Sex on Fire

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"Sex on Fire"
Single by Kings of Leon
from the album Only by the Night
ReleasedSeptember 4, 2008
  • 3:24 (album version)
  • 3:33 (radio edit)
Kings of Leon singles chronology
"Sex on Fire"
"Use Somebody"

"Sex on Fire" is the first single released from American alternative rock band Kings of Leon's fourth studio album Only by the Night. The song gave Kings of Leon their first number-one single in Australia, Finland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, charting at the top spot on digital downloads alone in the latter country, before its physical release. In September 2009 it was Britain's second most-downloaded digital single ever.[1] The song has sold 1.2 million copies in the United Kingdom as of November 2012.[2] It has also gained significant popularity in the band's native United States, reaching number one on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it their second highest charting song in their homeland on the former chart.

In 2008, the song earned the band their first Grammy nominations. The song was nominated for Best Rock Song,[citation needed] and won the award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.[3] In addition, the album earned a nomination for Best Rock Album. Channel V Australia named the song as the third biggest hit of 2008. It was voted number one in Triple J Hottest 100 countdown for 2008. Following the success of the follow-up single "Use Somebody" in the United States on pop radio, the track was re-serviced[4] to US pop radio in November. Remixes of both songs were used for the runway soundtrack in the 2009 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

The song was written about lead singer Caleb's then-girlfriend (and now-wife), model Lily Aldridge.[5]


In an interview with Robbie, Marieke and the Doctor on Australian radio station Triple J, Nathan Followill explained that the band never intended the song to be named "Sex on Fire", and that it was not intended to be about sexuality.

They were totally different lyrics. Depending on whether a song starts with a melody or starts with lyrics, you know if it starts with a melody you just keep playing the melody over and over until you get it down and just throw in any lyrics that fit the verbal flow. It was actually going to be "Set Us on Fire", but one of the sound mixers in the studio walked in as we were playing and said, "'Sex on Fire', huh?" And it just kind of became a running joke, and we stuck with it.

Nathan also said that some lyrics tried were "Socks on Fire", "Snatch on Fire" and "Cocks on Fire".[6]

The song is played in the key of E major at a tempo of 153 bpm. The vocal range is B3–G4.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The song has received generally positive reviews. Digital Spy rated the song four stars out of five, describing it as "A truly stirring single that will be a definite highlight on their winter arena tour."[8] The Sun also praised the song, saying it is "another of the latest album’s genuinely great and grand numbers."[9] Planet Sound also rated the song 9/10. However, Caleb Followill originally thought the song was "terrible";[10] according to Spin Magazine it was almost ditched during recording. Despite giving the album a 4 out of 5, Spin thought the song was 'silly'.[10] The song was number 40 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008.[11] This song is used for the trailer of the 2009 movie "Stay Cool".[12]

In 2016, Johnny Borrell of Razorlight called this song "the apex, death and afterlife of landfill indie all in one go" and noted its similarity to Stereophonics's "Dakota" from 2005.[13]

Music video[edit]

The director of the music video for "Sex on Fire" was Sophie Muller. As of January 2018, the video has over 245 million views on YouTube. At the end of the video, Caleb opens his mouth and smoke starts coming out of his mouth. In the video, the band is seen playing in the next room at an abandoned factory. Some of the scenes in the video shows Caleb's brothers holding Caleb, who is untied to a soft mattress, Nathan washing his hair in a black water tub, Matthew explaining to Nathan and Jared about Caleb and also Matthew eating a chicken wing and Caleb looking at strange shadows while lying on a soft mattress.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

7" vinyl[edit]

  1. "Sex on Fire"
  2. "Beneath the Surface"


  1. "Sex on Fire"
  2. "Knocked Up" (Live @ Oxegen '08)

Chart performance[edit]

In the United Kingdom, "Sex on Fire" entered at number one on the official UK Singles Chart on September 14, 2008 ― for the week ending date September 20, 2008 ― and went on to an unbroken forty two weeks on the chart, only dropping out due to the surge in sales of Michael Jackson titles immediately after his death, but after a two-week absence it was back for another thirty seven weeks, re-entering the top ten of the UK Singles Chart at number six in September 2009. Further reappearances extended its tally of weeks to ninety, making it the third most charted single of all time.

In Germany, the single debuted at number ninety seven on the German Singles Chart, and began to rise and fall in the next several weeks. In its thirty-second week on the chart, the song finally reached its peak of number thirty three. As of February 2011, the song was on the chart for sixty weeks, a huge effort for a single that did not reach the top twenty. In February 2011, due to the long stay on the German Singles Chart, the single got certificated with Gold for more than 150,000 copies sold.[14][15]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date
Europe September 5, 2008 (2008-09-05)
United States September 9, 2008 (2008-09-09)
United Kingdom September 15, 2008 (2008-09-15)
United States (pop radio) November 23, 2009 (2009-11-23)


  1. ^ "Lady Gaga is queen of downloads". BBC News. September 6, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  2. ^ Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  3. ^ "Winners: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Need to know: Lily Aldridge". Elle Magazine. December 3, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
  6. ^ "triple j music news: Kings Of Leon didn't want Sex On Fire". 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  7. ^ "Kings of Leon: Sex on Fire Sheet Music". © Copyright 2008 Martha Street Music/Followill Music/McFearless Music/Coffee Tea Or Me Publishing.
  8. ^ Singles Reviews – Kings Of Leon: 'Sex On Fire' – Digital Spy. Digital Spy. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  9. ^ Kings Of Leon look set for ultimate success | The Sun. The Sun. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Kings of Leon: 'Sex on Fire' is 'Terrible' – Spin Spin Magazine. Retrieved September 29, 2008
  11. ^ "The 100 Best Songs of 2008". Rolling Stone (December 25, 2008). Retrieved 2008-12-25
  12. ^ "Stay Cool". Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  13. ^ "The Definitive History of Landfill Indie in Seven Songs, Narrated by Johnny Borrell". 5 April 2016.
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  15. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche". Archived from the original on 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  16. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  17. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  18. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
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  22. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire" (in French). Les classement single.
  23. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  24. ^ "Chart Track: Week 38, 2008". Irish Singles Chart.
  25. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  26. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". Top 40 Singles.
  27. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  28. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Slovak). Hitparáda – Radio Top 100 Oficiálna. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: insert 200911 into search.
  29. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". Singles Top 100.
  30. ^ " – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". Swiss Singles Chart.
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  32. ^ "Kings of Leon Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  33. ^ "Kings of Leon Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard.
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  36. ^ "Kings of Leon Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard.
  37. ^ "ARIA Charts – End Of Year Charts – Top 100 Singles 2008". ARIA. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  38. ^ "End of Year Charts 2008". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  39. ^ "Charts Plus Year end 2009" (PDF). Charts Plus. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
  40. ^ McCabe, Kathy (2010-07-01). "Delta Goodrem's talents top the charts". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2010-01-09. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  41. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2009 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  42. ^ "Austrian single certifications – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire" (in German). IFPI Austria. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  43. ^ "Ultratop − Goud en Platina – singles 2011". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  44. ^ "Danish single certifications – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  45. ^ a b "Kings of Leon" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
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  47. ^ "Italian single certifications – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 12 March 2018. Select "Tutti gli anni" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Sex on Fire" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  48. ^ "AMPROFON certification – Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas". Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
  49. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 2010" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  50. ^ "British single certifications – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 9 March 2018. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Sex on Fire in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  51. ^ "American single certifications – Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 22 November 2011. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]