"Handlebars" is a song by Flobots. It was released as the first single from their debut album, Fight with Tools, and is the group's largest success, peaking at number three on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.
|Single by Flobots|
|from the album Fight with Tools|
|Released||April 11, 2008 (United States) |
August 25, 2008 (United Kingdom)
|Format||CD, 7-inch, digital download|
|Genre||Indie rock, rap rock, alternative hip hop, political hip hop|
|Flobots singles chronology|
"Handlebars" was originally released in 2005 on the band's first EP, Flobots Present...Platypus, before being re-released on Fight with Tools two years later. The song won in a fan-voted local radio station contest at the end of 2007, giving the song the chance to be played on the station. The song was so popular that it was put into full rotation at the station by the end of January, attracting the attention of record companies. The Flobots ultimately signed with Universal Republic off the back of the single's success.
Jamie Laurie stated that the song is about "the idea that we have so much incredible potential as human beings to be destructive or to be creative." "And it's tragic to me that the appetite for military innovation is endless, but when it comes to taking on a project like ending world hunger, it's seen as outlandish. It's not treated with the same seriousness. ... at the same time, I knew there were people at that moment who were being bombed by our own country. And I thought that was incredibly powerful." It is the contrast between these "little moments of creativity, these bursts of innovation," and the way these ideas are put to use "to oppress and destroy people" that the singer feels is "beautiful and tragic at the same time."
In May 2019, Flobots sued YouTube user Logan Paul for copyright infringement over his 2017 single "No Handlebars". The group has requested all royalties for the song, which has earned Paul over $1 million since 2017.
The video for the song is animated. It starts out lighthearted, showing two young friends sitting on a hill looking over a city. Prominent in the city is a crystalline tower with part of its framework showing. The friends ride their bikes down the hill without their hands on the handlebars, while one smiles widely. They arrive at a sign that points in two directions, one labeled with a corporate-looking symbol leading to a shadowed street, and the other labeled by a dove leading down a sunlit street. They hug and head their separate ways, the one who originally smiled taking the path of the dove.
The next part of the song centers on the friend who went the way of the dove. He walks along a cracked sidewalk and sees a chalk drawing depicting the first scene of the video: two children on bicycles with their arms in the air, riding down a hill next to a city. He picks up an apple off of the ground and puts it back in its barrel. He walks past a street corner that shows a path to the corporate street. He does not see that there is blood on the walls of the corporate street. He picks up his phone and sees the corporate friend's face. Here the perspective switches to the other friend, and he speaks to the peaceful friend on the phone.
The corporate friend hangs up and walks down the street. He lists his accomplishments and they are shown in the video before he stops in front of the same tower that appeared in the beginning of the video and looks up at it. In the next scene he is completing a transaction with a man in a board room. A graph displays profits zigzagging up a board with the corporate logo on it before ending in what looks like a spatter of blood. The camera zooms out and reveals that he was inside the tower. He then gives a speech behind a podium which is broadcast on television. The background changes from the original corporate image into two American flags. The other friend sees it and shakes his head in disappointment.
The scene then cuts to the world being more bleak and oppressive, with security cameras and smokestacks, emblazoned with the corporate logo, spewing toxic fumes into the air. A scene features the dove being killed by a hawk, and a fighter jet soars overhead.
In the next sequence, the previously peaceful friend begins rallying a crowd of oppressed-looking people. A man wearing a bandana sprays an X over a poster with a picture of the now-dictator-like friend on it, and then the word "LIAR" below that. A crowd of people, led by the rebellious friend, advance on the tower. They are stopped by a line of heavily armed riot-control officers, with shields displaying a fist and submachine guns, who proceed to kill the entire crowd. The bandana wearing man is killed first by a sniper, following many more deaths. The corporate friend looks on in horror as he sees his friend shot down dead and lying on the ground.
The video ends with a flashback of the two friends pedaling off riding with no handlebars crisscrossing into a bright light.
Several times in the video, the dove used as a symbol is destroyed. Once an actual dove is killed by a hawk. The second time a wall with a dove painted on it, located next to a billboard displaying the corporate symbol and a cityscape again featuring the tower, is destroyed by a wrecking ball. In addition, a hawk flies over the head of the corporate friend when he is walking down the street.
A reference made within the video is to Che Guevara, an iconic revolutionist. An image of Guevara's face appears on a man's T-shirt when the oppressed friend is rallying a crowd. Another reference is to the Abu Ghraib tortures during the Iraq War, seen in a flashing image identical to the iconic photograph of prisoner Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh.
On May 17, 2008, the song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. Fueled by radio airplay, including six straight weeks at the top of KROQ's most played list, it was the first single since Semisonic's "Closing Time" to chart in the top ten so quickly.
It has had similar success on the digital landscape, having over 16,500,000 total plays on the band's MySpace.com page and over a substantial 54 million views on YouTube. Digital download purchases have placed the song at number 4 on certain rap and hip-hop charts on Amazon.com.
"Handlebars" also performed well on the Billboard charts. Peaking at number three on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, number twenty-two on the Hot Digital Songs chart, number thirty-five on the Pop 100 chart, number thirty-seven on the Hot 100 chart, number sixty-three on the Canadian Hot 100.
On September 7, 2008, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at number 35 on downloads alone and peaked at 14.
- "Handlebars" – 3:27
- "Rise" – 4:10
- "Handlebars" – 3:27
- "Handlebars" (DJ Shadow Remix) – 4:03
- Jamie "Jonny 5" Laurie – vocals
- Brer Rabbit – vocals
- Jesse Walker – electric bass
- Andy "Rok" Guerrero – guitar
- Mackenzie Roberts – viola
- Kenny Ortiz – drums
- Joe Ferrone – trumpet
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- Eggertsen, Chris (17 May 2019). "Logan Paul Sued by Flobots for Copyright Infringement Over 2017 Rap Single 'No Handlebars'". Billboard. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
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- "MySpace.com - FLOBOTS - Denver, Colorado - Hip Hop / Progressive / Classical - www.myspace.com/flobots". Retrieved May 22, 2008.
- "Flobots - Handlebars". Retrieved April 19, 2010.
- "Product Details" (Product sales page). Retrieved 2008-05-23.Scroll to see sales information.
- "Flobots Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- "Charts.nz – Flobots – Handlebars". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
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- "Flobots Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- "Flobots Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- "Flobots Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
- "2008 Year-End UK Charts" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 3, 2020.