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The 11 best Kings of Leon songs

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are the 11 best Kings Of Leon songs ahead of their 2024 UK dates

When you cast your mind back to the early 00s, there’s no doubt that some, if not all of it, will be staggered around some hardwired awareness of bands in skinny jeans. It was the look. It was of its time. And Kings of Leon just so happened to have a huge streak of talent sewed up in those too-tight seams.

Formed in Nashville in 1999, the band – brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill and their cousin Matthew Followill – grew up within the United Pentecostal Church (the brothers’ father was a preacher), and spent most of their childhood travelling to various revivals across the southern states in a purple 1988 Oldsmobile.

Since then, the Followills have taken on the world, winning four GRAMMY Awards, including Record Of The Year for ‘Use Somebody’ in 2010. They have released eight studio albums, and are widely regarded as one of the best live bands in the business. And while the skinny jeans may have been (regrettably) retired, these four men from Nashville are still cutting a sharp rug for UK crowds, with a new tour now announced for June and July following the release of their new album, Please Can We Have Fun. In preparation for that, here are their 11 best tracks, ranked…

11. ‘Taper Jean Girl’

(Aha Shake Heartbreak, 2004)

Strutty, sexy and catchy as all hell, it took a while for most people to realise that ‘Taper Jean Girl’ drops the c-bomb, not once, but three times over the course of three minutes. Reportedly, Caleb’s mother didn’t even realise her son’s profanity until much later on. Potty mouth aside, this is one of Aha Shake Heartbreak’s standouts with its swampy bass licks and pumping drum track. Plus, the band reportedly loved the song so much they named the entire album after its lyrics. 

Kings Of Leon - On Call

10. ‘On Call’

(Because Of The Times, 2007)

Ok, this writer has a confession. KoL’s GRAMMY Award-winning hit ‘Use Somebody’ has been left off this list because she feels that ‘On Call’ does the same job, only in a more authentically KoL-esque way… hear me out. The sentiment of being there unconditionally – for a partner, a band member or the legions of fans devoted to you – is right there in ‘On Call’. That dreamy: “She said call me now baby, and I’d come a running” intro sounds so much more sincere and subtle than its later (and more decorated) counterpart. Add a wailing guitar solo and that stompy bassline and you’ve got the trappings of a proper arms-around-your-broski live music moment. And that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

9. ‘Red Morning Light’

(Youth & Young Manhood, 2003)

The first single released off Kings of Leon’s debut album, Youth And Young Manhood, officially introduced the world to this quartet of southern revivalists. Fresh and full of cowbell, the UK lapped up this new swagger with the album peaking at No.3 on the official charts. And while this track doesn’t feel as developed as some of their later cannon, the one thing it has in spades is high-kicking confidence. And cowbell. Enough cowbell for Will Ferrell to rule the world.

Kings Of Leon - Four Kicks

8. ‘Four Kicks’

(Aha Shake Heartbreak, 2004)

Sitting at the final act of Aha Shake Heartbreak, ‘Four Kicks’ is an absolute barnstormer. Packed full of filthy garage licks plus Caleb’s lyrics spat like rapid gunfire, this bar fight nugget of ballsy southern rock has become a fan favourite.

7. ‘Milk’

(Aha Shake Heartbreak, 2004)

Stinking of cigarettes and club sweat, ‘Milk’ backdropped a thousand 00s hookups. Caleb’s throaty wail, that tender guitar intro and a strategically placed triangle ‘ding’ – if you weren’t necking with some skinny-jeaned lad while dreaming of loaning him your toothbrush the next morning, then what on Earth were you doing with your indie sleaze era? 20 years on, ‘Milk’ still sounds raunchy as hell: “She saw my comb over, her hourglass body…” Listening back feels like an ode to those 03:00 bedsit trysts while being mindful of getting up for your All Saints shift the next morning.

