100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #20: “We Are Young” by fun. ft. Janelle Monáe

The song at #20 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “We Are Young” by New York-based band fun., featuring Janelle Monáe. The second song by fun. on this list (their follow-up single “Some Nights” ranks at #81), “We Are Young” is a life-affirming, fist-pumping anthem celebrating the hope and promise of young adulthood, as well as touching on regret for past mistakes. Released in September 2011, the track initially gained attention from only online media, though it did receive its first commercial radio airplay on Tampa Bay alternative radio station 97X upon its debut. But it was soon covered by the hit television show Glee, then licensed for use in a Chevrolet Sonic commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLVI, which propelled it, and fun. to mainstream success. The song became a huge hit around the world, reaching #1 in more than 10 countries, including Canada, Australia, the UK and the U.S.. It became a crossover hit, spending many weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Top 40 and Alternative charts.

The band teamed up with producer, songwriter & instrumentalist Jeff Bhasker (who’s produced albums and songs for Kanye West, Alicia Keys, P!nk, Jay-Z and Beyonce, among others) for their album Some Nights, of which “We Are Young” was the lead single. Together they used a rich palette of orchestral instrumentals and keyboard synths, and layered them over a thumping drumbeat that starts off like a military march, then slows to a pounding, bass-driven hip hop groove, highlighted by a repetitive banging piano riff. Lead singer Nate Ruess’ vocals are lovely, with an almost tender vulnerability as he sings the poignant opening lyrics:

Give me a second I
I need to get my story straight
My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State
My lover she’s waiting for me just across the bar
My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking ’bout a scar, and
I know I gave it to you months ago
I know you’re trying to forget
But between the drinks and subtle things
The holes in my apologies, you know
I’m trying hard to take it back
So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

He told Rolling Stone that the lyrics were inspired by “my worst drinking night of all time.” He said he was kicked out of a taxi for vomiting all over it, and all he could do was stand on the street corner with his head against the wall. Singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe, a personal friend of Bhasker, provided guest vocals for the chorus, but some felt her considerable talents were wasted by giving her such a small presence on the song. That said, “We Are Young” is a great track overall.

The music video, directed by Marc Klasfeld, was filmed at David Sukonick Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and touches on youthful angst, young love and raging hormones. The band is shown performing on a stage in a bar, which erupts into a slow motion bar fight.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #81: “Some Nights” by fun.

The song at #81 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Some Nights” by New York City-based alternative pop-rock band fun. Formed in 2008, fun. consists of singer-songwriter Nate Ruess, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost and singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer Jack Antonoff (who’s also front man for the terrific band Bleachers). Their debut album Aim and Ignite was fairly well-received, though a commercial disappointment. But it was their second album Some Nights that propelled fun. to international fame. The title track “Some Nights” was the second single and follow-up to their massive hit “We Are Young” (which appears later on this list). The song was a worldwide hit, reaching #1 in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and Israel, and also the Billboard Alternative, Rock and Adult Top 40 Charts. It reached #3 on the Hot 100.

With both folk rock and power pop elements, “Some Nights” has an incredibly exuberant melody, with a powerful military-style drumbeat and Ruess’ commanding vocals that give it a jubilant vibe. The song has been favorably compared to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”, and in fact, in an interview with Billboard, Ruess stated that Paul Simon’s Graceland was a major influence for the song. He added that the song is about “just being someone different on any given night.” In another interview with Mesfin Fekadu of the Associated Press, Ruess explained: “I’m always thinking about, ‘Who am I and why did I do something like that?’ And I think then it harkens back to my family, and I have such a strong tie to them and it’s always therapeutic to sing about them.”

The rather dark and intense video, produced by Poonam Sehrawat and directed by Anthony Mandler, depicts a fictional battle taking place during the American Civil War. The band is shown performing the song from afar as a battle breaks out, with lead singer Ruess appearing as the commander of the Union force.

In early 2015, fun. announced they were going on hiatus so that each band member could pursue their own individual projects. Ruess sang on P!nk’s 2013 hit single “Just Give Me a Reason” (which will also appear later on this list), and on Eminem’s 2014 single “Headlights”, and released a solo album Grand Romantic in June 2015 to mostly positive reviews. Andrew Dost wrote the soundtrack for the 2015 black comedy The D Train, and is currently working on new music. In addition to his work as front man for Bleachers, Jack Antonoff has worked as a songwriter and producer with several renowned artists, including Taylor Swift (on her albums 1989, Reputation, Lover and Folklore), Lorde (on her album Melodrama), St. Vincent (on her album Masseduction), Lana Del Rey (on Norman Fucking Rockwell) and The Chicks (on their album Gaslighter).

Top 20 Songs for January 21-27, 2018

1. ONE FOOT – WALK THE MOON (1)
2. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal.The Man (3)
3. PAIN – The War on Drugs (8)
4. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (2)
5. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (7)
6. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (9)
7. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (4)
8. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (11)
9. RX(MEDICATE) – THEORY (5)
10. ANGELA – The Lumineers (6)
11. PASSION – AWOLNATION (12)
12. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (13)
13. LOS AGELESS – St. Vincent (15)
14. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (10) 20th week on list
15. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (17)
16. ALL ON MY MIND – Anderson East (18)
17. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (14)
18. HAPPY HOUR – Weezer (19)
19. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (20)
20. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (16)

Top 50 Songs of 2012

2012 was an exciting year for music, with more great songs from Adele, The Black Keys, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk and Coldplay. A number of new artists, including fun., Ed Sheeran and Walk the Moon emerged on the music scene with songs that became instant classics. Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” was a huge crossover hit, and ended up being the #1 Song of the Year on Billboard’s Hot 100, Rock, Adult Pop and Alternative Charts. It also was awarded a Grammy for Record of the Year, and is my favorite song of 2012. Here are my 50 favorite songs of 2012.

1. SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW – Gotye featuring Kimbra

2. TONGUE TIED – Grouplove
3. WE ARE YOUNG – fun. Featuring Janelle Monae
4. LONELY BOY – The Black Keys
5. SET FIRE TO THE RAIN – Adele
6. SOME NIGHTS – fun.
7. COUGH SYRUP – Young the Giant
8. CALL ME MAYBE – Carly Rae Jepsen
9. ONE MORE NIGHT – Maroon 5
10. STRONGER (WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU) – Kelly Clarkson
11. PARADISE – Coldplay
12. BLOW ME (ONE LAST KISS) – P!nk
13. BURN IT DOWN – Linkin Park
14. THE A TEAM – Ed Sheeran
15. PAYPHONE – Maroon 5
16. PRINCESS OF CHINA – Coldplay featuring Rihanna
17. WE FOUND LOVE – Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
18. GLAD YOU CAME – The Wanted
19. DON’T STOP (COLOR ON THE WALLS) – Foster the People
20. HOME – Phillip Phillips
21. EVERYBODY TALKS – Neon Trees
22. GOLD ON THE CEILING – The Black Keys
23. TAKE A WALK – Passion Pit
24. RUMOUR HAS IT – Adele
25. LIGHTS – Ellie Goulding
26. WIDE AWAKE – Katy Perry
27. IT WILL RAIN – Bruno Mars
28. MIDNIGHT CITY – M83
29. TITANIUM – David Guetta featuring Sia
30. GOOD FEELING – Flo Rida
31. ANNA SUN – Walk the Moon
32. GIVE YOUR HEART A BREAK – Demi Lovato
33. WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL – One Direction
34. TOO CLOSE – Alex Clare
35. DRIVE BY – Train
36. LITTLE BLACK SUBMARINES – The Black Keys
37. RUNAWAYS – The Killers
38. THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY – Katy Perry
39. LET ME LOVE YOU – Ne-Yo
40. HALL OF FAME – The Script featuring will.i.am
41. THESE DAYS – Foo Fighters
42. FINE BY ME – Andy Grammer
43. I WON’T GIVE UP – Jason Mraz
44. WILD ONES – Flo Rida featuring Sia
45. CHARLIE BROWN – Coldplay
46. HOLD ON – Alabama Shakes
47. NOT OVER YOU – Gavin DeGraw
48. NOT YOUR FAULT – Awolnation
49. DAYS GO BY – The Offspring
50. MR. KNOW IT ALL – Kelly Clarkson

Top 50 Songs of 2013

A number of talented alternative, indie rock and hip hop bands and artists emerged on the music scene in 2013, including Lorde, The Neighbourhood, Capital Cities, Bastille, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Lana Del Rey. Other established artists such as P!nk, OneRepublic, Bruno Mars, Muse, Fitz & the Tantrums, Rihanna and Fall Out Boy also produced some memorable songs. My pick for the best song of 2013 is “Sweater Weather,” the achingly beautiful song of young love and lust by The Neighbourhood.

1. SWEATER WEATHER – The Neighbourhood

2. CAN’T HOLD US – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton
3. RADIOACTIVE – Imagine Dragons
4. SAFE AND SOUND – Capital Cities
5. OUT OF MY LEAGUE – Fitz & the Tantrums
6. JUST GIVE ME A REASON – P!nk featuring Nate Ruess
7. LOCKED OUT OF HEAVEN – Bruno Mars
8. COUNTING STARS – OneRepublic
9. MADNESS – Muse
10. ROYALS – Lorde
11. THRIFT SHOP – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
12. BLURRED LINES – Robin Thicke + Pharrell + T.I.
13. HO HEY – The Lumineers
14. WAKE ME UP! – Avicii
15. STAY – Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko
16. GET LUCKY -Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
17. LITTLE TALKS – Of Monsters and Men
18. DON’T YOU WORRY CHILD – Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin
19. IT’S TIME – Imagine Dragons
20. ELEPHANT – Tame Impala
21. CARRY ON – fun.
22. WHEN I WAS YOUR MAN – Bruno Mars
23. WAYS TO GO – Grouplove
24. POMPEII – Bastille
25. I WILL WAIT – Mumford & Sons
26. SUMMERTIME SADNESS – Lana Del Rey
27. CATCH MY BREATH – Kelly Clarkson
28. MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK – Fall Out Boy
29. DAYLIGHT – Maroon 5
30. MIRRORS – Justin Timberlake
31. DEMONS – Imagine Dragons
32. TROJANS – Atlas Genius
33. ROAR – Katy Perry
34. MISS JACKSON – Panic! At the Disco
35. TREASURE – Bruno Mars
36. CLARITY – Zedd featuring Foxes
37. HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME – Drake
38. THE MONSTER – Rihanna + Eminem
39. TAKE BACK THE NIGHT – Justin Timberlake
40. HARLEM – New Politics
41. SAIL – AWOLNATION
42. LEADER OF THE BROKEN HEARTS – Papa Roach
43. I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE – Taylor Swift
44. LOVE SOMEBODY – Maroon 5
45. A LIGHT THAT NEVER COMES – Linkin Park
46. SAME LOVE – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert
47. BRAVE – Sara Bareilles
48. SWEET NOTHING – Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch
49. DIAMONDS – Rihanna
50. TRY – P!nk