In a collaboration that nobody saw coming, The Killers have released a new single accompanied by a short film directed by Spike Lee. “Land Of The Free” finds the normally apolitical band—lead singer Brandon Flowers declined support either Barack Obama or fellow Mormon Mitt Romney in 2012—taking a hardline stance against Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, drawing parallels between Mexican immigrants seeking asylum and the immigrants who came through Ellis Island in centuries past. The song touches on many topics, including institutionalized racism and gun control—divisive subjects, if you consider human rights to be a political stance.
Beginning with lone piano chords, the tune explodes into Jim Steinman- inspired, bombastic rock ‘n’ pop style. With its gospel choirs and lyrics about America’s heartland, the song at times recalls ‘80s roots rockers like John Hiatt and, of course, Killers patron saint Bruce Springsteen. The lyrics are decidedly unsubtle—Flowers sings, “we got a problem with guns” and “if you’re the wrong color of skin, you grow up looking over both your shoulders”—making Spike Lee the perfect choice to direct the accompanying music video.
The video finds Lee documenting the state of affairs at the U.S. Mexico border, featuring the faces of the families who “just want the things we do” attempting to make their way into the “Land Of The Free,” before being tear gassed by border agents. “It’s a Spike Lee joint,” explains Flowers. “I never thought that I would be a part of a Spike Lee joint.” He adds, “It was just an incredible thing to collaborate with him. He’s a master, obviously. Some of these issues are obviously very close to his heart, and he just hit it out of the park.”
Flowers began writing what would become “Land Of The Free” following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012. “I would start the song and then I would put it away and say, ‘I’m not the guy to do this,’” Flowers explains to Beats 1 host Zane Lowe. “Or I would feel inadequate, waiting for … Somebody’s going to write this song. And then it just piled up ... Las Vegas, Orlando, Parkland ... it just kept coming. It was just like I’ve gotta get this out.”
It’s all very on the nose, but in these troubled times, being brash and blatant is the only way to get the message through. “Land Of The Free” is currently streaming on Spotify and iTunes, and The Killers are planning to release a new album in 2020.