Some parts of the 2010s are enjoying a comeback, but fun. will not be one of them

in retrospect

It’s the Grammy Awards Show, 2013. The camera turns to Jack Antonoff. He throws his head back, his face framed by his signature black glasses as he rips into a twenty-second guitar solo to the delight of the roaring crowd in front of him. 

The camera turns back to Nate Ruess, frontman for the band fun. He flings his fist skyward while rain begins to pour down, soaking everyone on stage. The crowd responds in turn with another roar, this one louder than the last. Ruess leans in close to the microphone: “Cause we are, we are shining stars / We are invincible / We are who we are!”

Time would tell that fun. was, in fact, not invincible. The band wouldn’t create any more albums, and, by 2015, was on an “indefinite hiatus.”  Rather than a shining star, fun. would prove to be a shooting star, come and gone in the blink of an eye. But how did they get to the point of breaking up? 

On December 6, 2011, season three, episode eight of “Glee” debuted. Towards the end of the episode, nearly the entire cast comes together to give a rendition of the indie-rock band’s new lead single, “We Are Young.” The cover shot the previously largely unknown group to stardom, and from there it seemed fun. could do nothing wrong. With the ever-quirky vocalist Nate Ruess at the helm, the band rolled in achievements: the first number one song by a rock band in more than a decade (“We Are Young”), two massive Grammy awards (Best New Artist and Song of the Year), and a platinum-certified album (“Some Nights”). 

Unfortunately, this success was not built to last. As the band’s recognition grew, so did its frontman’s ego — Ruess wanted to go solo. The band went on its “indefinite” hiatus in 2015 and has yet to come back. Nevertheless, Ruess quickly moved on, releasing his solo debut album, “Grand Romantic,” only four months later. One problem, though — Ruess couldn’t play any instruments. No longer able to lean on his teammates to flesh out his goofy song ideas, “Grand Romantic” was an uninspiring critical and commercial failure. 

Somewhat ironically, while Ruess fell on his face post-fun., Jack Antonoff thrived. The guitarist found a niche as one of the best indie-pop producers in the industry, working with names such as Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Carly Rae Jepsen. Perhaps his most fruitful collaboration has been with none other than Taylor Swift, a partnership that has borne him many of his most successful and acclaimed songs, as well as two Album of the Year Grammy wins for “1989” and “Folklore.” He also has three consecutive Producer of the Year nominations, with hopes for his first victory in the category this coming April. 

If Antonoff wins, it will be a testament to his longevity in a rapidly changing music industry — “Some Nights” turned ten years old in February. Was fun’s success all because of him, though? While it may seem that way — since it was Antonoff, not Ruess, that survived the band’s death — ”Some Nights” tells a more complicated story. 

At the very least, Antonoff’s craft is clear throughout the album. Nowhere is that more obvious than on “It Gets Better,” a rather spindly track hanging on for dear life to Antonoff’s signature rhythmic guitar line. Elsewhere, the trail is fainter — the outro in “Some Nights,”  the glorious guitar solo in “Carry On” — as Antonoff’s talent occasionally pokes its head out of the ocean of Ruess’s personality. 

Ruess’s songwriting on the album, although occasionally a tad odd, did gift the album an unmistakable charm. “We Are Young” is cheesily earnest in the way a beloved, enthusiastic English teacher might be. “Some Nights - Intro” is theatrically over-the-top, while “All Alone” is straight-forward and approachable. Although he may not have had the talent to forge his own path in the music industry, fun. was fun because of Ruess. 

There is virtually no hope that fun. will ever get back together again. Rumors that the band’s split was acrimonious abound, and Antonoff is likely too busy to pick up the project again. There’s also far less demand now for the quirky acts that once populated the early 2010s. As fun. continues to sink further into the past, the hope of a miraculous reunion fades. 

Jonathan Pertile | Recess Editor

Jonathan Pertile is a Trinity senior and recess editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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