Still fun, but not as fun.
When The Format broke up in 2008, I was legitimately disappointed. After becoming hooked to their album Dog Problems, I was excited to see how the band would follow it up. But that never came to be as the band’s members, Nate Ruess and Sam Means called it quits. Ruess moved forward as a musician, forming the new band, fun., with Andrew Dost of Anathallo and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train. The band’s debut album, 2009’s Aim and Ignite, continued mostly in the direction set by Nate Ruess’ writing on Dog Problems. Needless to say, I loved it. Flamboyant, theatrical, and lyrically clever, the album blended ’70s rock riffs with modern indie pop. Three years later and fun. (this period is going to cause problems) have returned with their new album Some Nights.
While fun.’s debut was dependent largely on The Format’s fans on generating any kind of buzz, Some Nights is already riding high courtesy of a lead first single, “We Are Young”, that’s been featured on Glee and in a repeatedly played Chevrolet commercial. The song is undoubtedly bigger than anything from Aim and Ignite or The Format’s catalog. With many new fans jumping on board, fun. finally seem like they’re headed toward mainstream popularity. Turns out that their popularity has come at the cost of what made them FUN to begin with.
Some Nights moves away from their first album’s sharp lyrical writing and creative instrumentation for cookie cutter indie pop reminiscent of other acts. Rather than continuing to express the singular identity they established on Aim and Ignite, fun. seem dead set on getting a hit song even if that alienates fans that appreciated their quirky side. In this sense, Nate Ruess has developed Rivers Cuomo syndrome, forgoing cleverly written songs to write pop laden atrocities that only deliver catchy choruses. Proof of that point is the abysmal “It Gets Better” — a song that I would expect from Angels & Airwaves instead of fun.
Some Night‘s music shifts sonically from Aim and Ignite. There’s an abundance of hip hop inspired beats throughout the album because that’s what the kids like. “One Foot” takes it one step (pun intended) further with Ruess modifying his vocals with studio trickery. Sadly, it’s not the only moment that he detracts from fun.’s best asset (his voice). “Stars” sounds like a redemption for the album’s previous transgressions, but for some reason, Ruess starts sounding like a robot. Oh, no…he didn’t. Yes, taking a cue from the Black Eyed Peas, Ruess muddies his voice with autotune.
The only two times that fun. are comparable to their debut album are “Some Nights Intro” and “Carry On”. Of course, “Some Nights Intro” could be considered as an intro to the afro-beat heavy “Some Nights” rather than a true song. “Carry On” deals with pulling yourself through the bleakest moments of your life — material that Ruess has covered ad nauseam. I can’t fully hate Some Nights because of Dog Problems or Aim and Ignite, but I am disappointed at the direction that the band is going. I won’t deny that Some Nights is catchy as it’s intended to be. I just wish that some of the band’s original magic wasn’t sacrificed to sell some Chevrolets.
Purchase: fun. – Some Nights