Part of being a music fan is always having to reconcile with the fact that your favorite artists will likely grow or change in ways that you might not like. That's part of what makes the love affair so intriguing. When we first discover a new exciting artist, we cherish them. Brag about them. Obsess over them. If they possess the level of appeal that we believe they do, they eventually catch on. EPs give way to full albums. Albums give way to tours. It's an ongoing upward and outward trajectory. Some acts burn out quickly. Others hang around. Regardless of their timeline, they never end up being the artist you started with. Careers rarely come full circle.
This is such a common truth in the music business that it's almost become the kind of story that even storytellers get sick of telling. "Started From the Bottom" might be a Drake song, but it very much relates to the background of the Followill boys who the world knows as Kings of Leon. Raised the offspring of a Pentecostal preacher, brothers Caleb, Nathan, Jared, and their cousin Matthew all come from very modest beginnings. As young men the roughneck foursome locked themselves in a basement with little more than their instruments and some pot, driven by aspirations of one day becoming Southern rock superstars.
More than a decade has passed since the release of their debut EP, Holy Roller Novocaine, and album Youth & Young Manhood. 2003 feels like a very archaic time when you consider that SARS was a concern, Saddam Hussein was alive, and Facebook hadn’t been invented yet. Popular music was also very different. The U.S. was drowning in a tsunami wave of bubble-gum pop and boy band revivals. Popular EDM meant artists like ATB or Moby, and bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Blink-182 were consistently dominating the TRL airwaves. Listeners were ready for a change, and Kings Of Leon were poised to give it to them.
Initially their Southern rebellious swagger, tight jeans, long hair, and cocksure attitude were both perplexing and magnetic. They would sport this look and demeanor through their early years, but as the band's star began to rise, their appearance, character, and appeal all began to change. By the release of their fourth and most commercially obvious studio album, Only by the Night, KOL were a very different band from the one that emerged out of that basement some years ago. They were famous, they were mainstream, and to some they just weren't cool anymore.
Kings Of Leon may not make music the way the used to, but there’s no crime in growth. Over the course of the past five albums, this band has shown that they’re willing to take risks, capitalize on success, abuse substances, and fist fight each other all in the name of rock and roll. The sharp edge of their earlier years may have worn a bit dull, but that's only because they've been working with the same set of tools for over 10 years. The Followills have grown, and so to have their tastes and musicianship.
Their new album, Mechanical Bull, which comes out today, is a reflective effort. One that demonstrates a recognition of where the band comes from, an acknowledgement of their mistakes, and proclamation of where they want to go. While some may have written them off long ago, this album is far from a white flag in the air. If anything, it's proof that Kings Of Leon are just settling in for the long haul. With that, we take a look back at the 15 Best Kings Of Leon songs.Click to start the list