Wednesday, February 29, 2012

fun. - Some Nights

fun.'s debut, Aim and Ignite, embodied everything that pop music needed to become. It had the grand feeling of a Queen album, but blended with the instrumentation of the first Jellyfish album, and topped with the influence of  a number of modern indie pop bands, including, (as one would expect) lead singer Nate Ruess' previous band, the Format. Aim and Ignite was anything but a simple record, each song was dense and stuffed completely with various sounds no matter how briefly it occurred. It was a busy record, but it worked really well and it became the epitome of what pop music should be to anyone who gave it a listen.

Some Nights, the sophomore album by fun., is no simple record either. In many ways, it takes what Aim and Ignite did and multiplies it tenfold. By all means, Some Nights should be the greatest pop album since Thriller, but unfortunately it gets lost somewhere in its own ambition and the band essentially winds up back at square one. Some Nights had a lot of expectations to meet after the hype of Aim and Ignite, and ultimately it fails to deliver to those who had their hopes high for Aim and Ignite Part 2. Fortunately, just because Some Nights does not meet the expectations it had, it doesn't not mean that it is a particularly bad album. Just the opposite, as Some Nights is still a solid album- it is just a departure from the usual style that not only fun. was known for, but also the style that the Format was so well known for.

The album starts off with a 1-2 punch of the titular Some Nights (Intro) and Some Nights. These tracks accomplish exactly what everyone thought the album was going to be: layers of background music, from a piano to a string section, and even an opera singer, all of which one would not expect from a three piece. It's a very promising start- so promising that it's easy to forgive the auto-tuned vocals at the end of the second track: it's actually kind of cute sounding in the context of this song. The intro to We Are Young sounds like another Aim and Ignite track, before launching into the massive-sounding single that it actually is. The single is billed as featuring a guest spot from the talented Janelle Monae, which is a bit misleading as she never really gets in the spotlight: as soon as the listener realizes she's singing, her segment is over.

Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has been said to have played a major influence on the recording of Some Nights and it's very evident, especially on the latter half of the album. While fun. has been no stranger to grandiose songs, it's the little things like the hip-hop drum loop in All Alone or the bounciness of One Foot take it to new levels, almost mimicking just how big Mr. West's songs will sound sometimes. The heavily electronic sounding and auto-tuned It Gets Better and Stars are bound to cause some heated YouTube comment debates, while other songs, such as Why Am I the One? and All Alright take on an almost-gospel feel to them in their production.

It is this heavy Kanye West influence that makes Some Nights both a failure and a success. On the plus side, it shows that many of these studio tricks can, and will, transcend genres, closing the gap between hip-hop and indie pop ever so slightly. On the other hand, the album disappoints because it relies too heavily on following a format that has already proven to be commercially successful. In the past the band seemingly avoided making music that would fit into a certain mold, but Some Nights fits into a commercial mold all too well without taking as many weird risks as one might expect. Some Nights is a good album overall, but it does come off as a bit of a letdown when looked at from that perspective.

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