Saturday, February 16, 2013

Soul and Soldier: The Rebirth of Brandon Flowers

I am not usually one to follow the personal lives of celebrities. If the existence of tabloids is any indication, we humans have some sort of need for role models--a need to exalt people, scrutinize them, judge them, celebrate them, and condemn them. And, yeah, I was disappointed when Christian Bale was so mean to that one guy on a movie set and I was pleased when Christian Bale showed up discretely at that hospital in Aurora to comfort the shooting victims. But I try to avoid expecting great artists to be great people. As a Mormon, I cannot rationally expect musicians, movie stars, authors, etc. to uphold the same values I do.

However, there is the occasional success story that just makes me proud of certain people. In this case, I want to take you on a little journey through a few years in the life of Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers.

2004. The Killers release their debut album Hot Fuss through British indie label Lizard King Records. They're a hip new rock band. They've got several hit singles. They've got scantily clad babes in their music videos. You know, the usual. Track 5 on the album becomes a popular radio hit, and is reportedly written by Flowers alone. Consider these lyrics:

"I got soul but I'm not a soldier"

Such catchy assonance and alliteration repeated abundantly by a gospel choir = winning hook. But let's look deeper. Around this time, I heard through the grapevine that Brandon Flowers was a Mormon. A famous Mormon? That's always good news, right? Maybe not this time. This is an exchange from Spin Magazine from November of that year:

Spin: (We) once described you as an ex-Mormon. Is religion important in your life?

Flowers: It's very important. I mean, it's important in everyone's life. Basic religion is the reason we have morals. I am actually a Mormon, not an ex-Mormon. I occasionally drink and smoke, but I'm trying-I'm human.

So in 2004 he's a Mormon but not quite the shining example we might have hoped.  If the story ended there it would be an unremarkable, common tale. A young LDS person joins a rock band, dabbles in the rock and roll lifestyle but still believes the church is good. He's got soul or, in other words, he feels the goodness of the gospel and feels regret when he doesn't live up to it, but he's not a soldier. He's not fighting the good fight and following orders from the commander. To me, these lyrics aren't just catchy; they're insightful into the state of mind of a lot of wishy-washy-Mormon celebrities such as Amy Adams, Aaron Eckhart, and Will Swenson. Soul, yes; soldiers, no.

What is remarkable to me is that the story takes a dramatic turn not too many years later when Brandon and his childhood sweetheart/now wife Tana celebrate the birth of their first child Ammon. Let's get something straight. Ammon is a soldier's name, not just a name with soul.

Now let's jump to 2012. Brandon Flowers is a family man. He and Tana now have three kids, and from what Tana has to say about him, he's a very faithful husband and very active in church.  Now contrast that Spin Magazine article from 2004 with this lively debate on Norwegian TV:

He's not just bearing his testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon; he's putting the naysayer in his place.  And, I might add, he's doing an admirable job at keeping his cool in a rather intense situation.   In 2012, Brandon Flowers is such a good example of family life and church service, he's even featured on No matter how many times he will yet sing that lyric, Brandon knows...he's a soldier.

Now here are some lyrics from his 2010 solo album Flamingo:

Tell the Devil that he can go back from where he came
His fiery arrows drew their bead in vain
And when when the hardest part is over, we'll be here
And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear

Now, once again I feel the need to voice some caution in regard to celebrity role models. Brandon could slip up. As could I. As could you. But as I look back at these past few years I feel so proud of Brandon Flowers for the great public figure and good example that he has become. And what was the catalyst for this change? I believe it was having children and the responsibility that entails. When you get right down to it, that's the missing ingredient in our western society and culture today: responsibility, accountability, commitment. If we could all set aside our feelings of entitlement and take up the mantle of responsibility, I believe many of our social problems would be largely reduced. When you hold yourself accountable to a family and accountable to God, you just behave differently. We need more famous artists infusing these values back into society. We need soul. And we need soldiers.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Mike. I went to church in Nashville with Paul Reynolds, the brother of the manager of The Killers. Paul said that Brandon told him this song is about the Second Coming. Now, take that as hearsay, since it is coming from a guy who heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy, but it makes sense to me.