I’ve Done (5:01)
06. Andy, You’re a Star (3:14)
07. On Top (4:18)
08. Change Your Mind (3:11)
09. Believe Me Natalie (5:05)
10. Midnight Show (4:02)
11. Everything Will Be Alright (5:45)
Run Time: 45:39
Release Date: June 15, 2004
Record Label: Island
“Somebody Told Me” that you want to watch this video…