Over fifteen years ago, The Killers released their debut album Hot Fuss which contained the single “Mr. Brightside” which is still being overplayed at karaoke bars and college parties to this day. However, despite the major success of the single that most times would lead to a “one hit wonder” type of scenario, the band has stayed very consistent and continues to top the charts with four more albums after their debut and one on the way in 2020. This is feat that most other artists can only dream of but the success of the band relies heavily on their glitzy debut. Hot Fuss was filled with so many crazy standout moments on it’s own from the guitars on “Andy, You’re a Star” to the entire feel of “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” to the wild story of “Somebody Told Me”. But beyond that, one song that really stayed in my mind long after listening to it was the fourth and final single, “Smile Like You Mean It”.
Upon hearing this song for the first few times, I was completely torn. Is it supposed to be happy and encouraging or melancholy and twisted? The lyrics point in both directions with lines describing past life situations and I’m not sure if the “smile like you mean it” order is meant to be serious or sarcastic. But upon seeing the music video, it all started to make sense. Maybe it’s not supposed to be any of those things; maybe it’s just supposed to be nostalgic. And we all know that nostalgia can either be a pleasant feeling or the last thing you ever want to experience. The video, supplied by superb visual effects, demonstrates the passing of time and all of the feelings associated with it, but most importantly it demonstrates the ability to move on and be happy despite those good times being over.
The concept of the video is very simple actually, perfectly conveying the message without any misconceptions or confusion. It starts off by zooming into the keyhole of an apartment and takes you through the different rooms in the home. We move through the kitchen to the living room to the bedrooms, the hall ways and the staircase. All the while the band members appear to be physically there but then at times they become transparent, like ghosts. The house itself takes on a similar role, with it moving between flashbacks with people in it celebrating birthdays or Christmas to the screen going static and the home appearing empty once more. There are times when the two coincide and the band members actually appear to be in the setting but other times when they appear just as a memory and move between people without being noticed. At the end of the video, however, all of the people who you thought were just there turn to face the camera with a blank stare as the song and video fade out.
The absolute best part of the entire video is the way it makes you feel and how it really brings the meaning of the song to life; that’s the entire point of music videos anyway. But with this, it doesn’t just show you the music, it applies more of a feeling to it which makes it even more memorable. With the idea of the band appearing as ghosts, we’re reminded of how it feels to reminisce on past memories and still feel like you’re back in that place. Sometimes, it’s a great feeling; other times it’s quite a bummer. Regardless, on the other side, that place you remember isn’t even the same anymore, as shown by the house moving between lively and empty scenes. But when the audience stares back at the viewer right at the very end, it brings about a sense of cohesion and brings the entire project full circle. Even though those memories are over and these people are dispersed, they still exist and I’m sure they remember you too, hopefully with the same fondness.
The biggest thing to take away from this song and video is that you can take away whatever you want from it. There are moments where I begin to think that it’s meant to be cynical and sad. But the ending reminds me how wonderful memories can be, even if they don’t coincide with reality anymore. “Smile Like You Mean It” is a perfect mind twister of a song from The Killers, and it’s unsettling to feel both ways while listening to such a short track. Nonetheless, this remains one of the most remarkable songs and videos to come from the band, and is one that truly solidified their presence in the rock scene.