From a Glee shout-out to a Super Bowl commercial to, oh yeah, one of 2012's most ubiquitous hits, fun.'s Some Nights launched the group to inconceivable heights over the course of the past year. That series of professional highs culminated at last month's Grammy Awards with victories for Song of the Year (for the empowering "We Are Young") and Best New Artist, marking the final step of the trio's transformation from indie blog darlings to full-blown pop stars.
But, as frontman Nate Ruess pointed out in the group's Best New Artist acceptance speech, this isn't fun.'s first rodeo. (What he actually said was, "We're not young.") These longtime vets of the punk, emo and indie rock scenes -- as part of bands including The Format, Steel Train and Anathallo -- have crashed the mainstream pop party, bringing with them not only years of experience, but also a wealth of influences, all of which dot Some Nights in a major way. Perhaps the reason both critics and radio DJs fell for the album so thoroughly is because it's a true original, quite the feat in today's largely homogenized pop world. But on paper, it sounds like a mess: a collision of two distinct and seemingly incompatible musical eras.
The members of the group, devotees of modern hip-hop, loved recent albums from Drake and Kanye West so much they went right to the source: producer Jeff Bhasker, who helped mold fun.'s eccentric sound and add a hearty dose of radio-ready streamlining. You'll hear it on songs like "All Alone," "We Are Young" and "One Foot," with towering hip-hop beats that prove the band can match up -- at least when it comes to low end -- with their FM-dial counterparts.
But at the same time, fun. aren't afraid to look to the past for inspiration, nor are they ashamed of wearing their older influences ("older" in the eyes of the mainstream, that is) on their sleeves. Drawing from artists of the '70s and '80s, fun. fill their songs with stacked Queen-style harmonies ("Some Nights"), fragile Graceland-style folk storytelling ("Carry On") and contemplative piano pop ("Why Am I the One," which oozes Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John).
The result is an album that teeters back and forth between yesterday and today, which makes it stand out and cross generational gaps. Then again, fun. have never really played by the rules (consider that the multiplatinum title track doesn't even really contain a consistent chorus). You get the sense that the group -- mainstream conventions be damned -- is at times making things up as it goes along, but with results like these, who are we to argue?
Here are the albums that had the biggest influence on Some Nights.