The Killers vs Rolling Stone: The Case Of The Disappearing Album Review
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The Killers vs Rolling Stone: The Case Of The Disappearing Album Review

How Rolling Stone Made an Album Review Vanish

The Killers vs Rolling Stone: The Case Of The Disappearing Album Review
Anton Corbijn

In a few days, fans of The Killers will descend upon Las Vegas to celebrate the “Decennial Extravaganza” for the band’s second album Sam’s Town. Victims (yes, the name of fans of The Killers) from around the world will spend September 30th and October 1st at the album’s namesake, Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall, for two concerts to commemorate the ten year anniversary for the album, which was released on October 3, 2006.

The 10 year anniversary of their first album, Hot Fuss, went by in 2004 with a nice tweet from the band and fans generally celebrating on social media. But, for Sam’s Town , something bigger was needed; this album means so much more for The Killers and for Victims. This weekend will be an amazing experience, and I cannot wait to spend it with my best friends, favorite band and favorite album. But first, let’s take a look back at a certain event that occurred around the release of Sam’s Town.

It was a different time, 2006. The Killers closed the MTV Video Music Awards that year and even had an MTV special to premiere new songs from the album. We were all still on MySpace with celebrities barely engaging on social media. Rock music was still relevant, and "Rolling Stone" still had weight as a music publication. A few weeks before Sam’s Town came out, Rolling Stone published its review of the album on September 21st. Rob Sheffield wrote the review and gave the album two out of five stars. Obviously, that is a poor review, which definitely upset the band, but the other impact that review made was on other music publications. Articles were written by music websites before they even reviewed Sam’s Town about Rolling Stone giving it a two-star review. Between Rolling Stone’s status and Sheffield’s reputation in music journalism, the review was enough to drag back Sam’s Town from some potential better responses because the supposed authorities had spoken.

But the review did not set The Killers back. Sam’s Town debuted #2 in the U.S. and #1 in the U.K., and has since sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide. Because it was 2006, the band’s main outlet for responding to "Rolling Stone" was only in other interviews, which they did. Despite lamenting the review and the fact they hadn't gotten the magazine cover, they remained strong. They toured the hell out of Sam’s Town, and it will always be dear to Victims.

So, has Sheffield ever had anything to say for himself? Somewhat. A few months after the review, an intrepid Victim happened to have the opportunity to see Sheffield give a talk at their university and posted about the experience on The Killers' Official Message Boards, now known as Sweet Talk, back then as The Killers Communita. I remember that the fan's username was Green_Sharpie, and I hope they are still out there somewhere. When Sheffield took questions, Green_Sharpie asked about the Sam's Town review. Sheffield's response was to laugh about the incident and make fun of Flowers for being upset and sending Sheffield an email about giving the album another chance. Laughter. He finds the entire situation funny. (Note: I attempted to go back and find Green_Sharpie's posts about this exchange, but Sweet Talk seems to have locked out older members. RIP a once-great community.)

So, here is where things take a turn. That "Rolling Stone" review for Sam’s Town has disappeared. That review somehow had become something bigger than it was. It had almost some evil myth quality to it. But then one day it was gone. How gone? Here’s the artist page for The Killers on the Rolling Stone website, and if you go through it, you’ll see there are reviews for their other albums, but then here on page seven for 2006 where Sam’s Town should be, no review.

If you go back far enough through every single album review Rolling Stone has ever done, Sam’s Town should be right here on this page. It isn’t. Earlier I mentioned articles about the review, and here’s that Stereogum one I linked to again. There’s a link to the review from Stereogum. Nope, doesn't work. How about a community that has old Killers articles and reviews archived, Kill Me Now on LiveJournal (RIP one of the best early fansites for the band). Here’s where they posted the review with a link to it. Hmmm, it redirects to the main review page. Strange. Very strange. It’s been years since the review has been taken down, but I’m unsure of when it exactly happened.

Now, during my research piecing this back together, another "Rolling Stone" error popped up. Back in 2009, Rolling Stone ran a Reader’s Poll about the Most Underrated Album of the Decade. Guess what? Sam’s Town was #1! It was a really great moment for Victims because we felt a little bit validated with the result. The publication that was responsible for the album’s poor reception was forced to publish an article showing that readers felt it was actually an awesome album. The Killers posted it, and their record label Island posted it, too! I went looking for this a few days ago, and guess what? The article is gone. Vanished. You can still find the Reader’s Poll for Album and Song of the Decade but the Underrated Album? Gone. The link is just broken. An MTV retrospective for Sam's Town from 2012 linked to the poll/article, so as of four years ago it was still up, but now they have also made it simply disappear.

The strange part of this situation is that Rolling Stone does still actively publish articles and reviews about The Killers, some of them positive, and they also have premiered songs of the band on their site every once and awhile in the last decade. Yet, still no cover, and still some strange amount of tension between the band and publication, but also, it seems good old Rob Sheffield takes some pleasure in what he did to The Killers with that review.

For some reason, last year Sheffield was the one to review The Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers’s second solo album The Desired Effect. He did give it a decent 3.5/5 stars, but he still managed to make some insulting jabs at Flowers. This time, though, it was 2015 and Flowers has a Twitter.

Sheffield did what all reasonable adults do and subtweeted about Flowers later that day. The interesting thing is that dear Rob has since deleted that tweet. But the internet does not forget, Rob. Victims especially do not forget, particularly after you continually think it funny to be rude towards a member of our favorite band. Sheffield did reply to someone when they brought up Flowers. That tweet has not been deleted. #adults

Going back to 2012, The Killers played a sold-out show in Colorado that Rolling Stone reviewed as being barely being full while also just providing a variety of backhanded compliments, which led bassist Mark Stoermer to go to Twitter to call them out for their inaccurate journalism.

And then in June 2013, the band played the show of their lives at Wembley Stadium to 90,000 people, which the band felt deserved to be acknowledged by Rolling Stone. But alas, nothing.

At the end of the day, The Killers are still one of the biggest bands in the world. They have sold over 20 million albums, regularly headline festivals, and sell out concerts even during years when they are playing one-off random shows between albums. Their fanbase is strong and loyal. "Rolling Stone" and Rob Sheffield with that two-star album review for Sam’s Town did nothing to set them back ten years ago. Who knows why the review completely disappeared from the site? Maybe they regret it? I doubt Rob Sheffield does. Maybe "Rolling Stone" and Spin Magazine can get together sometime. Either way, this weekend’s Sam’s Town Decennial Extravaganza is going to be a blast. And hey, if "Rolling Stone" or Rob Sheffield need a copy of that review because they ever want to own up and put it back online, they can borrow my scan of if from 2006. I still have it. Just in case.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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