The Killers’ song “Land of the Free” appears to touch on a wide range of the country’s most pressing issues, which was what intrigued me the first time I heard it. However, the accompanying music video narrows its focus to one: the crisis at the border. The images brought forth by the music video starkly juxtaposed the song’s chorus of “in the land of the free “, using satire and irony to bring to light the inherent flaws in our country’s current state. The verses of the song on the other hand, directly attack and take a stance on the country’s most important problems. The overarching theme of the song questions why, in a country made up of immigrants, how come ‘land of the free’ only applies to some?

When I first heard this song last year when it came out, I was immediately engaged by the emotion in lead singer Brandon Flowers’ voice as he opens the song narrating the beginning to his own American journey, singing “the old man and me. . .down in the drift mines of Pennsylvania”. The tone of the song then shifts after the first chorus. The hope of the blue collar American dream gives way to lyrics about those whom the country has systematically oppressed. 

What intrigued me most about this song the first time I’ve heard it and every time since, is the fearlessness of The Killers to use their place of privilege as white males as well as their platform as a popular band to acknowledge and condemn the racism, xenophobia, and hatred that takes place on all levels of society. The lyrics are straightforward and directly comment on problems in America. The meaning is obvious, but I think that makes the song even more powerful. As an alternative rock band, I would assume that the vast majority of The Killers’ listeners look more like they do than the people they are singing about. They are four white males in their late 30’s. This song wasn’t necessarily supposed to be an anthem for immigrants, but rather was intended to speak to those who already have status and power in America, and to use that to enact change. 

In the preliminary research that I have done, most articles about “Land of the Free” touch on its ability to capture America in its current state and the music video’s emotional impact and how it furthers the songs meaning. I would definitely like to concentrate on these two aspects of the song. The music video, conducted by Spike Lee, does not feature one white person as it tells the story of people attempting to immigrate, and is worthy of its own in depth analysis. However, I also want to dig deeper into the chorus, which has a gospel like feel and sounds like a group of women chanting. “Land of the free” is obviously an example of dark irony, but why is the tone of it hopeful? Similarly, I want to investigate what the line “I’m standing, crying” means and why it is repeated throughout the song. Overall, I think this song captures America in one of its most turbulent and partisan times, and offers a snapshot that highlights the issues happening.

Like The Killers, I can’t personally empathize with the problems they are singing about, but I think that adds another layer to the song. They likely haven’t been personally affected, but they are still using their platform to speak on these issues. Like I mentioned before, the first time I heard this song, the emotion in Brandon Flowers’ voice was palpable and I have been listening to it since. There is a certain sense of power that this song transmits that makes the listener want to and feel like they can enact change. While the lyrics may tell the story of a country in disorder and whose priorities are in disarray, the music in the song emits hope. Further, the song is catchy, and as chants of “land of the free, land of the free” repeat in your head, it forces you to think about what that phrase truly means. 

Although my mind immediately went to this song when thinking about a protest song, there were a few concerns I had in terms of producing a podcast. First, the “Land of the Free” touches on such a broad range of issues. I think analyzing the music video will help me tighten that focus on the immigration problem and how that in turn makes “land of the free” a phrase of irony. Second, the meaning of the song is very direct and straightforward. However, I think the way in which it is presented, the music video, and the chorus will lend itself to a deeper analysis. Lastly, another potential obstacle could be the fact that it was only released a year ago. There may not be a ton of research and commentary already written about it. This will just mean that my ideas will need to be original and I’ll have a chance to truly interpret the song for myself.