Album Review: Fun – Some Nights
New York-based indie pop band Fun, made up of lead singer Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff, have recently topped the Billboard charts with their anthemic hit single “We Are Young”, featuring Janelle Monae. On their new album Some Nights, they are doing things differently. Firstly they are now signed to ‘Fuelled By Ramen’ which is Pete Wentz’s (bassist for Fall Out Boy) record label which has pop-punk acts such as Paramore and Panic at the Disco on it. However ill-suited it feels for an indie-pop band to be on their books, it’s a testament to them that they can recognise a pretty special artist, though ‘It Get’s Better’ has a punk-like chorus, highlighted in the angst attempting to escape through the thick twang of American accent.
Secondly, We Are Young, the song that got them into the unfamiliar territory of the UK, US, Australian and Italian charts among many others, was covered on Glee, something that most artists (especially in the indie/rock area) may have issues with. Though the Glee version is plagued with auto tune doing the song no justice whatsoever, the post-Glee success of We Are Young has been bewildering – almost as much as Goyte’s Somebody I Used To Know, which also seemed to have sprung out of nowhere. But this track’s rebellious chorus, “Tonight, we are young, so let’s set the world on fire”, has something which the young will relate to and the old will reminisce over. In other words, it is three minutes that is suitable for all and may be the cunning plan behind its chart domination.
Fun’s change to stardom clearly shines from the theatrical opera on Intro, the spoken-word harmonies on Some Nights, to the lighter-waving chorus on monster hit We Are Young that guest artist Janelle Monae can’t even out-sing. It’s a bold and dramatic introduction to a band that most major labels these days would avoid like the plague. The hauntingly sparse piano featured in the song doesn’t take anything away from Ruess’ wide vocal range which hits new spaces. Lyrically Ruess picks up on where he left off with “Aim And Ignite”, the self-deprecation featured in that album is topped with the repeated phrase, “Have you listened to me lately? I’ve been going crazy.” It is with the final reprise of ‘Some Nights (Intro)’ in this song where you truly know how powerful Ruess’ delivery can be. Immediately following this is ‘Some Nights’ which develops upon the introduction with Ruess’ vocals being processed in a vocoder which creates a bigger anthemic sound followed by some insanely infectious backing vocals.
Thankfully, there’s plenty more here to distinguish them as more than a one-hit wonder. ‘Carry On’ steadily builds into a rousing Irish-folk anthem that for an entire minute you won’t see coming. ‘Why Am I The One’ takes a more traditional guitars-and-piano route that not only allows the chorus to shine, but leaves you bewildered to think it was produced by R&B hit maker Jeff Bhasker, better known for working with the likes of Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z.
‘Why Am I The One’ reeks of that third single smell; a giant ballad topped off with subtle orchestration to compliment guitarist Jack Antonoff’s simple guitar riff. ‘One Foot’, on the other hand, is the complete opposite – a bombastic immediate anthem, complete with brass ensemble where Ruess delivers the perfect bitter one liner, “I will die for my own sins, thanks a lot”. “Stars” summarises Ruess’ alienation with his new-found fame since “Aim And Ignite” alongside a lyric describing an awkward encounter on the street with a fan. The line “I feel like I had it all back before I lost it all” really hits home and begs for empathy or some form of consolation.
It sums up an album that’s full of contradictions. The sound is niche yet unashamedly commercial, the songs are quirky but All-American radio friendly and the lyrics confident without being the least bit cocky. The experiments don’t always work – closer ‘Stars’ veers into self-indulgent territory – but by the time you reach horns-at-dawn stomper ‘One Foot’, it’s clear Some Nights is more than a welcome chart anomaly; it’s a game-changer.
5/5: my favourite songs are ‘Some Nights’, ‘Carry On’, ‘Why Am I The One’ ‘All Alright’, ‘One Foot’, ‘Stars’ and ‘Out On Of Town’, the bonus track.