Kings Of Leon – Radioactive – Single & Video Review

Where do we begin with a Kings Of Leon comeback single? It seems like most commentators still have their panties all knotted up about present-day Kings Of Leon versus the pre-sellout Kings.

I suffer from the same syndrome, the wishing everything the band released sounded like a favourite era. My ‘era’ is Because Of The Times, the first KOL album I got my hands on. It took me a while to fall in love with that album, but I did fall and it became a lingering favourite of mine. In fact, I could never quite warm to Only By The Night because the earlier album always eclipsed it.

The evolution of this band has been controversial. From fiery indie roots, the band seemed to suddenly veer into the mainstream with a change in sound that has polarized critics. Radioactive is an extension of that. You can still hear a signature sound within the song, but the production is on a different level entirely. It’s a wall of sound, supported by an impressive gospel chorus.

I do miss Caleb Followil’s idiosyncratic singing style – it’s certainly become more conventional over the years, with less of the instantly identifiable quirks that first attracted me to the band. On the other hand, if this were released by any other band, it’d be a reasonably decent track. I think we have to give up on the idea that we’re ever going to hear a Knocked Up or Charmer ever again.

I wanted to share the rock-bottom of quotes about the single from Ronan on trhe confusingly-named Swear I’m Not Paul:

This is Kings of Leon-lite, the bland, radio-friendly pop that will appeal to a mass audience, while causing no offence. Remember last year on X Factor when Jamie Archer sang ‘Sex on Fire’? Well, ‘Radioactive’ feels like someone doing a poor, watered-down version of Kings of Leon. Even Jamie Afro’s take on their uber-hit had more appeal.

I found the video quite funny though, because I’d just read a brilliant post on Holy Moly the other day which seems to prove that the Followils have morphed from indie darlings into rabid egomaniacs. In that context, the sight of them frolicking with a bunch of black kids feels somewhat unlikely.

The thing is, I don’t want to jump on the hater bandwagon, but the smarmy video and the overblown gospel chorus paints a huge target on this single. I’m going to refrain from a verdict right now and call this ‘a grower’. Still, it’s tempting to ponder how much better this song would sound if it was stripped back to bare bones. One thing’s for sure though, it’s not done much to get me excited about the new album.

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