This was the first song The Killers recorded for their Day & Age album, in fact it was recorded during their 2007 Sawdust sessions. Stuart Price, who worked with The Killers on several Sawdust tracks produced this. (Price is best known for co-writing and producing Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor.) Frontman Brandon Flowers told Rolling Stone magazine how they persuaded Price to helm this track: "When we met him, we were just having dinner with him in London about what he was doing for us at Sawdust, helping us with Sawdust. So I just said, 'what are you doing after dinner?' He said he was free, and we went to his house - he has a studio there - and we recorded 'Human.' We just knew that it just sounded so good—it was only a couple hours we spent, and it wasn't much different that it is now." Price went on to produce the rest of their Day & Age.
Flowers told Rolling Stone the story of the song: "I think we were at a weird festival in Germany. I was just trying to have it be a simple tune, with classic chord changes. The way I described it to Stuart was - I remember saying this to him at dinner - "I got this thing, it's like Johnny Cash meets the Pet Shop Boys. Let's go record it." Flowers added that the band did "the meat and potatoes" then Price worked on the "landscape."
Many of the Killers' fans have been mystified why the song's chorus ("Are we human/ Or are we dancer?"), refers to "dancer" in the singular. Some have wondered if Flowers is in fact singing something else, such as, "denser." MTV News asked Flowers about the nonsensical chorus. He replied: "It's taken from a quote by [author Hunter S.] Thompson: 'We're raising a generation of dancers,' and I took it and ran. I guess it bothers people that it's not grammatically correct, but I think I'm allowed to do whatever I want." He added, laughing: "'Denser'? I hadn't heard that one. I don't like 'denser.'" Thompson, known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and for a style of writing known as "Gonzo journalism," committed suicide in 2005, which could explain the lyrics, "Wave goodbye, wish me well, you've got to let me go."
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
The verses in the song deal with the moral decay in society. The Sunday Times November 16, 2008 asked Flowers how much this song is a critique of this tabloid celebrity era. The Killers frontman replied: "It's part of that. I'll say it's a mild social statement and I'm leaving it at that. I don't wanna be a preacher. The devotion part, I think of my parents being married for 45 years and how that's a dying thing and I'm trying to hold onto some of those things. I am very old-fashioned, I guess. And the older I get, the worse it is. But I dunno if that's what people want to hear!"
The black tuxedo festooned with feathery epaulettes, which Flowers wears in the song's music video was especially made for him by Fee Doran, the designer behind Kylie Minogue's hooded white jump suit in the "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" promo.
Flowers told Rolling Stone that he is irritated that people don't quite seem to get the song's lyrics, and that fans are unhappy with its dance beat. He said: "It's supposed to be a dance song, it goes with the chorus If you can't put that together, you're an idiot. I just don't get why there's a confusion about it."
This was the most-streamed song on Spotify in 2008, the year that the music streaming service was launched.
Ricky from Philly, PaAre we human, or are we dancer. I always look at these lyrics and get the feeling that he is really asking the country/society that question, and doesn't really know the answer. It continues with 'and im on my knees, looking for the answer..' insinuating that he is deeply troubled by the question.
The sad part is, most people I know would fall under the dancer category. Living a set life, not thinking for themselves. Is this what we are? Or are we meant to be individuals?
One thing i always think about is the specifics that set us apart from other animals. Its our language, our ability to communicate through the written word; our ability to create art and admire it. Its our range of emotions and complex feelings. Soul and romance, grace and virtue, devotion, etc. Just look at TV nowadays..if it doesn't have slutty girls and sex, its not on the air. Our generation is so dysentized and losing many traditional values.
In short, it sounds like the song is singing about how decent people are a dieing breed.
Emily from Around Chicago, IlI love this song. At first I didn't know what all the words were, I just loved the music and his voice. Then I looked up the lyrics and I love it more. I like how he refers to dancer as like another species. It's exotic and fun. Go Killers!
Louis from Plymouth, United Kingdomthis song is great i like the use of the cliffs its more of a dessert thing
Vivel from Killian, LaI love this song. Partly 'cuz it's a "philosophical" song with the whole human or dancer thing, but it's also just an awesome dance song. really. you just kinda...let go. i know, a little out there, but it's cool. And denser? really. HOW does that make sense? Are we human or are we denser? that makes it sound like humans are the ultimate intelligence. Which is stupid. Because we're not. We are not the center of the universe. Really people. Come on.
Paris from Cardiff, United Kingdomthis is, in my view, one of the best songs ever written. they opened with this when i saw them 26th june 2009, and i just loved it, they perform it better live than on the CD i reckon- but both blow me away, God i love The Killers!
Courtney from Kiel, WiI got to say I really don't like the Killers but I love this song and when I found out it was by the killers I was surprised but it is still a great song I love the sound of it and the lyrics!!
Maxine from Leeds, United KingdomI adore this song but am so glad that so many don't fully understand it 'cos I thought it was just me. Mind you I have trouble understanding quite a few of their lyrics but what the hell they are great songs
Rahul from Chennai, Indiappl...this song is gr8...no doubt...but i think this band is over-rated...they still have a long way to go....
Milena from Mali Zvornik, YugoslaviaI just love this song...
Kelsey from Rochester, MnWell Actually I believe Human means open minded, Free thinker where Dancer means following the crowd and doing what you are told. So in this case i am definitely human. Love the song. I actually can't think of it with dancers anymore, it just doesn't sound right. Plus i think it is gramatically correct because Human and Dancer are describing the human race so they are both adjectives and those don't end with s's.
Ricky from Bountiful, UtI was reading some crazy book about etheric projections, or out of body experiences and it said that when people have an "OOB" experience they usually see a cord connecting their spirit to their physical body. The line "cut the cord" reminded me of that. Anyway I think he is saying are we human - generic, plain, just going through life - or are we dancer - different, brave, inspired, intelligent, and LIVING life. I choose dancer.
Hannah from Annapolis,I feel like such an idiot. I kept thinking that it was "denser" that Brandon was singing and out of a stupid impulse i even freaked out at my cousin for saying "dancer". I know can you say control freak much lol? So any way i guess i have to go apologoze to her and tell her i was wrong. Awesome song by the way.
Kylie from Ventura, CaI believe the are we human or are we dancer part is like are we human or are we fake, artificial, something less than human. I think being a dancer is not neccesarily a good thing.
Nick from Arlington Heights, IlDon't know if this was the intended meaning of a song, but everytime I hear it I feel like its about a person who knows they are going to die soon and is resigned to it, and is looking forward to finding out if we are mortal and if life on earth is all there is (human) or if our souls go on forever (dancer)
Val from Des Moines, IaI love anything that killers made!!!
Myles from Carl Junction, Virgin Islands (u.s.)The Killers Performed this song on Saturday night live October 5, 2008.
Tomas from Hialeah, FlThis song is amazing
Leon from Waterbury, CtIt's "dancer", Grace.
Grace from Chicago, Ilis it dancer or denser?
Nishit from Mumbai, IndiaThe beats are nothing like Killers on Sam's Town or Hot Fuss.. Sounds like theyre trying out a disco song :P
Trey from Kalamazoo, MtThis song is great. I can't wait to get the album. November 25th!