Posted by Christopher Will on 02/27 at 06:00 PM
Brooklyn-based indie-pop trio Fun., released their sophomore album Some Nights this past Tuesday, and it stands as one of the most diverse and innovative pop albums to come out of this decade thus far. While Fun.’s freshman debut, Aim & Ignite, was an album layered heavily with 70’s classic rock influences, Some Nights takes bits and pieces of multiple genres and clumps them together into a perfect musical mess. Though some may see Some Nights as Fun.’s attempt to “sell out” for radio audiences, the more musically intellectual will step back and realize that the album as a whole is too unique and breathtaking to be a “sell out.” Some Nights is Fun. doing what they do best: making thought provoking and mind blowing music that is, for lack of a better term, ridiculously and indescribably fun.
When Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost, and Jack Antonoff introduce the story of Some Nights, they do it the only way they know how: theatrically, cinematically, and with brash, almost uncomfortable intimacy. “Some Nights Intro” opens with a tinkling piano, skipping creepily around a spattering of applause as Ruess’ quiet, but menacing voice begins to slowly take us through his evening pains: “there are some nights I hold onto every note I’ve ever wrote…” he starts, his voice steadily rising in pitch. A dissonant female opera singer and Dost and Antonoff’s bold orchestrations join him soon after. Ruess becomes enveloped in a choir of voices, chanting, “oh my god, have you listened to me lately? Lately, I’ve been f*cking crazy!” The song then explodes into a hodgepodge of strings, piano and drums. Ruess’ voice breaks to almost a whisper as he admits, “but usually, I just try to get some sleep…” before everything blows up around him and his voice rises into a shrill shriek of “…some nights!”
If Fun. derives their name from their sound, then the title track of the album showcases that the most. “Some Nights” begins with a choir of Ruess’ harmonizing voices, cutting through the silence with unadulterated vocal power. Then the song crashes into auditory euphoria as the choir collides with huge, booming tribal drums, creating some bizarre and fantastic mash-up calling to mind Queen’s best vocal works mated to instrumentals from The Lion King soundtrack. “This is it boys, this is war! What are we waiting for? Why don’t we break the rules already,” Ruess barks gleefully, soaring through the first verse before the chorus slams back into the song, bolstering with strong guitars, choirs of harmonizing vocal tracks, and clannish drums. The track then breaks down to a soft beat while Ruess speaks as if to himself, “so this is it. I sold my soul for this, washed my hands of that for this, I missed my mom and dad for this…” This is the magnum opus of Fun.’s musical prowess, and even when Nate’s voice ascends into an auto-tuned falsetto in the bridge, it seems appropriate given the massive and sublimely chaotic nature of the track.
The third track, “We Are Young”, featuring the gorgeous and talented Janelle Monae, is currently propelling Fun. to the highest tiers of breakout pop fame. It’s already spent two weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard hot 100, and has garnered enough attention to be featured in both Glee and in a Chevy Super Bowl commercial. One listen to the song is enough to understand why. An indie-pop take on the stereotypical alcohol-influenced party songs, Nate Ruess infuses the track with his bittersweet, bare, and honest lyrics. “We Are Young” is not only a celebration of the twisted and proud disparity of youth, but also is in itself a beautifully warped love song. Monae and Ruess deliver the lyric “carry me home tonight” with such longing and affection that it feels like a profession of love instead of a drunken request. And perhaps that’s part of what makes the song so incredibly powerful, where the romance of youth is conceptualized through the immature advocacy of mind-numbing inebriation.
“Carry On” is one of the few tracks in the album that closely resembles the sound of Aim & Ignite. Ruess’ solitary voice takes precedence over the piano and acoustic guitar that flow through the first verse and into the chorus. When “Carry On” takes on the sound of a full band in the following verses and choruses, it’s still much more subdued than in the previous three tracks. The synthesized parts of the composition are mostly organic in sound, composed of horn sections, flutes, and accordians, and the bridge is lead by a raucous guitar solo. Ruess takes a supportive stance in “Carry On”, giving advice such as, “if you’re lost and alone, or you’re sinking like a stone, carry on!” This is one of the weaker tracks on the album, but still stands as one of its more optimistic songs.
