A little over a decade ago the Tennessee-based rock band, Kings of Leon, released their fourth studio album ‘Only by the Night.’ This album produced two of the biggest selling and best charting tracks by the band ever. “Sex on Fire,” and “Use Somebody” still remains the most popular tracks of Kings of Leon to date, with a die-hard fan base around them. In this article, we dig around the meaning of the single “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.
“Use Somebody” is the fourth track on the fourth studio album ‘Only by the Night’ by Kings of Leon formed by three brothers Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Nathan Followill, and Matthew Followill. Beyond their wildest dreams, this track went on to achieve the band’s first top 5 chartings in the US and UK, ranking at #4 on Billboard Hot 100 chart and #2 on UK Singles chart. The single is also certified Platinum in sales across many countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, Belgium and New Zealand.
“Use Somebody” earned the band three Grammy Awards in the year 2010. It won ‘Record of the Year,’ ‘Best Rock Song,’ and ‘Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.’
Inspiration Behind “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon
In a 2008 interview with Uncut Magazine, Caleb Followill, who wrote the major part of the lyrics, told the meaning behind this hit track;
The meat of song was written on tour. When I came up with ‘I could use somebody,’ I didn’t know if I was talking about a person or home or God. I felt immediately that it was a big song, and it scared me away.
In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Caleb broke down the inspiration behind this song; “This song came out from when I was healing from my shoulder injury…and away from everything out at my farmhouse. In that moment, I became more honest with myself and allowed myself to be vulnerable in my writing. No longer trying to be a tough guy and admitting I need the people around me – mainly referring to Lily (Aldridge, Followill’s wife) – to get through it all. I wrote it in one sitting, very late.”
Listen to Caleb and Matthew talk about coming up with the song in Whiskey-infused surgery aftermath;
Watch “Use Somebody” Music Video by Kings of Leon
Download “Use Somebody” Single on Apple Music and Amazon
The underlying theme of this song is loneliness. Many rockstars have confessed to feeling lonely even though they are at the height of their popularity with millions of following. Considering the Caleb Followill composed the lyrics while being away from everybody, while recovering from his injury, we can imagine that he would have felt lonelier than ever.
In the first verse of “Use Somebody,” the band sings of how they are used to looking down on everything they see. This is a sign of being tired of the ‘same old.’ The rockstar lifestyle tends to have this effect on may artists. The routine of album-tour-album-tour could easily have a heavy toll on somebody’s mental wellbeing.
The lyric “Painted faces fill the places I can’t reach” has sparked the controversy that this line could mean the association of a prostitute. ‘Painted face’ is an allusion to heavy make up which often translates to prostitution. However, it should be looked at in a manner that the singer has been trying to fill an emotional void that he has with fake people. Being on tour and being an artist with a global reach, it would not be easy to find genuine people to be with you. Hence, relationships are a dangerous game.
The singer also references to a ‘you’ whom he wishes to have around him. This ‘you’ is most likely a dedication to Caleb’s wife Lily Aldridge, who has been good company all around.
And the singer could use somebody like that in these lonely times. Being on tour, the singers must miss the love and cosiness of home. Being neutralized by surgery, Caleb is looking for a partner to lift his spirits up.
In the second verse, the singer talks about getting the attention of his lover. He speaks of his troubled thoughts of insecurity about his lover back at home. The singer thinks of how she could be ‘living it up’ while he is asleep on a tour bus somewhere in a remote part of the world. This could be factually correct since Caleb’s wife Lily Aldridge is one of the A-list models of the time. These troubled thoughts that wage wars inside him, also shape up the poet he is. Surely enough, whatever the thoughts Caleb was sitting on spurred out a great rock classic like “Use Somebody.”
Or, it could even be from the perspective of Lily Aldridge who awaits her lover’s return from ‘roaming around’ the world. While the band plays gigs across the world and “live it up,” the wife must be off to sleep. She understands the struggles the band members have to go through to come up with music that floats. It is like a war, an internal struggle, to come up with new material and new music. She hopes that through it all, the singer will realize who he has waiting back at home — “someone like me.”
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