The title track and lead single of Arcade Fire's fourth album finds frontman Win Butler singing about feeling lost and disconnected from modern life and yearning for simpler times. The song was released on September 9, 2013.
The song was produced by James Murphy, who is best known for his work with LCD Soundsystem. It features backing vocals by David Bowie, who has been a fan of Arcade Fire for many years. Win Butler once said of their famous supporter, "I remember when we first met David Bowie and he said, 'You'll definitely be big in the UK.' He was always enthusiastic about the band."
The black and white video was directed by Anton Corbijn who has famously shot visuals and photos for U2, The Killers and Depeche Mode. It features the band wearing oversized papier-mâché heads sat in the back of a truck, which is being driven by Win Butler and his wife/ co-vocalist Régine Chassagne.
A second interactive video directed by regular collaborator Vincent Morisset was also released. It was filmed on location in Haiti, the childhood home of Regine Chassagne.
Chassagne sings a couple of lines in her native French, which translates as:
"Between the night, night and dawn.
Between the kingdom of the living and the dead."
The album cover is an image of Auguste Rodin's sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry told NME how Bowie ended up singing backing vocals. "It was just after The Next Day had come out," he explained. "He basically just came by the studio in New York while we were mixing, just to have a listen to the stuff we were doing. He offered to lend us his services because he really liked the song. In fact, he basically threatened us - he was like, 'If you don't hurry up and mix this song, I might just steal it from you!' So we thought, well why don't we go one better, why don't you sing on our version? Thankfully he obliged, and we were really happy about that."
Multi-instrumentalist Will Butler told Jam! Music that his brother and sister-in-law wrote the song with a third vocalist in mind. "When Win and Regine were writing the song ... he had kind of pictured this third point of view cause Reflektor is this back and forth between two characters," he explained. "And I forget how it happened (but) we were in town mixing Reflektor in New York and (Bowie) was going to come by. And I was like, 'Well, David Bowie is a really good outside perspective,' and like apropos, not totally random. Like kind of in the spirit of some of the (late '70s-early '80s dance-flavored) music that we were making that it felt aesthetically appropriate also."
Though David Bowie doesn't appear in the song's music clip, his likeness does. "There is a David Bowie mask, in the very last second of the film, of the video," Will Butler explained, "that creepy mask that Win is wearing is in fact a David Bowie mask."
Speaking with The Sun
, Win Butler recalled the time the band spent recording with Bowie: "What was cool was that we were mixing at Electric Lady studios in New York," he said. "The line he does on 'Reflektor' echoes the line he does on 'Fame
,' the song he recorded in the very same studio with John Lennon. So he showed up and said, 'The last time I was here I was recording with John Lennon.' And we looked at each other to say, 'And here you are recording with Arcade Fire."
The song finds Win Butler singing lines like, "We fell in love when I was 19, now we're staring at a screen." He told Rolling Stone: "It's not like I'm romanticizing it. I think that life is incredibly difficult and it's more amazing to see people that don't have access to food or clean water throw a party. It's not like I'm trying to sing about their experiences. I was more learning from what I saw and applying it to my own life, lyrically. I'm not trying to tell other people's stories. We're just trying to allow an experience to change you."