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Smooth Bananas: ‘When You See Yourself’

The Kings of Leon have certainly seen better days than the one they chose to write “When You See Yourself” on. They’re capturing a sound that no longer exists. 

The album, produced by Markus Dravs and released by label RCA, is the band’s eighth studio album and features 11 tracks of varying lengths. Each track is approximately three to five minutes long. The album was released on March 5, 2021. The album’s total runtime is approximately 51 minutes. 

The Kings of Leon used to be mega all-stars in the world of popular rock music in the early 2000s. They were known for writing huge rock star tracks that filled stadiums for them, won them many awards, and garnered accolade after accolade with their fans.  

However, this stardom became their coffin. Rock music was a dying artform when the Kings of Leon got their fame which boxed them in creatively and financially. The music industry was moving on and their style was well-rounded enough to attract the average listener but not the hardcore classic rock fan. Without this key demographic of music listeners, they were not able to keep up with the rest of the music industry as they moved on. There’s a reason we hear the same four bands on a loop when listening to a classic rock station. 

The album’s opening track gives us some hope that the Kings of Leon have found their 2021 voice. “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away?” brings back the imaginative rock imagination that the band started out with. While listening to it, you think they may have found what they’re looking for, but after that, it’s very clear that they’ve just run out of ideas. Like most of Kings of Leon’s albums, this newest album is just a minor variation on the one before it. The band tries to take completely safe tiptoes forward rather than trying to be artistically sound and vibrant. It’s insulting to a listener because you can tell there’s just no imagination in the sound. The only thing remarkable about this album is that it’s the first in history to be sold connected to a non-fungible token (NFT), a sort of music and art industry analogue to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Don’t ask me why that’s significant to the music consumer. It really just feels like some sort of sordid novelty. 

The producer Markus Dravs has some strong accolades on his resume at least in terms of the music industry. He’s produced albums for Coldplay and Arcade Fire and so his craft should be finely honed, right? You would think but it’s actually the fact he’s produced for these bands that has limited his production value for Kings of Leon. His techniques tend to overshadow the musical contributions, not that there is much to overshadow really. 

Ultimately, “When Your See Yourself” is one you can skip. Say “pass” on the strange method of delivery and pray NFTs don’t spread further throughout the music industry. “When You See Yourself” gets a D-minus rating.  

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