Released: Feb. 21
Nate Ruess is no stranger to change. After leaving The Format, the band that catapulted the Phoenix native to moderate mainstream success, Ruess took some time off before starting fun., a New York City-based indie-pop trio. The changes between Ruess’ first release with The Format and fun.’s “Some Nights” couldn’t be more drastic, but the vocalist has finally found his niche.
Ruess has been a longtime skeptic of mainstream popularity. The band name The Format was chosen as a joke of how most music follows a typical, cookie-cutter format to become a hit. Their second album “Dog Problems” was also met with a set of problems stemming from Ruess’ inability to compromise with a major label’s demands. The album was eventually released through the band’s own record label, The Vanity Label, and management company Nettwerk.
Critics generally praised the album, but despite the band’s success, The Format released a statement on Feb. 4, 2008 that they were calling it quits. Ruess then left Arizona to pursue other opportunities in New York City. He teamed up with Steel Train’s guitarist Jack Antonoff and Anathallo’s pianist/vocalist Andrew Dost and formed fun. — a band with a name as unique as its sound. The band released its debut album “Aim & Ignite” in August 2009.
Upon fun.’s debut release, it was clear Ruess was a man on a mission. Record label and band issues were a thing of the past. The new group wasn’t The Format part two, either. Ruess’ pop sensibility and instantly recognizable voice were still present, but the band took on a fresh identity.
From the first piano-laden notes of “Some Nights (Intro)” to the Kanye West-esque outro of “Stars,” the band explores nearly every sonic avenue possible by an indie-pop group. Having been immensely inspired by Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” the band decided to explore a completely new route and teamed up with hip-hop producer Jeff Bhasker, co-producer of West’s universally-acclaimed album.
In an interview with Interview magazine, Ruess called the process of recording and releasing the album one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” the singer said. “Nothing has been as much of a highlight for me as the last six or seven months.”
Ruess stands by his words, too. On “Why Am I The One,” he sings, “For once, for once, for once / I get the feeling I’m right where I belong.”
On “Some Nights,” the band introduces more hip-hop influences into their standard indie-pop sound. The album’s lead single, “We Are Young,” features vocals from R&B singer Janelle Monáe, a friend of Bhasker’s. The song was covered on the popular show “Glee,” and was featured as the soundtrack of a Chevrolet commercial during Super Bowl XLVI.
Despite the success fun. is enjoying from “Some Nights,” the album is unlike many albums that propel indie rock groups to mainstream success. It is a delightfully catchy album, with each song serving a unique purpose to the variety-filled record.
The epic, nearly seven-minute album closer, “Stars,” is one of the most perfect finishes to an album in recent memory. The song utilizes smooth, string choruses, Auto-Tuned vocals and seemingly everything in between. Dost, Antonoff and Ruess pulled out all the stops on “Some Nights” — and it does not go unappreciated.
On “Some Nights,” fun. manages to build on everything Ruess has done up to this point in his career. The album is a true gem, and it stands as the crowning achievement of the frontman’s storied career.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org