Last week I was trawling through iTunes, when I noticed Some Nights by the American band simply called “fun.” making its way to the top of the charts. I liked their previous mega-hit “We Are Young” so I decided to give it a preview, and I loved it! When I also tried the rest of the album, it reminded me of one of my favourite English bands: The Beautiful South. The album was going for less than $8 on iTunes, so I quickly downloaded the whole thing and I’ve listened to it repeatedly ever since. I am so excited that I’ve discovered a new favourite group. You young hipsters are probably thinking: “Discovered?! We’ve been into fun. for ages” [followed by condescending eye-rolls]. First, give me a break. Unlike fun., we are not so young. Second, it’s not easy for me to fall for new bands… [grumble grumble] Why do I have to justify myself to you anyway? <mumbling> darned, young hipsters… </mumbling>
For the benefits of you out there who may not be as familiar with fun., their style is often called anthemic (I’m not even sure that’s really a word, but the idea is that lots of their songs sound like anthems). One of the reasons they reminded me of The Beautiful South is because they juxtapose upbeat, catchy music with ironically tragic lyrics. If you are familiar with “We Are Young”, it’s a really good example of what the rest of the album is like. fun. has an eclectic sound that makes use of all kinds of instrumentation: everything from guitars and drums to horns and harpsichords. They have a slightly old-Irish sound at times, and then a progressive rock sound at others. Add to all that occasional voiceovers during the bridge, or sounds of conversation or street noise. Many of their songs have sections that vary from each other in tone, pace, and style (kind of like “movements” in classical music). Hopefully that doesn’t make them sound too esoteric or artsy because they’re not. They are extremely poppy as well, with great hooks in every song. Let me talk about a few of the tracks I liked:
Of course, my fave by far is “Some Nights”. It starts with an acapella harmony that reminds me a lot of Kansas’s “Carry On My Wayward Son” (without the country overtones). After it builds, the rest of the song is a rousing fife and drum anthem. The actual music video has the band performing on a makeshift stage in a field amidst a Civil War battle as re-enacted by Abercrombie & Fitch models. The driving, steady drum beat is rhythmic like a march and it’s virtually impossible not to bob your head or slap your knee to it. I’m not quite sure I really understand the lyrics (and I was a poetry major) or any of fun.‘s lyrics, frankly. Like a lot of people, though, I do like the line “I found a martyr in my bed tonight”. I was a bit disappointed that after the bridge there’s a whole segment that was Auto-tuned. Lead singer Nate Ruess has a nice voice, so they must have chosen to Auto-tune intentionally for the effect. I just don’t like it. Still, this track is on my “endless loops” list, which means that I enjoy it so much that I could listen to that song on an endless loop.
We Are Young
I hadn’t fallen in love with this song originally as performed by fun. or by the Glee cast (I am introduced to many popular songs by them), but by another group: Pentatonix (an cool acapella group who won the last Sing-off competition), who I am a huge fan of. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful track that starts out like an urban ballad with another military-drum backbeat. Who doesn’t love anthems about youth, eh? There is a great feeling of camaraderie in this song (like many of fun.‘s other tracks as well).
This track has that Irish blessing sound, a whole lot like Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young”, updated for this decade. It’s the kind of song that makes you feel like linking arms with everyone else in the pub and swaying together. There’s a full instrumental sound (though I am not a fan of electric guitar solos). It is also features Ruess’s high tenor nicely.
It Gets Better
Not one of my favourites, but still not bad. The Auto-tune is back in spades, and there’s a more contemporary sound, with rapid-fire drum beats and a lot more guitar. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit more repetitive. This track sounds like pure Green Day.
“All Alone” hooked me in right away by opening with harpsichord. Also, its tone and style sounded the most like a song by The Beautiful South. It expressed the same kind of irony that their songs did — it’s an incredibly fun and upbeat track, but as its title indicates, this song is about feeling all alone. (As I listened to more of this album, I realized that they were like The Beautiful South more in spirit than actually in sound, but by then I was already won over.)
To me this one is a “circus” song (if there is such a thing). There’s a steady drum beat with a rhythmic brass melody over top. Also, the melody is very simple. As expected, there’s an irony between the sound and the lyrics, but in this case even the lyrics are a bit paradoxical. I can’t figure out if the song’s about moving on, or about giving up: “I’ll put one foot in front of the other one. I don’t need a new love, or a new life, just a better place to die.”
Anyway, I realize that it’s hard to get a sense of the songs just from my descriptions, but if you like what you’ve heard of fun. so far (whether it’s just “We Are Young”, or “Some Nights” as well), you should definitely give the entire album a try. It is very catchy and rousing. You’ll want to sing along or at least bob along (trust me). (4.5 out of 5)