Quit Hating on Kings of Leon, Even If You Disliked "Sex On Fire"
Journalists criticize Kings of Leon as being out for only fame and fortune, but it's an accusation rarely ever hurled at musicians from other genres. These guys grew up dirt poor, shuffling around to their father's pentecostal sermons throughout the south. Can you really blame them for wanting to escape that? Also, growing up in the south, as I can attest, you're lucky to even come across music that doesn't fit the standard god and guns model, and you're immediately appreciative if you do. So who are we to question whether or not their influences are genuine?
There's a striking comment from lead singer Caleb Followill near the end of the band's 2011 documentary Tahilina Sky. After two reps from RCA come to Nashville to pick the singles for the band's platinum-selling album Only By The Night, Followill says, "We're not gonna get on the radio but maybe we'll inspire enough kids to turn that shit off." Kings of Leon, like most groups on major labels, had virtually no say in whether or not "Sex On Fire" would make it to radio. And after already releasing three of their albums, you can't really blame RCA for trying to make it a hit. That's what major labels do.
Also: Note how much good music they've released over the years. Though I still find their debut quite spotty, each album since has seen exponential improvement. 2004's Aha Shake Heartbreak is arguably the best southern rock album of the 2000's, finding upbeat boot-stomping jams like "Taper Jean Girl" blending with more melodic folk-inspired fare like "Day Old Blues."
The two albums that followed, Because Of The Times and Only By The Night, saw the band veering further in to guttural guitar rock, but on their most recent and most overlooked, Come Around Sundown, emerged a near-perfect balance with their more understated influences. Listen to the beautifully frail piano melody that closes out "The End" for reference. Though not as successful as "Sex On Fire," "Pyro" also managed to get the attention of radio and rightfully so. The chorus contains one of the most moving melodies I've heard in contemporary rock.
This is all to say that if you've written off Kings of Leon because "Sex On Fire" made you nauseous or because someone from a moderately successful indie band slagged them off in an interview, you should give them another shot. After all, it was only four years ago when Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien called them "the greatest band in the world at the moment" and most of Europe seems to agree. They've already booked a headliner slot alongside Blur at one of Europe's biggest festivals for 2013, and with their sixth album on the way, there's a decent chance you might have to deal with them Outside Lands or Lollapalooza. Might as well try and enjoy it.