Kings Of Leon – Introductory Page

Kings Of Leon



They had me fooled. I admit it.

Back in 2007, I thought Kings Of Leon were it, man. That’s the year they put on their third album, Because Of The Times, which was being greeted with some skepticism by fans of their first two, more stripped-down, Southern-fried records, which had gotten them saddled with the idiotic music critic-invented label “the Southern Strokes.” But I heard something in it—musicianship, songwriting chops, ambition, any combination of the three—that told me that these guys had something special and were going places. I even saw them live on the Because Of The Times tour – twice. Little did I know the only place they were headed was so far down Sell Out Road that today they’re basically the Jonas Brothers with stubble and an alcohol problem.

Now that, to many people, they’ve come to represent everything that’s wrong with mainstream rock and become a punch line to the degree of Daughtry or Nickelback (a reputation compounded by their infamous reaction to a group of principled pigeons who protested the band’s new direction by shitting in their mouths), it would be convenient to say that I saw their Total Pussification coming long before they started churning out faceless wannabe-U2 arena rock swill. That I never liked them. And while I admit my enthusiasm for their earlier records has waned somewhat by having been poisoned—unfairly, perhaps—by my distaste for their more recent material, the fact is that I did very much enjoy those early records, and still do.

Sure, I guess there were signs that they were full of shit from the beginning… like the fact that their producer co-wrote all the songs on their first album. Or that their pre-2007 unkempt 70s “hairy man” look seemed conspicuously like a marketing ploy (and I guess it did turn out to be just as much of an image-conscious put on as the fancy haircuts and designer clothes that they sport these days). But I ignored all that because they wrote good old-school rock tunes and had a pretty neat back-story. Raised in the redneck parts of Oklahoma and Tennessee by their father, a devout Pentecostal preacher, brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared Followill abandoned their Jesus-filled life for the sinner’s swing of rock ‘n roll. After moving to Nashville with an eye toward breaking into the music business, Caleb (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Nathan (drums) managed to obtain a record contract from RCA in 2002. So they enlisted Jared—who was only fifteen at the time—to play bass, and their cousin Matthew to play lead guitar, and Kings Of Leon were born. To make a long story short, they made a couple of strong records from 2004-2007, during which time they gained popularity and critical acclaim on the strength of their snappy, garagey 70s-style rock guitar tunes, and the distinctiveness of Caleb’s incomprehensible, yowling vocal style, which made his lyrics sound less like English and more like his own invented Deep South dialect. They then began sucking immensely – a shift which directly coincided with them becoming one of the only mega-commercially successful young rock bands in the world.

The truth is, not only have they sucked ever since “Sex On Fire” began taking over the airwaves in 2008, but they’ve sucked in a colossal, odious way that goes far beyond the shitty music they now make. For one, they are complete douchebags. For clear proof, one only needs to view the 2011 band documentary Talihina Sky, in which Caleb Followill in particular is portrayed as such an utterly whiny, self-absorbed, alcoholic, homophobic prettyboy prick that it’s remarkable he would want anybody to see the film (unless he doesn’t realize what a douche he is, even when smacked in the face with such a huge mountain of evidence, which of course only further proves his doucheosity). But hey, if I disavowed every musician who acted like an asshole, I wouldn’t have anything left to listen to. The real reason I’ve come to revile Kings Of Leon is because I no longer have any trust whatsoever in their integrity, musical or otherwise. They’ve basically come out and said that their primary focus in their careers is to become popular and make a lot of money. No wonder their music blows.

Now, look. I think “selling out” is a massively overused term that’s much more often than not unfairly applied by Rock Purists. Especially today, in an age when mass media is everywhere and the music industry is in a tailspin, when actions we might have thought constituted “selling out” back in 1977—like, for instance, selling a song to a commercial—might mean the difference between your favorite artist being able to sustain a career in music and he or she dying broke in an alley somewhere. And, unlike many reactionary people, I don’t begrudge Kings Of Leon, or any artist, for the mere fact that they became popular. If a band works hard and makes great music, they deserve to be successful, and anyone who claims a band sold out and stops liking them for no other reason than their popularity is a closed-minded asshole. As long as they still make good music, even if they started out in a basement and are now playing stadiums, I don’t have a problem. But when artists dumb down and homogenize their music in order to become popular, I start getting unhappy. Even among today’s biggest top 40 artists like Katy Perry and Adele and others of that ilk who toil in the most whorishly commercial realms of music, I don’t think that mentality is at all uniform. Adele’s songs may be more boring than staring at a mayonnaise-slathered piece of white bread nailed to a wall, but I think she really sweats at trying to make the best music she can. That she thinks it’s more important that her music is good (by her standards) than it is that it’s popular, and, for her, the Grammys and record sales are indications of a job well done – not the ultimate goal. Caleb Followill’s ultimate goal seems to be just the reverse. My perception is that he cares more getting mentioned on TMZ than he does about writing a good song. And that is why Kings Of Leon suck now.

One Comment

  1. Robin wrote:

    I don’t really think you can compare Katy Perry and Adele. Though, Katy Perry has a decent voice, she is just another singing, dancing commercial act that will most likely run it’s course in a few years. Adele, on the other hand, is an artist as opposed to an act. Is she pop? Yes, but in a very artistic way. She doesn’t fit the mold of any other pop star at the moment. She has her own sound-unique, really. I’m surprised she became so popular because she IS so different.

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