Around the time The Format was about to release their final record Dog Problems, lead man Nate Ruess wrote a very lengthy and impassioned blog about not succumbing to the pressures from the big labels to tweak his band’s music to sell more singles. It resulted in a fantastic middle finger salute towards the industry (“The Compromise”) and Ruess gained heaps of praise and respect for his integrity.
So maybe that’s why fans will be initially shocked by Fun.’s second album (and Fueled by Ramen debut) Some Nights. But the more you listen to and dig into the album, the more you’ll realize that the manifesto that Ruess wrote nearly 6 years ago still rings true throughout. Ruess is still writing what he wants without any outside pressure, albeit this time it was something fans weren’t completely expecting.
While fun.’s debut album Aim & Ignite definitely flowed in the vein of previous Format releases, the tempo, vibe, and attitude on Some Nights is decidedly more ambitious. The boys of fun. (Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost) drew a lot of influence from notable hip-hop albums like Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Drake’s Take Care, two albums that perfectly fused emotion with extravagance. The result of these influences in combination with their previous indie-pop sound is what takes Some Nights to electrifying heights.
And fun. is well on its way to achieving those heights, as first single “We Are Young” (in which the equally beautiful and talented Janelle Monáe contributes some vocals) has climbed up the pop charts, as well as being featured in a commercial with a car that does everything but drives. But what’s truly stunning about this development is the notion that “We Are Young” may be the weakest track on the album. In fact, listeners will be spoiled by the plethora of potential singles. The uplifting “Carry On” flashes in an infectious guitar riff, while the one-two punch of “All Alone” and “All Alright” mesh different sonic qualities (hip-hop instrumentals with strings, soaring vocals, and a children’s choir to boot) to create two of the better hooks on Some Nights. And yes, there is still a handful of tracks that’ll still draw the hardcore Format and Aim & Ignite fans (the fresh-yet-familiar “Why Am I The One” is a standout), but the majority of Some Nights is the band trying out new dynamics and structures.
Those who were fans of The Format will be able to tell you that Ruess has always had a knack for inserting various sounds, instruments, and tones into his albums. It’s just this time around fun. has taken it to the extreme. Working with producer Billy Craven (who has crafted hits with the likes of Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and the aforementioned West) brought about a pristine sounding record that isn’t afraid to take chances. The bombastic “One Foot” is sure to rattle the bass in your car, while the hyperkinetic energy of “It Gets Better” sounds like a Hellogoodbye/Format super-hybrid. Your initial reaction may be one of disgust, but trust me when I say this song truly does get better with time.
But it’s the album’s bookends that will really sets the band apart from its contemporaries. The theatrical intro track is classic Ruess. Featuring a full orchestra, Ruess is entirely in his element; his voice rising and lowering with ease thus creating a beautiful give and take with the various brass and string instruments. Immediately following that are Ruess’ exuberant vocals, colossal drumming, and group vocals pacing the title track before softly breaking it down with some snazzy vocoder effects. The track doesn’t stay in one tempo for long, taking the listener on an exhilarating ride. The seven-minute “Stars” is no slouch either, as fun.’s own dark twisted fantasy closes Some Nights with an epic slice of dazzling pop.
But the only thing people will notice initially is the use of the vocoder/autotune. Sure, it’s jarring at first to hear someone with a voice like Ruess to use the tool, but once you dive into these tracks and listen to it within the context of each song, you’ll soon appreciate it. The use of it isn’t cheap and isn’t being used to push across a few more record sales. Rather fun. is using it artistically to add an unique wrinkle to their well-known sound and to continue to push their boundaries as musicians (if you haven’t noticed by now, the trio doesn’t seem too keen on being pigeonholed into one specific genre).
But whether or not you like Some Nights, there is no doubt that fun. is about to leave their mark upon the mainstream. It’s the bold, adventurous and grandiose album that the Top 40 charts needs right now. With the radio vomiting out songs that sound like remixes of remixes, it’ll be refreshing to hear Nate Ruess’ voice pour out of those speakers. Don’t be surprised if we see Ruess, Dost and Antonoff on the Staples Center stage accepting the “Best New Artist” Grammy award a year from now. And if that happens to be the case, I’m calling dibs on whothefuckisfun.tumblr.com right now.