As the Killers strolled onto the rock scene in the early ’00s, their unique blend of classic rock and ’80s flavored dance beats took a minute to catch on—but once it did, it spread like wildfire. Their heavy-on-the-synthesizer debut was preceded by several hit singles, including “Mr. Brightside,” “All These Things I’ve Done” and “Somebody Told Me” that defined rock music of the era.
Videos by American Songwriter
“Somebody Told Me” was not an instant success. Cowering in the colossal shadow of the lead track “Mr. Brightside,” the song didn’t quite measure up. However, after the group shared a revamped version of the track, it rose in the ranks, settling in comfortably beside its predecessor atop the charts.
The song’s meaning has long been debated amongst fans with many thinking a deeper metaphor lies underneath the pulsing club rhythm. Let’s dive into the double meaning of this song below.
Behind the Meaning of the Lyrics
When you first listen to the Bowie-Esque disco of “Somebody Told Me,” the lyrics seem to point to a man trying his darndest to get the attention of a girl in a club—a typical unrequited love tale for the rock outfit.
However, the lyrics also seem to point to the ever-growing challenge for a songwriter to reach their audience. Whether it’s a romantic connection or fame frontman Brandon Flowers craves, he lays it all out in this song.
Breakin’ my back just to know your name
Seventeen tracks and I’ve had it with this game
A breakin’ my back just to know your name
But Heaven ain’t close in a place like this
Anything goes but don’t blink, you might miss
In the first verse, Flowers sings about being in a dance club and hearing 17 songs come and go while trying to capture the attention of a woman he’s interested in. Many Killers fans also point out that the “Seventeen tracks” line could also point to creating oodles of music without reward, leading Flowers to “be done with this game.
Well somebody told me you had a boyfriend
Who looked like a girlfriend
That I had in February of last year
It’s not confidential, I’ve got potential
Inside the chorus, the double meaning continues as he sings both about the couple being attracted to similar-looking people—so it must mean they fit together well too. Conversely, when reading between the lines, it could point to someone having written a song that is similar to one Flowers has penned.
Romance or the Industry?
When talking about this track, Flowers has only ever said, “We were going out to clubs a lot at the time. It speaks to a young man’s frustration, the difficulty of picking up girls.”
However, the song was released as part of the group’s debut studio album, Hot Fuzz, and was little noticed by the industry. So much so that this single had to be released in two separate forms to gain traction. The first iteration of the track was released with the above pink single cover, but due to poor sales, production stopped altogether. A newer version, featuring a blue background, was re-released which then began to garner some buzz.
Due to the band’s slow break into the industry, many fans believe this track is actually a secret jab at the music business and the struggle of songwriters.
Photo by Olivia Bee