Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fun.'s Some Nights

This article also appears on Ground Control.

If there’s any song that feels poised for “Pumped Up Kicks”-style ubiquity, that song would be Fun.’s “We Are Young.” The first single from the band’s new Some Nights album has already topped the Billboard charts, as a Glee cover, months before the album’s release, and has been inescapable thanks to its commercial use (in a Chevy Sonic ad). And, just like that aforementioned Foster The People track, it is impossibly, and somewhat maddeningly, catchy.

Some Nights as a whole is a bit difficult to categorize – the collection of songs includes upbeat harpsichord-backed tracks about loneliness and encouraging chants that have been excessively autotuned. However, the album may be a less diverse collection of songs than Fun.’s previous 2010 effort Aim and Ignite. Where that album felt like it might belong to the canon of emo bands like Panic! At The Disco (with whom Fun. toured in 2011), Some Nights seems like something that could more aptly be described as post-emo.

Of course Fun. doesn’t shed its emo aesthetic completely. The song “All Alright,” with its prominent drums and hyperbolic lamentation “I’ve got nothing left inside of my chest,” could belong in the My Chemical Romance catalogue. But most notably, the release of Some Nights has brought on Queen comparisons, largely due to Fun.’s operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody”-inspired intro track, and the chanted opening on track two, “Some Nights.” At the top of the titular song singer Nate Ruess adopts a vocal style reminiscent of Freddy Mercury on “Fat Bottomed Girls”—but if Ruess begins with deep, commanding vocals, he neglects to sustain them throughout the song and he finishes in autotune territory.

In general throughout the album, the heavy autotuning and vocoder-ed falsetto feel like unnecessary constructs, especially on songs like “It Gets Better,” where Ruess might as well be T-Pain. Autotuning can eliminate all of a singer’s personality, and in this case it seems to shortchange Ruess, who, as Fun.’s appearance on Conan can prove, does have a powerful voice. If anything, the autotuning only succeeds on the album’s final track, where there’s a Wallpaper-esque R&B vibe and the computerized vocals seem to be pushed into outer space.

Ruess (who bears a passing resemblance to the comedian John Mulaney), along with Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff make up the New York band, and Fun. certainly seems to be on the verge of… something. In an age where Glee can make your song a hit before you have the chance to, who knows exactly what that something will be.

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