fun. - Some Nights
Record Label: Fueled By Ramen
Release Date: February 21, 2012
The mystery is over, ladies and gentlemen.
From the first time I heard Nate Ruess’ work with The Format (which wasn’t actually until Dog Problems) I could not fathom how music of this nature –energetic, real, complex, and most importantly, fun- could NOT make its way to the top. And I’m talking about the very top. I’m talking about being sung by thousands of people in a stadium. Or at one of those damned annual music festivals filled with people who need the sort of over-the-top experience the event provides to remind them that music is one of the most amazing things we humans are capable of, but I digress.
Dog Problems came and went, and while there are probably few people reading this that haven’t heard that record, most of my friends would react with a vague “The Format? Yeah I think I’ve heard of them” when asked about the band. Fun’s debut Aim & Ignite was nearly the same album in my mind. It featured the same thematically fantastic, organic, deep songs I came to love in The Format, and ultimately was a stone left unturned by the masses. It was baffling to me, because the sound created by Nate, Jack and Andrew truly offered something for everyone. How many fantastic albums would it take for these guys to really get noticed?
With the arrival of sophomore effort Some Nights, we have the answer. A natural progression from their previous Format-esque sound and wholly unique, Some Nights has garnered the band attention on a level they’ve never been close to. From national TV performances, Super Bowl ad fame, crappy TV show flattery, to hitting the number one iTunes album on release day, Fun and Nate Ruess have finally gotten the formal introduction to the world they’ve deserved for some time. And the best part is, it didn’t take any lineup changes, burned bridges with dedicated fans, or selling of musical souls to achieve; Some Nights is undoubtedly the album the band had always planned on making, and the album that anyone familiar with the band’s history will be able to get behind.
But that’s not to say there aren’t lessons to be learned here; pushing the boundaries of their sound this far has caused a few wrinkles in an otherwise modern pop masterpiece. Midsection head-scratcher “It Gets Better” isn’t a total failure, but it certainly is just awkward enough in tempo and structure to conjure some ‘face-only-a-mother-could-love’ type feelings from fans. Additionally, Ruess-fueled projects continue to put their most challengingly unique tunes at the close, and “Stars” is no exception, as it shows itself the door around the six-minute mark with almost unlistenable vocoders.
But if those criticisms sound harsh for an otherwise stellar album, just listen to the title track, and you’ll likely not care much anymore. Its rare that a song like “Some Nights” floors me like this from the very first listen. It’s combination of anthemic melody, huge vocal arrangements, driving piano, electronic undertones and stellar lyrical content make it almost seem too good to put as the opener. It took several listens to the album for me to stop comparing the rest of the record to this one track. Can you really fault an album for having a song that is too good? Perhaps the answer here is, who cares?
While we’re at it, let’s give some credit where it’s due; “We Are Young” is an excellent track, and exactly the kind of anthem the band needed to get to where they are today. The lyrics let listeners know its still an intelligent piece, but the hook and the mechanized percussion move feet like no Fun song before it could.
Meanwhile, the most underrated track of the disc, “All Alone” is the perfect track to transition fans from Aim to the new vibe of Some Nights. While “Why Am I The One” is most traditionally Fun sounding, “All Alone” provides a driving hip-hop beat in the verse and a hugely enjoyable chorus to the sound of trumpets and a distorted guitar. “One Foot” seems to be a polarizing one with heavy repetition and largely produced sound, but the vocal intensity and scathing lyrical theme deliver the track as one of the best.
What excites the most about the whole whirlwind success of the album is that its being embraced by all, the way that music of this caliber deserves. There is no perceptible bitterness from long time fans over the commercial success. And how could there be? This isn’t a transition into the mainstream; it’s the mainstream finally catching up. It’s not some niche market of people latching on to the next band that hides their mediocrity behind gimmicky falsettos and thin instrumentation. This is the whole market embracing real musical talent.
Everything you’ve loved about this band is still here –the family references, thematic instrumentation, layers on layers of depth, and wickedly smart writing. It’s presented a little differently, yes, but this is a band that still deserves all the respect they’ve earned to date. Hopefully Ruess and the boys will lead other deserving acts into the spotlight, so the rest of us can all stop shaking our heads in bewilderment.
Chalk this one up as a win for everybody: music lovers, the industry at large, and most definitely Fun.