Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” Lyrics Meaning

The clearest part of this song is its second verse, also being the only place where the term “freak on a leash” is mentioned. Therein, Jonathan Davis presents himself as someone of whom ‘nothing in his life is free’.

That’s a pretty-profound statement coming from a bonafide music star. But the point he’s ultimately trying to get at is something akin to having reached the promised land alright, though with his creativity being abused and freedom stifled by the industry itself.

The issue at hand in terms of this song’s overall clarity is that some other segments do not relay that sentiment as clearly. For instance, if a listener doesn’t know the actual sentimental backdrop, he or she can be misled by the chorus into believing that this piece may be romantic in nature. 

But rather, the vocalist is using the reference to “a cheap f*-k” to poetically illustrate how he feels being at the whims of the machine.

And we know this because that is in fact how Jonathan explained this song. In fact he personally utilized even more-powerful lingo alluding to him being the victim of exploitation, feeling as if “the music industry” and “corporate America” has ‘stolen his innocence’. 

Upon dropping this track, he was at the point where he can no longer hold the related resentment within. But that said, Davis did remain a member of Korn throughout all of these years afterwards, and of course they’ve dropped a plethora of songs since, with him at the lead, since this one.

Lyrics of Korn's "Freak on a Leash"

Jonathan Davis talks about meaning of “Freak on a Leash”

Jonathan Davis revealed that this is a song that kicks against the music industry’s ill treatments of artists. According to him, the lyrics are about how he felt like he was treated like a prostitute by corporate America.

In his eyes, corporate America made a ton of money from him. And in the course of doing that, these powers that be took a part of him as well as his innocence. Simply put, he felt like a “freak paraded around” to make money for the big people at the top.

Release of “Freak on a Leash”

This track, which was made public on 25 May 1999, is a single from “Follow the Leader”, the 1998 project which stands as the most-successful album in Korn’s discography. 

Upon original release, “Freak on a Leash” contributed its share to making the aforementioned album a success. For example, it hit number 2 on the UK Rock & Metal chart and placed within the top 10 of five different Billboard rankings stateside.

Credits

Legendary comic book artist Todd McFarlane had a hand in directing the video to this track. Todd accomplished that goal alongside Graham Morris and a duo known as Dayton & Faris. And their efforts proved to be a major success, as the clip took home accolades such as scoring two MTV VMAs (Best Rock Video and Best Editing) in 1999 and a Grammy (Best Short Form Music Video) the following year.

The writers of this song are as follows:

  • Reginald Arvizu
  • James Shaffer
  • Brian Welch
  • Jonathan Davis
  • David Silveria

And all, with the exception of Silveria, are still holding down the Korn brand as of the writing of this post.

Korn produced this track in unison, in conjunction with Steve Thompson and Toby Wright.

Freak on a Leash

Notable Usage

This song also has a notable pop media history, having been utilized by the following:

  • In 1999, Puma featured this track in their advertisement with various sports stars such as Serena Williams and Vince Carter.
  • American adult animated sitcom “Daria”, Season 4 Episode 9 in 2000. “Freak on a Leash” is played as Daria and Jane head towards the mall.
  • American animated sitcom “The Simpsons”, Season 18 Episode 20 in 2007. The track was featured when Santa’s Little Helper goes on a search for Homer in the corn maze.
  • Music video game “Guitar Hero World Tour” in 2008.
  • American coming-of-age comedy-drama movie “Dope” in 2015.
  • MTV reality competition series “The Challenge”, Season 35 Episode 8 in 2020. At the Pole Wrestle elimination competition in Purgatory, Bear and Nelson compete with each other.

To note, this song has been subject to a number of official remixes.

The continued notoriety of “Freak on a Leash” was manifested in Jonathan Davis, i.e. Korn’s frontman, opting to name a pet brand he founded in 2022 after it.

What the Fans Are Saying

Some fans were brought back to this track after watching Netflix’s “Woodstock ’99: Peace, Love and Rage”. Although it wasn’t featured in the documentary, Korn did perform “Freak on a Leash” in this concert. A fan continued to express how the unique style of Korn has helped shape the genre from the late 90s to early 2000s. He also shared that the riffs heard in this track can easily compete with the music available now.

Another fan shared her story of surviving being sexually abused as a kid and attempting suicide multiple times. Now an adult, “Freak on a Leash” encompasses her struggles relating to other people and puts this track as part of her “survival jam”.

A mom wrote how much her son, who was murdered in May 2016, loved Korn. When she misses him, she’d listen to the band’s songs, such as “Freak on a Leash” and it makes her feel he’s still around.

“Freak on a Leash” one of a fan’s dad’s favorite song. He and his dad bonded over their love for Korn and jammed together, until he passed away last Easter.

On a happier note, many fans who revisited this track still calls it a masterpiece. And not to mention, many feel old now as they had grown up listening to the band’s tracks.

The “Follow the Leader” Album

“Follow the Leader” was formally launched on the 18th of August, 1998.

Recording was done in the earlier part of 1998, at NRG Recording Studios, a recording studio located in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. 

Korn collaborated with renowned American record producers, Toby Wright and Steve Thompson to produce the said album.

“Follow the Leader” became the band’s first album to be released without production credits being given to Ross Robinson, a renowned record producer. Ross is responsible for discovering Korn and has been a long-time collaborator since their formative days. However, his only contribution to “Follow the Leader” was his role as a vocal coach to Jonathan Davis, the band’s lead vocalist.

The album had American rappers, Tre Hardson, Fred Durst and Ice Cube appearing as features.

“Follow the Leader” was simultaneously released through defunct California based record label Immortal Records and Sony Music’s Epic Records.

Aside from the release of a total of five singles in support of the album, Korn embarked on the “Family Values Tour” in 1998 as a means of promoting it.

The album received a number of accolades including a Grammy award for “Best Short Form Music Video” courtesy the song, “Freak on a Leash.”

“Follow the Leader” got featured in Robert Dimery’s 2005 book, “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”.

The album ranked prominently on a number of charts globally, topping the Billboard 200 in the US, the OCC in the UK, New Zealand’s RMNZ and Australia’s ARIA among others. It has received a number of certifications globally including the following:

  • United Kingdom – Gold
  • Netherlands – Gold
  • France – Gold
  • Canada – 3x Platinum
  • Brazil – Gold
  • Australia – 3x Platinum
  • United States – 5x Platinum

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