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Track Review

The Killers exploded onto the music scene back in 2004 with the conspiratorial earworm "Somebody Told Me." The song managed that difficult trick of harkening back to the past (in this case with a big dose of '80s rock) while simultaneously sounding oh-so of the moment. Frontman Brandon Flowers and his band oozed cool as they contemporized old sounds and styles in a way that paradoxically felt fresh and original.

I had the same kind of feeling listening to The Killers' first new music in five years, "The Man." Once again, Flowers and Co. blend old and new—fusing a whole lotta funky '70s with synthy stabs—in a brag-filled shout-out to self that one suspects isn't quite meant to be taken literally.

Bow to the Killer King?

The song is basically one long boast from start to finish: "I know the score like the back of my hand," Flowers begins, "Them other boys, I don't give a d--n." (That vulgarity is repeated several times throughout the track.) Our narrator insists he's a sovereign to whom all others must bow: "They kiss on the ring, I carry the crown/Nothing can break, nothing can break me down."

As for the attention of the ladies, well, this storyteller considers himself the epitome of success, the allure of which is self-evident: "I got gas in the tank/I got money in the bank/I got news for you baby, you're looking at the man." (Paging Ron Burgandy, paging Ron Burgandy.)

A bit later, Flowers even goes so far as suggesting some kind of special relationship with the Almighty. "Right hand to God/First in command/My testimony, but I take the stand/ … Who's the man?/Who's the man?/I'm the man/I'm the man." At this point, the ego warning button on the dashboard is blinking rapidly.

Desperate Narcissism or Cagey Criticism?

As I alluded to above, there are two ways we can interpret this song: literally and metaphorically.

If we take Flowers literally here, frankly, his braggadocio seems desperate and sad. It's as if proclaiming one's supposed greatness after a long absence is enough to reclaim some kind of throne.

That said, I don't think that's what is going on with this song. Here's why. Brandon Flowers has talked in the past about the importance of his family and his Mormon faith. And with each of his band's first four albums, the lyrics have gradually grown more mature and philosophical in their outlook on life. Not perfect, mind you. But definitely more reflective.

I think that context is important when it comes to sussing out what is or isn't happening in this catchy new song. I don't think Brandon Flowers is bragging (at times using a bit of profanity for emphasis) with a straight face that he's "The Man." Rather, I suspect this song is a sarcastic jab at those in our culture who believe that they really are sitting on the throne, men who say with a straight face, "I'm the man!" and expect everyone to immediately bow and scrape in response.

If that interpretation is correct, "The Man" holds up a satirical mirror, and those who are convinced of their own awesomeness would do well to gaze into it. If they do, perhaps those puffed-up folks will realize that their outsized declarations of superiority don't sound royal, so much as ridiculous.

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June 14, 2017

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Adam R. Holz

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