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Friday, September 11, 2009

Music Snobs Don't Make Sense


Kings of Leon are a great band. They’ve always been a great band. Even back in 2003 when the guys presented the world with their debut, Youth and Young Manhood, the Brits appreciated their Southern garage rock better than the Americans did.

Around this time, the only true fans of the Kings were our cross-Atlantic neighbors, Tennessee college kids or the lucky few who were able to catch them on tour with The Strokes or U2. Those select few who were already jamming out to “California Waiting” probably felt the same way that new fans of Only By the Night feel now. But for some of those “seasoned” fans, loving the Followill’s newest album isn’t enough.

And many of them make that known.

Only By the Night went Platinum in the United States and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200. On the other hand, the Kings previous album, Because of the Times did not go Platinum and only reached 25th on the Billboard 200.

There’s only a one year difference between the two albums release dates. So, obviously, something must have happened to cause such a significant influx of sales. The logical answer is “They’ve just improved.” But we all know it is more than that.

Many of those “seasoned” Followill fans I mentioned earlier would say that Night was a step-back for the band. And I have talked to several different people who would even go as far to say that the Kings of Leon ‘sold out’ with their most recent release.

That’s where my problem is presented. Now, I have not been a Kings fan since their debut. But, I have listened to them quite extensively since 2006, and even though Because of the Times will forever be my favorite Kings album, I was still blown away by the Only by the Night.

The Followill’s in no way “sold out.” If anything they transcended. Yes, the new tunes have basically thrown out any morsel of that old Southern growl that we have grown accustom to, but isn’t that the soul of a lasting artist? To never dig so deep into a certain sound that you feel absolutely trapped inside, and can’t hurl yourself back out of it even if you tried.

The new songs are catchy, they’re radio friendly and yes, even that friend of yours who scoffed at you for listening to them two years ago now blasts “Sex on Fire” while he drives around in his red and black Ford F-150.

These scenarios probably anger the average “music snob” and if it were true that the tracks on Only by the Night were terrible, then I would even agree with them, but the songs are NOT bad, and some are even damn near incredible (“Manhattan” or “Notion” anybody??).

What it all comes down to is that the Top 40, radio exclusive music listener isn’t given that great of a choice when it comes to music quality. When the top singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 are Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” and Pitbull’s “Hotel Room Service” isn’t it a breath of fresh air to see that America can also appreciate raw musical talent in the form of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”? (P.S. – Pitbull and Miley are fine in their own right, but I’m basing this on musical talent and quality.)

So to all the seasoned fans, or music snobs if you will, when a true artist with true talent is able to break through the “indie” persona and find their way into the Billboard charts, take a step back and get excited that more people listen to Kings of Leon, or The Beatles or whoever because all this means is we are just a little bit closer to seeing those artists you deem as respectable, get the national recognition that they deserve.

- Jessica Cole

Currently Listening to: “Closer” by Kings of Leon

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