“A Dustland Fairytale” by The Killers
“A Dustland Fairytale” relies very heavily on metaphors. Moreover it is based on Brandon Flowers’ personal life. More specifically it centers on two characters, “Cinderella” and “some kind of slick American prince”, who are supposed to represent Flowers’ parents.
And underneath the aforementioned metaphors there’s a whole lot going on. For instance, most honestly put, it would appear that Brandon, as implied above, is presenting his dad as some sort of a bad guy. And whereas, like many of us, he may not have particularly understood what his mother saw in his father in their youth, later on his dad did apparently overcome the issues upon which such a critique is based. So it would appear that, more than anything, Flowers is presenting him in such a manner to prove a point, which we will get to shortly.
It also so happens that, unfortunately, Brandon’s mom was dealing with a case of terminal cancer when this song came out. So it also appears that a major part of the message contained therein is based on his desire for her to beat the disease. So overall, even though the lyrics may be wrapped around a search for understanding and optimism on behalf of the singer, considering the two aforementioned premises, then we have to conclude that it is a melancholic piece.
“A Dustland Fairytale”
Indeed the title itself is ultimately an act of irony. Initially “Cinderella” and the “slick chrome American prince” meeting at such a young age and becoming spouses may be deemed a “fairytale” from the perspective of the “Dustland” from which they emerged – a manifestation of true love as far as locals perceive it.
And in terms of the setting of the song, the “Dustland” is apparently a poetic appellation for “White trash county”, as Flowers puts it in the first verse. But more to the point, concerning the title’s irony, is the fact that this “fairytale” did not result in a happy ending. Instead what we have is said “prince” developing into some sort of a “devil”. And “Cinderella” herself is facing death, even though that particular fact doesn’t come through as overtly in the lyrics as the other.
So honestly and conclusively, what all of this reads like is as if Brandon Flowers is sympathizing with the life story of his mom. From his perspective, her life was highlighted by first marrying someone whom perhaps she shouldn’t have and then finally being the victim of a deadly disease.
And to him, this story represents the quintessential tale of poor White America, so to speak. This is a place where, as indicated by the bridge, “dreams all hide”, and “the good girls die”. And accordingly, considering that he refers to the female subject (i.e. his mom) as “Cinderella”, the implication is that he deems her as innocent or a victim in the grand scheme of things.
So this is likely why, as indicated later in the article, an artist like Bruce Springsteen would be compelled to jump on this song. And we say that because it reads like something the Boss may have penned back in the day, i.e. a pop piece which is sympathetic of the average American, if you will, whose life did not materialize as idealized.
Facts about “A Dustland Fairytale”
The release date of this song dates back to 9 June 2009, being the fourth single from The Killers’ “Day and Age” album. The album itself came out in 2008 via Island Records.
“A Dustland Fairytale” was officially written by the five musicians who make up The Killers and have done so since around the time of the band’s inception –
- vocalist Brandon Flowers
- guitarist Dave Keuning
- bassist Mark Stoermer
- drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.
They are also credited, as a singular entity, with producing the song, in conjunction with Stuart Price.
In mid-2021 this song made fresh headlines when The Killers re-recorded it under the name “Dustland”. And the reason the revision drew so much attention is because features them performing the tune alongside Bruce Springsteen, who has long been a known influence on their work. And they all performed the song together on a June 2021 episode of The Today Show.
The cover art of this song is not a depiction of Brandon Flowers’ face, as one may presume. It’s rather a portrait of Mark Stoermer, as rendered by an artist named Paul Normansell.
A Dustland Fairytale appeared on both the UK Singles Chart and Billboard’s Alternative Songs in the States, breaking the top 40 of the latter. And to note The Killers are in fact an American act, tracing their origin back to Las Vegas.
Music video vet Anthony Mandler directed the official visual to this song. And it was inspired by an old Francis Ford Coppola film called The Outsiders (1983).
Unfortunately Brandon Flowers’ mom, whose name was Jean Flowers, did pass away, at the age of 64, of brain cancer during February of 2010 – less than a year after this song was released.