On the Mats With The Boys:
A Foray Into The Homosexual Subtext of The Killers' Hot Fuss
It’s clear to any listener that the driving emotion of The Killers' album Hot Fuss is jealousy—a jealousy so intense that it ends with a character’s murder. However, it’s only with a certain amount of close listening and some rearranging that the secret plot of the album emerges.
The key to the puzzle, without a doubt, is ”Andy, You’re a Star.” The most transparent of the songs on Hot Fuss, our narrator pines for the seemingly untouchable (and attached) high school jock. On the field he’s incredible and he’s leaving his legacy on the school, but he’s also rolling around on the mats with the boys with more fervor than wrestling demands. The narrator says, explicitly, “in a car with a girl—promise me she’s not your world, ‘cause Andy you’re a star.” Sure, it could be a platonic envy or admiration of a small-town boy with a too-big-for-his-britches star quality, but the town isn’t admiring him; they’re judging him—and the verdict is in. We suspect Andy likes boys. And our narrator likes Andy.
Chronologically, though, the story line doesn’t start with “Andy, You’re a Star.” It begins with “Smile Like You Mean It,” and “Change Your Mind.” “Smile Like You Mean It” sets the tone for the emotional environment of the relationship between our narrator and Andy. It’s all about denying what’s truly there, yet lamenting the loss of innocence and acceptance as each male character recognizes his actual desires. “Change Your Mind” is the beginning of the connection between the two boys. Mr. Flowers proclaimed the song “the sweetest song” the Killers have done, and it’s true. It’s the most promising, most hopeful song on the album, and reeks of the possibilities of a new romance. Yet because this romance is between our narrator and Andy, the sweetness of the song is still watered down with suspicion, shame, and guilt. Still, they can’t deny that they’ve “both felt like this before.”
Putting the song “Somebody Told Me” next, the story begins to become clearer. The twisted genders of the boyfriends and girlfriends in the chorus become a coded inquiry from our narrator to Andy to see exactly whether or not he’s interested. The proverbial somebody told him he had a boyfriend, who looked a lot like one of the narrator’s old “girlfriends.” The narrator has had it with playing games, and, in the overtly homoerotic “On Top,” the two get together. Still, leaving each other with a cigarette and a handshake after their trysts, they can’t acknowledge what’s going on in front of other people.
The most significant of those other people is Andy’s girlfriend, Jenny. Our narrator’s jealousy over Jenny’s role in Andy’s life permeates the entire album, but is specifically dealt with in “Mr. Brightside,” in which the narrator is not possessive of the “she,” but rather jealous of her time with the “he.” It seems that Jenny is an acquaintance of the narrator’s; she fuels his jealousy with her presence in both his and Andy’s life.
By the Killer’s own admittance, a murder occurs on this album. It’s Jenny, and the narrator commits the murder. This is all a given. The band, however, does not as explicitly state the gay love theme that drives the murder. It seems not only that the narrator kills Jenny (“Midnight Show”), but that Andy was there and may even be involved in the actual process; someone is holding Jenny down, while the other must be driving. Post-murder (which takes place outside, in the rain, but isn’t a drowning; I believe Jenny was strangled in a car), the narrator denies the charges, telling his interrogators that Jenny was a friend of his and he had no reason to commit such a crime. However, if we were to believe that this album depicts a heterosexual relationship, why would our narrator declare Jenny simply a friend?
Guilt sets in after the crime, however, and it seems that the two cannot stay together. “All These Things That I’ve Done” and, finally “Everything Will Be Alright” are the narrators attempts to not only console himself, but the boy he is losing.
Which leaves the listener with “Believe Me, Natalie.” How does it fit in? I tried to make the whole theory work with the narrator having a girlfriend as well, but I just don’t think it’s true. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Killers are too smart not to have a good old-fashioned red herring on the album. It’s sort of in the interest of the narrator’s character to detract attention from the secretive sub-plot with a song that doesn’t relate to the story, but rather talks about 1970’s disco life coming to an end in New York. Still, though the song may be a red herring, it does invite the listener to explore the hidden painting under the “Monet.”
Eat that, fuckers.