Home Entertainment Kings of Leon: A Case Study of Why Indie Music Fans Resent...

Kings of Leon: A Case Study of Why Indie Music Fans Resent Bands that Achieve Mainstream Stardom

16 195

I remember the day I stopped liking Kings of Leon.

I was sitting in my office when a middle-aged female coworker entered to ask a question.  As she entered, a song from the Tennessee southern rock quartet began playing on my computer.  She noticed it and asked, “Oh, I just love Kings of Leon, don\’t you?”

I wanted to answer, “No, you don\’t love Kings of Leon.  You love that one song they\’re playing over and over again on the Top 40 radio station.  You\’ve never heard of Aha Shake Heartbreak or listened to Because of the Times.  You\’re jumping on a bandwagon with everyone else who\’ll love whatever corporate radio tells them to love.”

But my actual response was, “Yep.”

She left my office right then – the very moment I stopped liking Kings of Leon.

I\’m what some would call a musical elitist.  My iTunes is full of indie bands most people have never heard of and most radio stations would never play – and I derive a snobby satisfaction from what I perceive as evidence of having better taste than the general public.  For years, Kings of Leon was one of “my” bands.  While they initially gained a huge following in the U.K., Kings of Leon never found a big audience in the U.S., despite releasing brilliant critically-acclaimed albums and steadily building a cult following.  I prided myself in knowing and loving this band that was big in England, but relatively unnoticed by American audiences.

All that changed with Only by the Night, Kings of Leon\’s fourth full-length album.  Mainstream radio stations picked up the ridiculous, yet catchy “Sex on Fire” and the stadium-ready anthem “Use Somebody.” The album went platinum and made the band an American household name, much to the chagrin of their long time fans who now resented them for “selling out” and going mainstream.

Indie music fans can be pretentious snobs who thrive on self-professed uniqueness and wouldn\’t dare admit liking a band as popular as Kings of Leon, despite singing the band\’s praises when they were up-and-coming.  I\’ve been as guilty as anyone of such pretentiousness, regularly dismissing big name bands and the people who listen to them.  I even stopped talking to an old friend after he told me he attended a Nickelback concert and that they “****ing rocked!”

However, disliking a band just because they\’ve become popular is a ridiculous and self-serving notion.  Every band\’s goal is to reach the level Kings of Leon reached, yet my fellow indie snobs and I resent them for the success we once hoped they would achieve.  We wanted them to be the southern version of Radiohead – a great band who bucks the status quo and scoffs at mainstream acceptance – but they instead became the American U2 and are likewise filling stadiums with sing-along choruses for the masses.

Yet, I battle hypocrisy as I find myself singing along to these choruses.  I really like Only by the Night, but feel this urge to shun it because so many other people also like it.  Shouldn\’t the fact that a large diverse audience likes the same band speak to the band\’s talent?  Why are so many former Kings of Leon fans joining me in dismissing the band now that they\’re über famous?

The answer is simple: No one wants to like the same music their mother likes.  Since Elvis and The Beatles introduced rock to America, young people have flocked to music that sets their generation apart from their parents\’.  When a woman roughly the same age as my mother came into my office proclaiming her love for “my” band, I couldn\’t take it and rejected them in order to retain my self-constructed perception of coolness.

Kings of Leon crossed the line from hipster favorite to minivan staple, and the hipsters can\’t fathom liking the same music as soccer moms.  But why should we rob ourselves of music we like just because people in a different subset of the population also enjoy it?  Opinions of bands should be formed based on whether or not a person finds them musically appealing, not on what other groups of people think about them.

So I\’ve decided to stop being a pretentious snob who bases musical preferences on a band\’s fame (or lack thereof), and instead base it on what I like. I still hate Nickelback, but I hate them because I think they\’re a terrible band, not because thousands of other people enjoy them.  But if you want to listen to Nickelback, do whatever makes you happy.

Even though they\’ve been accused of diva-like behavior since their rise to stardom and have lashed out against angry indie fans who think they will most likely never return to the raw southern-infused rock of their early days, I like Kings of Leon\’s music and will continue to listen to them, regardless of their increasing mainstream popularity.  I even got their new CD, Come Around Sundown, and it\’s a good album.  My mom agrees.

  • Chad Shanks

    My mom also likes Muse now. God help us.

