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The Meaning of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”

“Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon is one of the most popular rock songs of the early 2000s. Released in October 2008 as the second single from their fourth album, Only by the Night, “Use Somebody” became the first major commercial breakthrough for Kings of Leon, a band that continued to dominate the rock airwaves for the next decade-plus.

With an infectious blend of melancholy and soaring guitar riffs coupled with Caleb Followill’s velvety rasp, “Use Somebody” is a tale of loneliness and longing that strikes a chord with many listeners.

The lyrics depict a lonely musician, who continues to write songs and battle with creative demons in hopes of getting noticed by his love interest.

“Use Somebody” Origins

Caleb Followill explained the origins of “Use Somebody” during a 2008 interview with Uncut:

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. Then, when we were writin’ the record, Matthew kept sayin’, “What’s that song, man?”, and I acted like I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then, finally, I went, “All right, we’ll do it,” and as soon as we started playin’ it, the producers looked up and said, “Whoa, that’s a good song.” I was like, “OK.”

Caleb Followill on the origins of “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.

Additionally, Caleb has revealed that at the time, he had been recovering from shoulder surgery, and he found the time and inspiration to start putting more vulnerability into his songs. This he told Entertainment Weekly during an interview in 2016:

[This song also] 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.

Caleb Followill on the meaning of “Use Somebody”.

The other song that he discusses is “Sex on Fire”, an even bigger Kings of Leon hit from the same album.

Kings of Leon live in April 2009. Photo by @englishinvader on Flickr.

“Use Somebody” Lyrics Meaning

Now that we have an understanding of the song’s background, let’s dive into Caleb’s lyrics and see how he draws on our heartstrings in this one. Starting with the first verse:

I’ve been roamin’ around, always lookin’ down at all I see
Painted faces fill the places I can’t reach
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you and all you know and how you speak
Countless lovers under cover of the street
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody

First verse to “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.

The singer comes off as a soul adrift, entangled in his own solitude. He’s beating himself up for looking down upon things and others, meaning that he sees himself as superior. It could also refer to looking down to avoid eye contact with others on the street, as both would fit the mood of the song.

Referring to others as “painted faces” is a reflection of feeling like an outsider, that others seem so foreign and disconnected from the self that they hardly even seem real. It could also be referring to people wearing makeup.

Then, Caleb comes in with that emotional, “You know that I could use somebody”, and we get it. He’s filled with loneliness, and he just wants somebody to be there for him. He notices one person in particular. He likes the way she thinks, the way she talks.

He sees other lovers around, and he just wants someone for himself, too. This “countless lovers” lyric could also be referring to his turning to cheap sex to fill the void.

The first chorus drives it home, repeating “Someone like you”, before he sings the second verse:

Off in the night, while you live it up, I’m off to sleep
Wagin’ wars to shape the poet and the beat
I hope it’s gonna make you notice
I hope it’s gonna make you notice

Second verse to “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.

Here, Caleb depicts himself as the lonesome artist, burning the midnight oil. He’s up all night writing while his love interest goes out and enjoys her life. Someday he hopes that she’ll notice him for the songs he writes.

This part also applies to a greater meaning, as Caleb mentioned during his discussion with Uncut. He could be singing to the world itself, and the life of an artist who is trying to make it. The story of late nights battling demons is a common one of the world of creativity.

Caleb turns the focus on himself in the second chorus:

Someone like me
Someone like me
Someone like me

Second chorus to “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.

He hopes that it will make her notice — Someone like him.

The bridge makes use of more repetition, bringing us the final bit of new lyrics:

Don’t let it out
Don’t let it out
Don’t let it out
Don’t let it out
Don’t let it out
Don’t let it out
Don’t let it out

Bridge to “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.

Here, Caleb seems to be forbidding himself from telling anybody about the way that he feels. This is representative of his own personal issues holding him back both from getting the love he deserves, and from succeeding creatively.

Following the bridge is the song’s main guitar solo, wailing out the emotion, and they continue to draw it out by repeating the chorus again, with even more gusto. Finally, the song ends with a repetition of the very first lyric, “I’ve been roamin’ around, always lookin’ down at all I see.”

Watch the music video for “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon below. The video includes a cameo from Caleb Followill’s wife, Lily Aldridge, who also appeared in the “Sex on Fire” video.