If you haven’t yet been infected by fun.’s single “We Are Young,” then you’re living in a cave and definitely not reading this right now. I’m not talking to you. For the rest of us, the ubiquitous song has been blasting in stores, from the windows of cars, in yoga class, and on TV (the Glee kids covered it, apparently, way back in December). The entire album, Some Nights, didn’t get released until February 21st, though, and it’s taken me until now to truly form an opinion on it.
The verdict: Some Nights is a great album, which I highly recommend to anyone who even moderately likes the music of any of the following: Queen, Mika, Kanye West, musical theater, The Dresden Dolls, Billy Joel, Ben Folds, Panic! At the Disco, or any pop-punk band. Yes, that covers almost everyone, and you’re probably wondering how all these acts relate to each other. This album is a magical mish-mosh of genres wherein all the aforementioned acts are echoed or reinvented.
The music of fun. is more intricate than most. Their first album, Aim and Ignite, was filled with songs that didn’t follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus format. (Get that album, too.) The songs were more like opuses, with different movements, changing texture or tune mid-track to express some dramatic sentiment about how life sucks sometimes, but there is so much magic in that suck-ness, so we should all enjoy it and hold on to hope.
The same theme carries throughout Some Nights: a colorful realism that feeds your brain and validates your feelings the same way reading a good novel can do. But the format of most tracks on Some Nights is more radio-friendly, packed with catchy choruses that repeat ad infinitum. The choruses are not all sugar, though; these are meaningful hooks.The album’s poetic lyricism is one of its best features. “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground,” frontman Nate Ruess intones in “Carry On”.
“Carry On” is one of the best tracks on the album, a steady piano ballad that transforms into an upbeat, triumphant sing-along. Other standout tracks besides “We Are Young” are the first two songs, both titled “Some Nights”. The intro is a poignant, operatic piano confessional that shows off lead singer Ruess’s gorgeous voice, and this morphs into track two, which is a harmonious symphony that will give you goosebumps as the gospel choir sings over tribal drums, “What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know.”
Ruess has such a wonderful vocal range that you may roll your eyes during a few songs that employ the use of heavy auto-tune. At first listen, I was disappointed by the auto-tune overtop of abrasive rap beats in songs that could do without all these bells and whistles. I began to think of this album as fun.’s answer to Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak. They’re trying something new, I thought, and I was reluctant to accept it. Come to find out, Some Nights was produced by Jeff Bhasker, who also produced 808’s and Heartbreak! Small world.
The beginning of the song “Stars” is so auto-tuned that I couldn’t tell if was Ruess singing, or if it was Cher circa 1998. And the synthesizer beat on “One Foot” is so aggressive, I was half expecting Master P to show up on the third verse and say “Uhhhh!” But over all, the lyrics and musicality behind these tracks is so good that the songs eventually did grow on me. I can’t fault fun. for trying something new; this is how art grows.
The only song I tend to skip every time is “It Gets Better”. I appreciate the sentiment, and it will be a great background track for some MTV show about teenagers who are afraid to come out of the closet, but frankly, it’s just noise. There are robotic feedback sounds under the vocals, and an ADHD, computerized drum beat behind the repetitive chorus, which sounds like it is being performed by a punk garage band comprised of 15-year-olds.
No matter, though; this album should be taken lightly. After all, it is fun.