The Dailies

The Dailies will be concluding on November 6, 2019. As part of our closing, we're compiling a "Greatest Hits" collection, so send us your favorite items from our six year history.

Word of the Day

Loquacious (adj., low-KWAY-shuss)

Loquacious means extremely talkative. It doesn't necessarily mean "using long sentences," but it doesn't really rule that out. It just means that you talk a lot. About things. Whatever comes to mind, really. It could be that you're not super-talkative but then when you start talking you continue until you have nothing more to say and a few plants have gone through an entire photosynthesis cycle—which is crazy. Anyway, yeah, it means talkative.

Gif of the Day

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Link of the Day

II. Some Nights I feel more millenial than others

Some things just happen at the right time.

Fun—sorry, fun.—released their album Some Nights back in 2012. I didn’t really give it a listen until late 2018. Part of this was my own snobbishness. That album was EVERYWHERE during 2012 and 2013. It won Record of the Year for single “We Are Young,” was featured on countless commercials, and was played on every pop/rock radio station at least once an hour. When something is that overexposed, I try my hardest to avoid it, and I avoided the album until six years later. Credit belongs to The Solid Verbal podcast, who had a recurring bit where they adapted the opening to the album’s song “Carry On” for Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. I listened to the album in full sometime late last year. It was the right time.

Some Nights is an album about your 20’s, not an album for your 20’s. Nate Ruess, the lead singer and songwriter, was 30 when the album came out. It’s unmistakably his lyrical style, finding poetry in the mundanity of personal life, but it showcases so much of 21st-century millennial life, especially if you’re in a city. Ruess picked the album name long before the album was done, noting that it felt like a cool album name (so meta!) but also reflected how memories of evenings shift and people change as they go through their experiences. That duplicitousness of memory is a feature of age, but the experiences are a feature of youth. 30 is the time when those two start to cross over. When you reflect on the stories that you’re telling, you start to wonder if they’re really quite as fun as they were to you and, by extension, why they actually were that fun to you. Are you, actually, fun.?

Throughout the album, Ruess deals with this inflection point between youth and maturity. The title track—the first song on the album after an intro—ends its first verse, “What do I stand for? / Most nights I don’t know anymore.” The music moves into its anthemic pulse as the singer states his desire to fight, break the rules—the things of youth—only for the song to slow as the singer wonders who he is and states that he’s “scared you’ll forget me again.” Is he talking about a lost love? Is he talking as his former self to his current self? Is he talking to his fans, current or former? Is he talking to his family, who he doesn’t see? All the interpretations fit, and not just on this track. Nearly every song can be read through each of these four lenses, giving them a different feeling. There is nothing that is clear and black-and-white. There is nothing that you feel confident stating as fact and building your interpretation around. This, too, is 30. It is the time when you reflect on all you’ve done to date and wonder what it actually meant, what it should mean, and whether you’ve just been a fool. Can you rely on the things, the principles, the friends you built your life around in your 20s? Or are they starting to shake too? btw, who are you, especially this changing version of you?

Ruess is smart enough to realize that this is a universal struggle (they are a pop band, after all) but also that his friends are going through it too. And when friends seem to shake and when your career is uncertain, you lean back on the two things that usually don’t shake: family and religion. Religion, for Ruess, is clear: God is fake, faith is a crutch, and loving others is the rule of life. If this seems blunt and wrong, you are not a millennial. It is a generation that believes and embodies this as completely as they think they can. This belief has downstream effects that they often miss, too, like how not believing in a God who orders life means that life’s meaning is up to you to create—no pressure—or how it leaves everyone on their own. If everyone’s individuals, then the only ties you have to stability are your family. But what if you’ve take a job in a city, far from your family? Ruess’ family was in Arizona while he wrote Some Nights in New York. The strain of separation is a theme of his lyrics here. On the penultimate “Stars,” he states that he misses his mom “so much.” On other tracks, he talks about his sister and his nephew with sadness and wonder. But he is still in New York City, by choice. He’s there for a career that’s clearly natural to him but he also feels ambivalent about. He longs for the embrace of someone who knows and loves him. The narrator, like Odysseus, longs for home. Unlike Odysseus, he is not returning to his home but is wandering until he finds a place or person that feels like it. It is not hard to see how agonizing this can be. The isolation of this position! And to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of being untrue to oneself (“selling out”) and indulging one’s need for belonging (“setting down roots”) without people that can help support or guide you? Odysseus, the wise, barely made it to safety alive. How will any millennials find what they need?