  • Ruth

    well I’m glad you went back to listening to music you liked and stopped being perversely pretentious about it. Who cares if your mom likes the same music? Who cares who likes Aha or Because, and who has never heard of them? Me, I heard SOF eighteen months after everyone else (tend not to hear that much new music!) liked it, decided to get it to put on my MP3, listened to the rest of the CD, and for the first time ever went and bought the entire back catalogue of a band. Booked myself a ticket to go to V festival on my own, having never been to a music festival before, just to see them. Does that make me a bad person? No iy just makes me someone who knows what she likes and goes and does what makes her happy. Its the same life philosophy that has seen me riding a bigger faster motorbike than all my male friends for the last 24 years – so get over yourself mate and go and do whatever makes you happy. x

  • panjok2

    Well, Im glad i finished reading your whole story cause i was going to let ya have it! haha You know i hate it that everyone is now “into” kol but i could really care less! I think it is great for them! I mean they have worked so hard and this is what they have done all that work for! I only hate it that it will get harder to be up front at the shows! I know how you feel…it’s like we used to have this secret small group and someone let the secret out and now it’s not the same! but their shows are still the best i have been too and as long as they don’t become ‘nickelback i will be seeing them every time they come within 12 or so hours of me!

  • TS

    The bands are good ’til they make enough cash
    To eat food and get a pad
    Then they’re sold out and their music is cliché
    Because talent’s exclusive to bands without pay

    I never got the selling out thing…. I go see a band you love play in front of 100 people for practically nothing and I want them to have as much success as KOL.

  • Sarah

    Ruth took the words right out of my mouth. Get over it Chad.

  • Teri

    It’s really sad that you would stop liking a band just because a middle aged woman tried having a conversation with you. Get over yourself mate as Ruth says.

    • Chad Shanks

      I recommend reading the entire article before jumping to conclusions.

  • http://n/a Andrew

    The thing is, I could care less that Kings of Leon has become an “uber popular” group – more power to ‘em in fact. My dislike of their stuff from Only by the Night onwards has to do with the changes they’ve made in their sound.

    I didn’t like “Molly’s Chambers”, “King of the Rodeo”, or “Ragoo” because the band hadn’t achieved super-stardom; I liked them because they’re incredible examples of head-bobbing southern rock! The music felt gritty and raw and I really liked that. “Use Somebody” is catchy and polished, no doubt, but it’s not what KoL were, sound-wise.

    Maybe there are some people that stopped liking them simply because they became more popular but my gut tells me that most people that were fans during their earlier days stopped liking them because the MUSIC changed, not because the AUDIENCE changed :P

  • Jesse

    Truthfully, Kings of Leon is horrible to me. That should make the writer of the story happy. I don’t know what it is so important to him what everybody else thinks.

  • Jesse

    Notion is not a good song and the lyrics seem really stupid.

  • Linda

    Turning 40 this year (don’t feel that old), drive a minivan and have 3 kids. Saw kol’s video and thought they had a unique sound. Lead singer’s voice is unique and strong. Can’t say I would blast their music while driving the kiddies to school but would in my xterra. Glad you came to the conclusion you came to because everyone gets old and it doesn’t mean you have to start listening to classical or lawerence welk (probably don’t know who lawrence welk is) Bottom line listen to what you want to until you turn 90 and deaf.

  • http://autumnvibe.blogspot.com Rafik

    This article’s message leads to the right conclusion, I think, but starts off all wrong. I can see you wanting to have your own identity, separate from older people’s, but I don’t see how you could ever take something you once loved and throw it away. That you realised your choice was wrong is redeeming.

    I feel a lot like you, with the four thousand songs in my iPod of which my friends cannot name one, but when a band achieves stardom, I don’t hate the band, I hate the people who now like the band. I remember telling my friend about an Arcade Fire song one time, resulting in him scorning it and my weird taste, and literally within the next month he manages to hear it on the radio and approaches me to recommend me the SAME SONG. It’s frustrating, but only the denseness of my friend, not the popularity of Arcade Fire. The only problem I have is with bands that actually legitimately change to fit into the mainstream verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus 3:35 time slot.

    It really doesn’t matter if it’s indie or not: if it’s good music, it’s good music, and I like it. The only thing is, indie is good more than pop is xP (yes, ok, I’m a LITTLE biased.)

  • http://autumnvibe.blogspot.com Rafik

    On second thought, though, I do have to admit that having a band be unknown feels better. I have thought about this and I think it’s because you feel a lot closer to the band, with less people in between you and them… indeed, you could probably talk to them after a show if you give it an ounce of effort. When they become famous, there’s a certain inaccessibility, a slight, subtle, but powerful barrier between the two of you. They enter the unreal world of celebrities, and celebrities aren’t real and certainly cannot be your friend.

  • Gene

     Great write dude. The truth is always and enjoyable read. Well done. Glad you’ve overcome your illness.

  • Gene

     Great write dude. The truth is always and enjoyable read. Well done. Glad you’ve overcome your illness.

  • Bailey

    brilliant, I feel exactly the same as you!