The Killers’ “Human” Lyrics Meaning

Brandon Flowers and co. intended the song “Human” to be akin to a social commentary song, i.e. one that negatively criticizes the state of society at large. More specifically, the way the lyrics come off are as if the vocalist is, on a personal level, referring to the act of capitulation to the powers-that-be. 

And as confusing a line as “are we human, or are we dancer” may be to many listeners, therein lies the secret of deciphering the meaning of this song. That is to say that said line was inspired by a quote which, in its entirety, reads that we are “raising a generation of dancers, afraid to take one step out of line”. 

So with that idea in mind, it becomes more apparent that Brandon is not literally singing about the act of dancing. Rather the primary inspiration behind that quote centers on the masses being socialized to blindly comply, with the mention of dancers only being a metaphor or allegory.

Verse 1

So with that foreknowledge, we can say that in the first verse the singer is presenting himself as being akin to an object on a factory “line”, so to speak. And as he’s ‘brought up to the platform of surrender’ (i.e. compelled to capitulate), he is “kind”, in that he does not put up any type of resistance. 

And there is also an unidentified addressee alluded to near the end of the verse. It’s not abundantly clear what Flowers is saying to this individual. But what is obvious is that he is “nervous” or concerned about their wellbeing, seemingly because they are on the verge of following the same path to robothood that he has.

Verse 2

The second verse is more critical of society itself. After all, if a person decides to give in to the powers-that-be, ultimately that’s their choice. But this time around, Brandon is drawing attention to society at large as being an institution which, most simply put, is devoid of any “good”. 

To give an illustration, that line where he says “so long to devotion” was actually inspired by the fact that at the time, Flowers’ parents had been married for 45 years. But as for us younger generations, you rarely hear of people staying together for that long. So that is what he is speaking to, what some have referred to as  as a reduction in moral values of people.

The Thesis Sentiment of “Human”

Some have also referred to the issue of moral decadence in today’s society as the thesis statement of this track. However, we really don’t think that this is necessarily the case. This isn’t only about modern society itself being messed up but also the fact that we, its citizens, tend to just go along with the flow. 

Or phrased differently, “are you human”, i.e. someone who is able to make his own choices in the face of questionable mainstream practices, or “are you dancer”, i.e. a person who is afraid to step out of line? 

And this is not to say that the singer himself is a model of revolutionary fervor, as he admits that he is in fact shook. But still, he’s “looking for the answer”. 

So all in all it would seem that The Killers are encouraging the audience to be more critical of what’s going on around them, instead of merely doing what they’re socialized to do, as many of said acts and practices are actually contrary to the finer qualities of “human” existence.

Lyrics for "Human" by The Killers

Credits for “Human”

The Killers, a band from Las Vegas, produced this track alongside British musician Stuart Price. And the members of the Killers are individually credited as the writers of “Human”. We therefore have the full songwriting credits to this track looking like the below:

  • Brandon Flowers
  • Dave Keuning
  • Mark Stoermer
  • Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

When did The Killers release “Human”?

Island Records put this track out on 22 September 2008. It served as the lead single from “Day & Age”, i.e. The Killers third studio album. 

Song’s Success

This song proved to be a really big hit critically and commercially. It charted in at least 25 countries. One of these countries was the United States. Here, it did exceptionally well, where it appeared on seven different Billboard charts. In doing so, it topped the US Dance Club Songs listing.  

“Human” also blew up across the pond, peaking at number three on the UK Singles chart. Furthermore, it also went double-platinum in the United Kingdom, its highest certification thus far.

More Facts about “Human”

The Killers and Stuart Price put this song together while they were working on Sawdust, a Killers’ compilation album that came out in 2007. Therefore, this is actually the first song the band put together that was featured on “Day & Age”.

Despite “Sawdust” being a compilation album, apparently it featured a couple of previously-unreleased numbers. However, Flowers did not want to include “Human” on that project, as he deemed “it was too good” to be included.

Pop music fandom being what it is, a big deal was made out of a line in the chorus that reads “are we human, or are we dancer?” Of course that is an unorthodox or more specifically grammatically incorrect question, but Brandon was unpleasantly surprised at how some listeners made such a major issue out of it. Either way, he went on to elaborate that said line was inspired by a quote by the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson, with said quote being, in its entirety, that American society is “raising a generation of dancers, afraid to take one step out of line”.

The music video to “Human” features artwork by Paul Normansell, the same individual who put together the cover art to “Day & Age”. Included in the clip is a footage of The Killers performing in a part of Utah known as Golden Valley State Park. Additionally, the unique black tuxedo Brandon wears therein was fashioned by one Fee Doran. And the director of the clip is Danny Drysdale.

Spotify came out in 2008. And during that year, “Human” was actually the most patronized song on the streaming service.


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