"You'd Be Surprised" is a blog series where i write about songs (and maybe other things in the future) that i think would surprise many people that i truly love.
Volume 1: "Human" - The Killers
Some friends know how i feel about this song (mainly because i included it on one of my seasonal mixes), but i don't know if i've ever really expressed how much i really dig this song.
First, a little backstory: Like so many things in life, i first hated this song. I thought the chorus of "Are we human or are we dancer?" was ridiculous and dumb, not to mention the (seemingly) poor grammar, and i tend to instantly dismiss songs with such a dance-y beat (PS - i know that i'm stupid for doing this). But as i heard it more and more, it really started to grow on me.
And it continued to grow, like a weed. At this point, this ranks as one of my favorite songs of the last 5 years, and i still don't really know why besides the preposterously silly idea that it just is (in case you don't know me, i over-intellectualize everything). I mean, the melody is pretty great, and i've grown to absolutely love the lyrics. Apparently, the main lyric of the song was a twist on a Hunter S. Thompson quote about America raising a generation of dancers. That wins points in my book for an interesting place to begin writing a song. And from there, the song paints a picture of alienation/confusion that is sonically, somehow, set in a club. It is a great juxtaposition of an inner monologue and an outer dance party.
In addition to having interesting lyrics and a great melody, something about the song really moves me. Like, goosebumps and getting choked up, moves me. Why? No clue.
It isn't the music per se - there are songs that just from their sonics can make me cry (like "Sleepwalk" by Santo and Johnny or the opening/closing guitar sequence from Frank Black and the Catholics' "Dog in the Sand"), but this dance beat and synth swells aren't of that stripe. I don't think it is really the lyrics either - i mean, i've never pondered if i was human or dancer (because really, how would i know? I only know i'm human because i've always been told i am. Maybe i am dancer?), nor do i think any of the lyrics really were applicable to my life when i first heard "Human" in the Fall of 2008.
However, despite all the questions i posed here (Why do i like it? Why does it move me? How should i know if i'm human or dancer?), i do know one thing: i wish we had more pop music like this. I'm often envious of people who came of age in the 1980s - there was great indie rock AND great pop, and they weren't mutually exclusive genres. Take the Cure for example - "Friday I'm In Love" is one of many great pop songs that this interesting, brooding band put out that managed to bridge the gap between the Top 40 and the CMJ charts. "Human" strikes me as a type of song that could do that and, sorta did. I'm sure people called Robert Smith a sellout/poseur/etc many times over, but look at that white cake makeup and shitty hair - there is nothing corporate about that.
Tom Morello's pretty interesting cover: