Kings of Leon’s 10 Best Songs

The post Kings of Leon’s 10 Best Songs appeared first on Consequence.

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.

You can draw a line in the sand of many musicians’ careers, a turning point where their sound changed completely. It’s a shift that usually gains a stadium of new fans while losing a club of old ones. Enter Kings of Leon and 2008’s Only by the Night. The album’s FM-friendly singles, “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody,” catapulted the Nashville family into sports arenas and festivals everywhere — yet the divide between fans grew far and wide.

They returned in late 2010 with the polarizing Come Around Sundown, and while many longtime fans were slightly underwhelmed, it saw the band reach a new pinnacle of success, headlining Coachella and making their second appearance on Saturday Night Live. This proved to be a major turning point for Kings of Leon, and some of those early fans had probably given up on the band returning to their scrappy, soulful hits of the early aughts.

But 2013’s Mechanical Bull was a great reminder of how dynamic Kings of Leon could be, and contained some of the band’s most beloved hits to date — including “Wait For Me,” “Temple,” and “Supersoaker.” They scored some rock radio success with Mechanical Bull‘s 2016 followup, Walls, and released their most recent studio album, 2021’s When You See Yourself, initially as an NFT — which caused some minor confusion for their longtime fans as well.

Whether you’re still with them or dropped off some time in the past decade or so, we hope this list of tracks from every Kings of Leon era offers a bridge between the highlights worth remembering. After all, the last thing Kings of Leon want you to do is “Waste a Moment” (sorry).

Check out the full list below, and scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.

10. “Milk”

Album: Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)

The Followills have all met their fair share of ladies on the road. They might be marrying off and having babies now, but back in 2003, they found the ideal, hourglass-bodied girl — the type who would loan out her toothbrush and bartend a party. As Caleb (candidly) told MTV: “That’s about, um, an experience that happened while we were making the record. Um, I love her. It was a good experience, you know, got a good song out of it. Hope she’s doing alright.” It’s an oddity of a track, too: Caleb howls over just a few sparse cords and the lyrics quicken as the song barrels over, like a little too much milk in a nice, tall glass. Hope that girl’s alright, indeed. — Amanda Koellner

09. “Wait For Me”

Album: Mechanical Bull (2013)

“Wait For Me,” which feels just a few short steps away from a Pearl Jam song, is a warm, passionate highlight of the band’s sixth album, Mechanical Bull. There’s an ease with which the band handles the central groove of “Wait For Me,” and when the chorus arrives, they melt into the chord changes perfectly. Caleb Followill, as usual, puts his best foot forward, soaring soulfully on the verses and prioritizing a more heartfelt, less-is-more delivery on the choruses. After 2010’s underwhelming Come Around Sundown, “Wait For Me” marked significant growth from the Nashville quartet. They may not bust it out at their live shows too often, but when they do, it’s clear how special of a song “Wait For Me” is. — Paolo Ragusa

08. “Molly’s Chambers”

Album: Youth and Young Manhood (2003)

The second single from KOL’s debut record Youth and Young Manhood showcases the Followill boys in all their Southern Strokes glory. It’s sweaty, snarling barroom rock ‘n’ roll, copping from Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar,” and upon first listen it’s unclear whether we’re in the ’70s or 2003. Before they cleaned up their production and scaled their sound toward arenas, songs like “Molly’s Chambers” demonstrated the raw, kinetic energy of the shaggy-haired, tight-trousered retro revivalists, whose urgent tracks drew upon nostalgia without losing their sense of urgency. — Spencer Dukoff

07. “Closer”

Album: Only by the Night (2008)

It’s fair to say that Only By the Night is a front-loaded record, largely thanks to this direction-changing opening number. The bouncing key modulation signaled that the “southern Strokes” took down quite a few notes when they scored the opening slot of a leg of U2’s tour. But thematically, the track stays right within Kings’ wheelhouse. “She took my heart, I think she took my soul,” Caleb sings of yet another woman who’s done him wrong. Somehow we’re not so sorry for him. — A.K.