“It Gets Better” opens with a comically ridiculous drum track, before blasting in with loud, tuneful, and catchy guitars. Ruess doctors his voice to every level in the dance-rock track, but his vocal talent still manages to shine through the distortion and auto-tune. Lyrically, the song doesn’t take any creative leaps, and the chorus is mostly driven by the repeating phrase “it gets better”. However, with such a fun, feel-good track, it fits well within the confines of the arrangement. This is one of the most pop-oriented songs on the album, and is reminiscent of some of Hellogoodbye’s earliest works. Nate Ruess’ autotune may seem a bit jarring at first, particularly to those fans that appreciate his earlier vocal work with Fun. and The Format. However, in the scope of such a daring experimental pop album, it fits.
“Why Am I The One” is another track that sonically leads back to the 70’s classic rock influence of Aim & Ignite, and once again, pulls off that sound flawlessly. Here we find Ruess, Dost, and Antonoff channeling the supple, sunny pop of Elton John, hitting closest to Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” with the complex harmonies and stripped acoustics. Ruess chronicles a failing relationship and the emptiness that pervades the partnership, shelving out piece after piece of lyrical gold, including “my life’s become as vapid as a night out in Las Vegas.” While this song may be overshadowed by some of the more ambitiously composed pieces in Some Nights, it’s one of the best-written songs on the album, and also is the most thematically consistent.
Some Nights is heavily driven by hip-hop influences, and “All Alone” is the best indication of that. Those influences, coupled with Fun.’s penchant for classic rock, creates a quirky, vibrant slice of pop that makes “All Alone” one of the standout tracks on the album. Vocal samples, spirited keys, and crisp beats carry the song from beginning to end, and Ruess’ light, pitch-perfect voice blesses the song with a fun and vivacious tone. One of the most venerable aspects of this track is the sharp contrast between the upbeat composition and the dreary tone of the lyrics. “All Alone” finds Ruess unsatisfied with the relationships in his life, and he capitalizes on his loneliness in the chorus, “I feel so all alone, no one’s gonna fix me when I’m broke.”
The next two tracks, “All Alright” and “One Foot”, are both noteworthy in the fact that the sonic qualities of each track embody the themes outlined in their respective song titles. “All Alright” is best described as a listless, apathetic pop song, where everything from Ruess’ vocals to Dost and Antonoff’s instrumentals seems tired and worn out. “It’s all alright, I guess it’s all alright, I’ve got nothing left inside of my chest but it’s all alright.” Even the lyrics themselves are lethargic, and the song flows like mud. The singular outstanding part of “All Alright” is the beginning of the bridge, where a choir of voices harmonizes “ooooh” over symphonic synthesizers and reverberating claps.
“One Foot” is probably one of the most underrated tracks on the album. The song itself is composed mainly of a single loop of orchestrated horn sections, chugging along steadily as if the song itself is taking slow, calculated steps towards it’s end. The chorus’ lyrics add emphasis to that concept, “I 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.” Ruess also gives us sharp insight on his views on religion, filling the second verse with his biting bitterness concerning the perceived lack of God in his life. As sacrilegious and depressing as the song is, the originality of the sound and lyrics are too astoundingly impressive to discount. Fun. bridges into the territory of “noise-pop” with this record, where the cacophony of sound comes off as more catchy than annoying.
The final track, “Stars” is almost 7 minutes long, but it’s strength as a record only spans the first two minutes. Set in motion by ambient synthesizers, clapping, and clunking beats, Ruess spends most of the song skipping around lyrically, stringing together thoughts and memories without making any real sense. His voice rises to a scream before falling back into a thick cloud of auto-tune, spending the remaining five minutes in one long freestyle singsong verse. The auto-tuned verse is enjoyable for a few minutes, but soon grows redundant, particularly towards the end.
The bonus track, “Out On The Town,” is much more guitar-oriented than the majority of the album’s tracks, and is a bit more organic in composition, other than the crunching synthesizers in the chorus. The track shines with an 80’s glam rock flare, and once again we find Ruess trying to make sense of his flawed and failed relationships amongst fantastically harmonious vocals and Dost and Antonoff’s intricate, animated arrangement.
It will be interesting to see how Fun. deals with their bout of recent fame, and it will be interesting to see how their success will affect their future releases. I guess only time will tell, but for now, pick up a copy of Some Nights on iTunes or Amazon, and immerse yourself in the experience that is Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost, and Jack Antonoff’s musical masterpiece.
Author: Christopher Will
Bio: Christopher Will is a junior studying Communications and English at Penn State. He enjoys scouring the internet for the latest pop music news and gossip, and loves sharing new music with his friends and peers. Some of his favorite artists include Breathe Carolina, Fun., Childish Gambino, Gotye, Yellowcard, and Robyn.
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