fun. feat. Janelle Monae – We Are Young

First Hit #1: March 17, 2012

It’s appropriate that the video for We Are Young is entirely slow motion, because it’s a slow motion song, at least in the chorus. The verses are relatively normal – if forgettable – but the showpiece is that chorus, where every single word is held for multiple bars – look at how long the word “tonight” is pulled like taffy – and all but the piano feels dragged, sustained, and stretched, turning the entire thing into something that just feels like a slow motion song. Even the piano contributes the effect, giving a punchy counterpoint to the pull of everything else. It’s a striking effect, something that gives the song itself an immediate hook and contributes significantly to its popularity. It’s not particularly different from the rest of the charts lyrically, still about partying and reckless youth, but a bit closer to closing time than most, but it’s the slow motion that makes it a hit. It pulls for emphasis, and it pulls to stand out.

As a side note, fun. is a very annoyingly punctuated band.

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One Response to fun. feat. Janelle Monae – We Are Young

  1. musicosity1 says:

    The punctuation was apparently a way to avoid confusion with, and a lawsuit from, another band just named “Fun”. Apparently if you stylize the name with all lowercase and a silent period at the end, it’s a different trademark? IDK?

    But the band actually has a great pedigree. Guitarist Jack Antonoff led the super-catchy New Wavey band Steel Train (check out this song like a lost Simple Minds track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeKM8rAl9xo). Keyboardist Andrew Dost was in Anathallo, an eccentric folk-rock collective that released a Sufjan Stevens-style concept album, “Floating World,” based on a Japanese legends (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-2x7mL2zVM), while leading worship at a Methodist church. And lead singer Nate Ruess came from The Format, a 70s pop/rock styled band that tweaked music industry clichés with cheeky song titles like “The First Single” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDvLsC9fCGc) and “Compromise.”

    The three bands toured together, and the three guys formed a sort of retro-70s supergroup. Ruess’ clear vocals make him one of the few contenders to the Freddy Mercury crown of bright yet muscular singing, and the other two guys play up the Queen connection with lushly orchestrated pop punctuated with gratuitous vulgarity, like Ben Folds is known for. The “Aim and Ignite” debut album showed their love for Beatles-quality tunefulness and production (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qMXBUjm8tM&list=PL279C2A9763984FD4), instrumental changeups, tempo variety, nonstandard chord progressions. Can you tell I love this sort of stuff? The followup “Some Nights” was even better, with the one-two punch of “Some Nights (Intro)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAyNR4CEPE8#aid=P-WD_2JmP1M) and “Some Nights” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQkBeOisNM0) providing the best album opener I’ve heard in a long time. The whole album is great.

    And yet. For all their musical adventurousness, their lyrics inhabit the tiny, tiny world of drugging and clubbing, and “We Are Young” is the worst clubbing song on the whole album. I-vi-IV-V, again. C’mon, guys. I like the severe tempo changeup and the harmonies, but Janelle Monae’s “I am a robot and will prove it by singing in a boring fashion” shtick drains all the energy from her guest vocal.

    There were four singles from this album: We Are Young, Some Nights, Carry On (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7yCLn-O-Y0), and Why Am I the One (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO6WmM7w93I). The other three are great, while this one is merely good. But through the vagaries of pop radio, this is the one that made it to #1. Go figure.

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