"Sex on Fire"
Single by Kings of Leon
from the album Only by the Night
ReleasedSeptember 5, 2008
  • 3:24 (album version)
  • 3:33 (radio edit)
Kings of Leon singles chronology
"Sex on Fire"
"Use Somebody"
Music video
"Sex on Fire" on YouTube

"Sex on Fire" is the first single released from American 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 United States, reaching number one on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the band's second highest-charting song there 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.[citation needed]


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

"Sex on Fire" 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] Planet Sound also rated the song 9/10. However, Caleb Followill originally thought the song was "terrible";[9] 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".[9] The song was number 40 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008.[10] The song was used for the trailer of the 2009 movie Stay Cool.[11]

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.[12]

Chart performance

In the United Kingdom, "Sex on Fire" entered the official UK Singles Chart at number one on September 14, 2008 ― for the week ending date September 20, 2008 ― and went on to an unbroken 42 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 37 weeks, re-entering the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart at number six in September 2009. Further reappearances extended its tally of weeks to 90, making it the third most charted single of all time.[citation needed]

In Germany, the single debuted at number 97 on the German Singles Chart, and began to rise and fall in the next several weeks. In its 32nd week on the chart, the song finally reached its peak of number 33. As of February 2011, the song had been on the chart for 60 weeks, a huge effort for a single that did not reach the top 20. In February 2011, due to the long stay on the German Singles Chart, the single was certificated with Gold for more than 150,000 copies sold.[13][14]

Music video

The director of the music video for "Sex on Fire" was Sophie Muller. As of February 2022, the video has over 425 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 listings

7-inch vinyl

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

CD single

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



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[51] 11× Platinum 770,000double-dagger
Austria (IFPI Austria)[52] Platinum 30,000*
Belgium (BEA)[53] Platinum  
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[54] Platinum 15,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[55] Gold 6,752[55]
Germany (BVMI)[56] Platinum 300,000^
Italy (FIMI)[57] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[58] Diamond+Platinum+Gold 390,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[59] Platinum 15,000*
Sweden (GLF)[60] Gold 10,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] 4× Platinum 2,400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[62] Platinum 1,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history

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)

See also


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  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". ABC. February 6, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  7. ^ "Kings of Leon: Sex on Fire Sheet Music". Sheet Music Direct. Martha Street Music/Followill Music/McFearless Music/Coffee Tea Or Me Publishing.
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  9. ^ a b Kings of Leon: 'Sex on Fire' is 'Terrible' – Spin Spin Magazine. Retrieved September 29, 2008
  10. ^ "The 100 Best Songs of 2008". Rolling Stone, December 25, 2008. Retrieved December 25, 2008.
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