Kings Of Leon - Sex on Fire (Official Video)

6. ‘Sex On Fire’

(Only By The Night, 2008)

We all knew this track had to go in, but it still garners a huge amount of hand-wringing from KoL fans. It’s tricky when a track like ‘Sex On Fire’ happens to a band like Kings of Leon, who, up until that point, had hinged their reputation on being the achingly cool American export that packed out indie dance floors with their swaggering sound. But, ‘Sex On Fire’ did happen, and things changed. Drastically. Despite the STI clinic connotations (just me?), this track catapulted the band into the Coldplay-shaped stratosphere, with a punchy radio rotation that felt like it was never off the air. It was playing in the Morrisons bakery aisle. It became your uncle Tony’s ringtone. Yep, the ‘Sex On Fire’ fatigue at that point was very, very real. However… listening with fresh ears after a self-administered hiatus, it has to be said that this is a great rock song, and we can’t hold the band accountable for all the (literal years) of relentless airplay on unscrupulous commercial radio stations.  

5. ‘Fans’

(Because Of The Times, 2007)

Written as a love letter to their UK fanbase, unsurprisingly our homegrown crowds go absolutely nuts for ‘Fans’ (expect the gaff to quite kick off when they drop it at BST later this summer). Poignant yet full of signature KoL electric strut, ‘Fans’ is a wonderfully crafted little ditty that means everything to those who’ve stuck it out with the lads from humble beginnings. Despite their later, stadium-sized success (and maybe some bitterness and feelings of betrayal from the ‘true’ fans because of it), these words, and this song, is just for them.

4. ‘Closer’

(Only By The Night, 2008)

True, Only By The Night had ‘the big hits’. But, album opener ‘Closer’ is arguably the best track by a country mile. Cosmic ‘wah’s and an ascending soundscape met the rawness of Caleb’s stage-soaked voice head on, creating an alternative take on the traditional power ballad that delivered like a shimmering gut-punch. The scuzzy guitars are still here, only this time they speak of longing rather than fast living. While mature and multi-layered, it feels like ‘Closer’ cracks the band open. There’s vulnerability rippling along with those interstellar pedal effects, culminating in that key-changed “closer” roared midway through the track that leaves you gloriously breathless.

Kings Of Leon - Knocked Up (Live from iTunes Festival, London, 2013)

3. ‘Knocked Up’

(Because Of The Times, 2007)

Clocking in at over seven minutes, ‘Knocked Up’ feels and sounds like a road trip. The story, at its core – two young lovers taking off in a classic muscle car, one carrying the other’s baby (out of wedlock and against everyone’s wishes) – is KoL at their most cinematic. Conjuring up images of old gas stations, diners and dusty trailer parks, ‘Knocked Up’s magic lies in its rolling rhythm, like fields rushing past an open car window, or dappled sunlight on a hot dashboard. The haunting ‘oh, whoa oh’s. The quiet whistle before the riff flutters back. Tender, and quite unlike anything else in their catalogue, ‘Knocked Up’ is testament to just how good KoL are at writing songs like this: modern fables that pay homage to true love, and the faded American Dream.

2. ‘Molly’s Chambers

(Youth And Young Manhood, 2003)

When the UK woke up to hear ‘Molly’s Chambers’ on mainstream radio over 20 years ago, it was clear this band was going to be huge. While not the first release from debut album Youth And Young Manhood, this was the track that stuck in the collective consciousness. Even now, it’s the Kings of Leon song that, despite everything, sounds most like the Kings of Leon. And UK fans were 100% here for it. ‘Molly’s Chambers’ isn’t the most elegantly crafted KoL track out there, but it’s certainly the most influential. Whenever you hear it (especially on the radio), it always feels like the first time.

Kings Of Leon - The Bucket (VIDEO)

1. ‘The Bucket’

(Aha Shake Heartbreak, 2004)

The first single taken from Aha Shake Heartbreak, ‘The Bucket’ is the deserved winner of this illustrious list – why? It’s just 2:55 minutes of pure unfiltered joy. Like the most beautiful fresco or painting,’The Bucket’ captures a moment in time and preserves it, so much so that two decades on, its infectious melody immediately transports you back to those 06:00 beers at your mate’s kitchen table, or squeezing into a taxi while simultaneously strapping on your pixie boots and hollering into your phone to get the right house party address. Everyone has a lived experience attached to this song, and that’s what makes it so precious. Fresh, youthful (like we once were), I urge you to flick this track on, right now, and let yourself relive that moment for yourself. I can guarantee you’ll be smiling before the song is through.

Kings Of Leon return to the UK this summer for their Please Can We Have Fun tour, stopping at arenas around the country and headlining BST Hyde Park. Find tickets here.