06. “Day Old Blues”

Album: Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)

In what might be the most meta Kings of Leon song, Caleb correctly guesses that “Boys are gonna hate the way I seem.” If only the final word was “sing.” As if to taunt any listener who ever trashed his rough sand tumble voice, he then launches into a primordial kind of yodel among the sweet acoustic plucking, proving that the bend is often at its finest when completely unhinged. — Dan Caffrey

05. “Fans”

Album: Because of the Times (2007)

Long before a whole lot of America decided they’d had too much Kings of Leon, the southern foursome became one of the most beloved rock bands of the aughts over in England. “Fans” is their love letter to the U.K., as Caleb croons of their extensive time spent across the pond: “You know those rainy days, they ain’t so bad when you’re the king/ The king they wanna see.” It’s one of their catchiest numbers, with a thumping bass and crashing symbols accompanying both acoustic and electric guitars to craft a danceable rock tune about a England swinging the extra love to bunch of whiskey-drinking Tennesseans. — A.K.

04. “Sex on Fire”

Album: Only by the Night (2008)

“Sex on Fire” remains Kings of Leon’s most iconic song, and 14 years after its release, it still hits. While the track is obviously very horny, the band does a great job of twisting sex and desire into something dangerous and “concerning.” There’s a very small gap between the “sex” and the “fire” that Caleb Followill croons about, and that’s what makes the track so riveting and memorable. Not only that, his signature rasp and soaring high notes are instantly recognizable, and he sings the hell out of “Sex on Fire” — especially in the bridge, when Nathan Followill’s kick drum guides the band through a breakdown and Caleb lets it rip. It became Kings of Leon’s breakthrough hit, leading to an appearance on Saturday Night Live and eventually, multiple headlining slots at major music festivals. — P.R.

03. “Taper Jean Girl”

Album: Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)

Almost two decades later, “Taper Jean Girl” still swings around with the youthful swagger that originally put the band on the map. And why not? Between Caleb’s feverish delivery, the highway-gazing bassline, and the eventual jump into doubletime — it’s no secret why it danced its way through films like Disturbia and, yes, even Cloverfield. So who is the song’s nom de plume? In an episode of VH1’s Storytellers, Caleb said he wrote the song about some tight pants the band saw in London when they were “trying to figure out what it was like in the rest of the world because we only knew the backseat of a car.” Hey, the Followills loved the song so much they named the album after it. Cool. — A.K.

02. “Knocked Up”

Album: Because of the Times (2007)

It’s a strange coincidence that Judd Apatow’s 2007 blockbuster comedy, Knocked Up, came out a mere two months following the release of Because of the Times. The album’s opening track essentially describes the film’s core premise — an unlikely couple bound together by a child out of wedlock. “I don’t care what nobody says, we’re going to have a baby,” Caleb confesses from the get-go. There’s a bigger picture here that goes well past the child; it’s about keeping love alive at all costs. “I think the reason I talk about having a baby is because of my fear of an actual relationship,” Caleb explained to EW. “So for me talking about having a baby in that song, it’s like the glue that might keep things together, or at least an excuse to make it last a little longer.”

At seven minutes long, the band wastes no time letting the track giggle, crawl, and finally walk. The most surprising twist is the erratic anti-chorus that splits apart each verse. Not their most feel-good track, but certainly their sharpest. — Michael Roffman

01. “The Bucket”

Album: Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)

“We don’t really fight anymore,” Caleb told The Telegraph in 2013. Good. That shit will kill you, as will too much booze, drugs, and whatever else his brothers and cousin were (perhaps unhealthily) warned against during their Pentecostal upbringing. But that didn’t stop them from doing it, especially once they were rock stars. “The Bucket” takes a look at such on-the-road hedonism through the bleary eyes of the youngest Followill, bassist Jared. In the song, the constant momentum and snowballing fame almost becomes too much for him, spurring him to request an assisted suicide (“you kick the bucket and I’ll swing my legs”).

Depressing? Not at all. Aha Shake Heartbreak‘s first single never loses its jangle thanks to Caleb’s gleeful repetitions (“three in the morning, come a bang bang bang”) and Matthew Followill’s simple lead. And yet, the sonics are only a fraction of what make it the best Kings of Leon song. The bigger picture is something harder to describe. The best word I can come up with is “joy.” There’s a joy in “The Bucket” that results from the Kings surviving everything they had been through up to that point, a joy that somehow also predicted surviving the more extreme hardships they would face in the future. It’s a joy that knows that no matter if they fall out, break up, or kick each other’s asses, they’ll always be part of that most sacred of bonds: family. — D.C.

Kings of Leon’s 10 Best Songs Playlist:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Kings of Leon’s 10 Best Songs
Consequence Staff

Popular Posts

Subscribe to Consequence’s email digest and get the latest breaking news in music, film, and television, tour updates, access to exclusive giveaways, and more straight to your inbox.