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The Killers’ smash hit turns 20

‘Somebody Told Me’ made band a household name

By Jason Bracelin, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Published: March 21, 2024, 6:05am

It’s not confidential, the song always had potential.

Two decades later, that potential has been fulfilled — and then some.

On March 15, 2004, the Killers’ smash hit “Somebody Told Me” was released.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of one of the band’s signature tunes, let’s look back on the song that helped make the Killers a household name.

Girl troubles

It’s kind of hard to believe in hindsight that a future heartthrob like Killers frontman Brandon Flowers once had his struggles with the ladies.

And yet, that’s exactly what “Somebody Told Me” is all about — “A breakin’ my back just to know your name,” Flowers sings during the song’s opening refrain, alluding to the challenges of making a connection at the club.

“We were going out to clubs a lot at the time,” Flowers explained of the song’s origins in a 2013 interview with “Entertainment Weekly.” “It speaks to a young man’s frustration, the difficulty of picking up girls.”

Oh, those frustrations would end soon enough.

A breakout hit

Though “Somebody” was technically the second single released from the Killers’ debut “Hot Fuss,” it was really the song that broke the band. “Mr. Brightside” came out first in September 2013 but didn’t become a massive hit until it was rereleased the following year. “Somebody” was the song that got the band its first serious airplay.

Another nod to New Order

The Killers took their name from the fictitious band in the video for “Crystal” by British post-punk greats New Order. They keep the New Order references going in the clip for “Somebody”: the wall of LED screens surrounding the Killers as they perform in the video a seemingly direct nod to the same imagery in the aforementioned New Order vid.

Second time was the charm

Like “Brightside,” “Somebody” was released twice as a single. First, with a now-rare pink cover — the 7-inch version fetches well over $50 on music sites Discogs.com today. It was reissued with a blue background, the far more commonplace version as the song rocketed up the charts. Speaking of which …

A certified smash

“Somebody” remains the Killers’ second biggest hit, having been certified triple platinum, trailing only “Brightside,” which has sold over 10 million copies. The song climbed to No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a Top Five hit in the U.K.

A critical as well as commercial hit

“Somebody” was a critical success as well. Renowned British music mag NME named it the 41st best song of the aughts, while Paste ranked it the sixth-best Killers song in 2020. A year later, “American Songwriter” put “Somebody” at No. 3 in their list of the 10 greatest Killers tunes.

In a prescient, glowing review of “Hot Fuss” in July 2004, Rolling Stone writer Jenny Eliscu dubbed the album “all Killers, no filler,” citing “Somebody” as a standout track, making a bold prediction.

“The Killers threaten to pry dance rock from the steely grip of hipsterdom and thrust it unrepentantly into the mainstream.”

Local love

Among three B-sides included on the “Somebody” single is “The Ballad of Michael Valentine.” Valentine, the alter ego of professional poker player and singer-songwriter Rod Pardey Jr., was the frontman for Vegas rockers Romance Fantasy, whose lineup once included future Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

Going for Grammy gold

“Somebody” was nominated for a pair of 2005 Grammy Awards: best rock song and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal. It lost both to the same song: U2’s “Vertigo.” Ever heard of that one?

A well-traveled tune

According to the concert archival site Setlist.fm, “Somebody” is the Killers’ second-most-played song live. At 949 performances, it trails only “Mr. Brightside” and its 997 airings. Setlist.fm lists a Sept. 16, 2003, gig at London’s Dublin Castle as the song’s first live performance — though the band surely played it at local shows before that. Its first archived Las Vegas performance was on Nov. 16, 2003, at the long-shuttered Tramp’s.

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