The song “Human” by The Killers, released in 2008, features a haunting and perplexing line in its chorus: “Are we human, or are we dancer?” These enigmatic lyrics have puzzled listeners for years, provoking discussions and interpretations about their deeper meaning. In this article, we delve into the cryptic lyrics of this popular song, exploring their possible interpretations and shedding light on the artistic intent behind the words.
The Lyrics in Question
Before we dissect the meaning behind these lyrics, let’s first look at the full chorus:
“Are we human Or are we dancer? My sign is vital, my hands are cold And I’m on my knees Looking for the answer Are we human Or are we dancer?”
The contrast between “human” and “dancer” has captured the imagination of many. The stark juxtaposition of these two terms gives rise to multiple interpretations.
1. Societal Conformity:
One interpretation suggests that the lyrics are a reflection on societal conformity and the pressure to conform to specific roles or expectations. In this view, “human” symbolizes individuality and autonomy, while “dancer” represents someone who merely follows predetermined choreography or societal norms. The question, “Are we human or are we dancer?” might be a reflection on the struggle between maintaining one’s unique identity and succumbing to the pressures of conformity.
2. Loss of Individuality:
Another interpretation proposes that the lyrics allude to the loss of individuality in a modern world that demands conformity. “Human” represents a person with their own distinct characteristics and qualities, while “dancer” signifies someone who follows the rhythm and movements dictated by external forces. This interpretation could be seen as an existential question about the loss of identity in a world where people are coerced into uniformity.
3. Evolution and Ambiguity:
The line might also be seen as a comment on human evolution and adaptability. Humans have the unique ability to adapt to various roles, akin to dancers who change their movements according to the music. The question “Are we human or are we dancer?” might reflect the adaptability and versatility of humans as they navigate the complexities of life.
4. Artistic License:
It’s important to remember that lyrics in songs often take on a poetic, artistic form. They don’t always have a clear, concrete meaning. In this case, the lyrics may be intentionally vague to provoke thought and discussion, allowing listeners to interpret them in their own way. The enigmatic nature of the lyrics is, in itself, a creative choice meant to stimulate curiosity and contemplation.
The Artist’s Perspective:
Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, has shared his own insights into the lyrics. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he explained that the line was inspired by a comment made by Hunter S. Thompson, the iconic writer and journalist. Thompson once stated, “We’re raising a generation of dancers,” which Flowers found intriguing. He went on to explain that the lyrics were a reflection on the media and the way they portrayed things. In his view, the “dancer” symbolizes someone who is easy to manipulate or control.
Flowers also pointed out that the song was about his own experiences and observations of the world around him, particularly the distorted images created by the media. “Dancer” in this context might be those who are swayed or led by media influences, unable to think for themselves.
The Impact of the Song:
“Human” has resonated with countless fans, in part due to its cryptic lyrics. The interpretive nature of the song allows listeners to project their own experiences and struggles onto the lyrics. This kind of artistic ambiguity can make a song more relatable and powerful, as it becomes a canvas for personal meaning and reflection.
The song has also been described as an anthem of self-discovery and self-acceptance. The questioning nature of the lyrics can be seen as an invitation for listeners to examine their own lives, choices, and the influences that shape them. In that sense, “Human” becomes a song that encourages introspection and self-awareness.
“Are we human or are we dancer?” is a line that has sparked contemplation and debate for over a decade. It is a testament to the power of music and lyrics to provoke thought, inspire introspection, and engage the imagination. While the exact meaning of the lyrics may never be definitively settled, they will continue to invite interpretation and reflection. The beauty of such poetic ambiguity is that it allows each listener to make the song their own, infusing it with their unique experiences and understanding. Ultimately, whether we view ourselves as “human” or “dancer” is a deeply personal question, and the answer may evolve over time as we navigate the complexities of our lives.