05 Aug The Killers: Music Video Kings
At the risk of sounding old…what happened to music videos? When I was in high school, only eight years ago, I could still turn on MTV or VH1 and they would have entire time-slots just for them. TRL was a show almost solely dedicated to the celebration of the latest and greatest visual music experiences. Before youtube, it was the only place to see bands like Blink-182, New Found Glory, and Fall Out Boy without buying a ticket to a show.
Today’s generation seems to have forgotten how impactful a great video can be for an artist’s career. Before the internet really kicked into high gear, music videos were the best promotional tool an artist had to reach the masses. It offered fans a short, visual experience dependent on whatever budget could be squeezed out of the record label.
Unfortunately, the music video has suffered a serious blow now that anyone with a smartphone can upload their own video directly to their streaming platform of choice. There’s no need for high budget, high pageantry filming anymore, because the content will reach the fans regardless; but, there are still those brave few who value the music video for more than just a promotional tool or archaic novelty. They use the medium to bring their art to life, creating intricate and vivid stories and characters.
The undisputable rulers of the music video world these days are The Killers. Over the course of ten years and six album cycles, this band has created some of the most varied and well crafted visual content of any other musicians in this generation. I’ve been hooked on their videos ever since I saw “Mr. Brightside” debut on TRL and haven’t been disappointed with anything since.
Anyone who follows this band knows that they are true showmen to the very end. Over the years they have developed a catalogue of videos that reflect their growth and development as a band. I spent the last few days sifting through all of them and finding the top five videos that I believe mark the influence that Killers have on music video history.
“Mr. Brightside” – Hot Fuss (2004)
This is the one that started it all, despite the fact that it’s actually a remake of the original. The band’s debut single came along with a video that reflected and elevated the success of the song. I still enjoy watching how the love triangle between Brandon Flowers, Eric Roberts, and Izabella Miko plays out in the dismal and dark burlesque house. Director Sophie Muller really captures the tragedy in the story without any dialogue between actors, and manages to rope you into a landscape that floats somewhere between past and present. This style of video would provide indirect inspiration for bands like Panic! At The Disco, and Fall Out Boy in the very near future.
Sam’s Town is an album that set the standard of this band for years to come, and happens to be my all-time favorite from them. It smashed the idea of the sophomore slump into a million tiny pieces as it skyrocketed to the apex of the charts. “When You Were Young”, the first single off the record, led listeners into a sonic landscape that perfectly represented the band’s relationship with their southwestern roots and the ever looming shadow of Las Vegas. The video truly captures the intent of the album, depicting a tumultuous love story in some noname Mexican town. Anthony Mandler did an excellent job conveying a sense of romanticism in the decaying town. It is accomplished through the sweat and grit of the characters reflected in their surroundings. This music video sent a clear message that the band had evolved into something more mature, acquiring a hunger for more thoughtful musical expression.
Fast forward two years, and The Killers have musically and culturally hit their stride. Their bold artistic style allowed them a lot more freedom with fans to experiment with a variety of new looks and sounds. For me, Day & Age is a transition album that brought the band to their current iteration. It really distinguished Brandon Flowers as the humble but willing face of the band, and it became very apparent in the visual representation of the song “Spaceman”. It takes the idea of Las Vegas pageantry, puts it in a blender, and pours out an abstract layer cake of celebration. Flowers is in the middle of all this chaos, roaming around in some red spandex that would make David Bowie proud. The constant movement of the camera and all of the activity really plays well off of the soaring choruses.
“Miss Atomic Bomb” is not my favorite track off of Battle Born, but it’s got one of the most interesting and fan-servicing videos of any track on the album. The story picks up the second part of the epic saga that started with “Mr. Brightside”. It follows a lamenting older man in a decaying trailer home who continues to dwell on the jealousy and paranoia that ripped him from the love of his life. Director Warren Fu does an excellent job separating the flashbacks from real time by depicting them through illustrations. Through this, the viewer is shown the development of Flowers’ love interest, and the degeneration of the relationship due to his assumptions of a love triangle with his main lady’s dance partner. Eventually the video flips back to live action, and the actors turn out to be none other than Eric Roberts and Izabella Miko from the original “Mr. Brightside” video. This type of full circle storytelling gives the fans a chance to look back on the success of band, and reminds everyone where it all started. Not to mention, the illustration style of Titmouse Studio does an excellent job of harkening back to the forgotten futurist idealism of the 50’s.
This has easily become one of my favorite songs and videos out of the entire Killers catalogue. Something about the mixture of great storytelling and an equally great song just really gets me going. The video, directed by Roboshobo, shows an attractive Las Vegas hotel maid, played by Bella Heathcote, who is swept out of her mundane lifestyle by a complete stranger when they lock eyes somewhere on the strip. By some grace of good luck, that only exists through the magic of Vegas, the two come together in a night of epic proportions. She ends up ditching her post at the hotel and spends the rest of the night breaking out of her daily routine. All the while, Flowers seems to be conducting this whole celebration from some unknown hotel penthouse suite. Sure, the story is a little cheesy, but it represents something that a lot of people hope to find when they lose themselves in Sin City. Its an escape from the norm, and the Killers found a way to put a fresh spin on the romanticism synonymous with a night in Las Vegas.