I found this album at 31, six months after I’d moved out of my childhood home, out on my own. I was old enough to realize that the lyrics spoke a different story than the music. (Typical millennials, masking their problems and emptiness behind a wall of upbeat, perfectly-composed shareables.) The dichotomy spoke to me immediately. I wasn’t comfortable with fun., the massive world-conquerors, but I was comfortable with Nate Ruess’ honest, struggling narrator. My 20s were half-similar. I started out trying to find who I was and wanted to be about, only to be interrupted by a family crisis that forced me to grow up quickly and fight to hold onto family. Like a millennial, I cared about the people deeply, but I got pulled in two directions. I felt both. Moving out was partly a way to move on and resume establishing myself. Hearing Ruess put voice to words, at the moment I heard him, was like watching someone play you in a stage production. It’s not you. It’s close. And because you’re watching it instead of doing it, you want to tell the person where to step and where to avoid. You get to see yourself and determine if that’s who you want to be.

I wouldn’t have liked Some Nights if I heard it in full before. I sneakily love it now. It’s not just the lyrics, too; the production is terrific and so perfectly of my generation. The band had been enthralled by Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy—the single best mainstream album of the 2010s and one that partly defines them—and decided to hire its producer. The result was a far cry from fun.’s previous album or the albums the three band members had put out before. It was dense with ideas, sampling, auto-tuning, layering, and mashing many things into a pop/rock combo thoroughly infused by hip-hop. It was the perfect album to pass the torch from one generation’s music to the next. Some Nights is a bender, underpinned by the dark reality of what’s going on but goodness, the highs. There’s something in that wildness that appeals to us. We long to be young, younger than we are, young as we once were. But we are not. Instead, we get to sing along and be nostalgic.

Perhaps the most interesting part of fun. is that Some Nights was the end. They blew up the musical universe, then quickly and amicably broke up without releasing a third album. Some Nights is the last fun. album we’ll probably have. In their statement, the band members noted that fun. happened at a unique point in their life when each of them were coming out of their old bands. fun. was a way forward. It was the bridge between the groups they spent their early 20s in and their future careers—actually, no, that didn’t happen for most of them. Perhaps the best analogy is that fun. was like a modern first marriage, something done out of passion in youth, destroyed out of expectations, and ended politely so that each party can, in theory, flourish separately. Will they? Who knows. Ruess released one solo album, got married, and has been mostly quiet since. Jack Antonoff has produced a number of good albums. Andrew Dost hasn’t done much since at all. fun., for the three of them, stands as a period where they got established as their own persons.

“Stars,” my favorite track, hints at this. Ruess once again plays with meaning: are the stars the literal stars that we look up to and fill the nights with light and beauty or are they the entertainers like fun. who captivate Americans and are what millennials try to be? Over the course of the song, the vocals become more and more auto-tuned until they’re indistinguishably electronic. The singer has become part of the machine as the music has become drum-machine rhythmic. Before they get there, Ruess notes how much he misses his family and expresses his discomfort with stardom. The end is left open, but it’s not hard to see where it’s heading. A true millennial sets their course by their own compass, and Ruess’ compass is pointing homewards. That’s what happened to him after the album. In retrospect, we should’ve seen it coming, right?

Perhaps, but Some Nights has a twofold lesson, and it’s that while each thing is special in its own time for its own reasons, we always only see the tip of the iceberg. As a younger man, I am aware that I don’t know everything. I’m not sure I’m smarter than I was when I was younger, but I’m wiser. The Dailies will absolutely be a feature of my 20s, and it ends while I am in my 30s. That’s not surprising. That’s life. But it takes until then to realize why. fun. managed to chronicle that exact moment at a moment when things were shifting under the surface and gave us a brilliant piece of vulnerable pop art. They ended, yes. But a thing is not beautiful because it lasts, not always. Sometimes the beauty of a thing is how it burns. That’s how the world gets set on fire, by youths who burn brighter than the son, only to need to be carried back home.

TagsEssay SeasonMusicfun.Growing upBlack-and-white metaphor?