The Basics: The only way to appreciate Fun is by turning off one’s brain, but their message is misogynistic and militaristic for anyone who hears their music.
Music, like all forms of art, has the ability to influence its listeners and impassion an audience to feel emotions or take a stand based upon the desires of the artist. Music frequently gets blamed for the social ills and rebellious spirit of the younger generation – from the hip-shaking imagery of Elvis Presley to the open anarchy of Public Enemy. But on the radio today, coming out of the young music artists, there is a prevalence of an attitude that does not so much encourage youth rebellion as it inspires the glorification of “young and dumb.” Ke$ha openly embraces an attitude of young and slutty (promiscuous does not enter into it as much as drunk, disorderly, and easy). But, despite that obvious – and to many young women unappealing – approach taken by Ke$ha and her ilk and the preponderance toward misogyny in modern rap (this is nothing new and is openly combated by the likes of Dr. Cosby), after a debate with my young sister-in-law on the Fun song “We Are Young,” it occurred to me that there is no band on the radio today promoting willful stupidity and self-destructiveness than Fun.
Fun has, from their album Some Nights, two radio hits. Both “We Are Young” and “Some Nights” are catchy radio jingles that play off the listener’s easy attachment to repetitive, epic-sounding lines. And if Fun’s songs had no lyrics, they would be harmless enough. Unfortunately, though, they do.
The debate with my sister-in-law came from my assertion that it is incomprehensible that all the “family values” types that raised a stink about any number of obvious rap songs or the flagrant sexuality of Madonna have not had any issue with their children listening to the music of Fun. Fun’s first hit might seem innocuous enough with the repetitive refrain of “Tonight / We are young / So let’s set the world on fire / We can burn brighter than the sun” (“We Are Young”). It seems to be an anthem of youth empowerment.
But, in order to get to what appears to be a song about kids making the most of their lives, one has to get through the intro. Young people who are fans of Fun, like my teenage sister-in-law, seem to go to long lengths to avoid actually paying attention to the opening to “We Are Young.” In the opening, Fun sings a musical storysong about a guy in a bar who has a lover who is being approached by a new man, “. . . 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 . . .” (“We Are Young”) and who is acting as a lookout for his friends who are in the bathroom doping up.
This is not a song about youth empowerment, it is an anthem that openly disregards abusing women and encourages drug use and lawbreaking (acting as a lookout). And all of that is fine in the world of “We Are Young” and Fun because they are just kids doing what kids do. Note to young people: apologies don’t have holes, excuses do. If someone is giving excuses for why they hit another person, they are rationalizing, not expressing remorse. Good people don’t do that. And listeners should not buy into the idea that any action can be justified or brushed off solely by the flimsy excuse that those committing the transgressions are young.
And yet, “We Are Young” not only received massive airplay and a Grammy nomination, it had enough financial success for Fun to encourage the label to release a second single. The second single was “Some Nights” and while it, too, seems like a powerful anthem, it has been co-opted by military enthusiasts for an obvious reason: while it has a catchy tune, it advocates thoughtless obedience to a militant cause.
In “Some Nights,” the musical protagonist constantly asks and asserts, “What do I stand for? / Most nights I don’t know . . .” Despite the song declaring that the protagonist is in a state of war and having militant drumming ideal for marches, “Some Nights” advocates a position that glorifies young and dumb again. The musical protagonist is fighting a war (“This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?”), yet doesn’t know what their own principles are. This might be why after declaring they are part of a war, they are willing to suggest, “Why don’t we break the rules already?” (“Some Nights”). This isn’t a song advocating a military mindset, it is a subtle justification for torture, mercenary killing, and lack of respect for human life. The very last people in the world who should be in the military are those who lack principles; who fights, who kills, without having an ideal or nation they are fighting for? Psychopaths.
“Some Nights” is a glorification of a sociopathic viewpoint. Following on the heels of a song that only works if one is willing to completely ignore the spousal abuse component or accept that even violence against women is fine, so long as it is young people committing the violence, this is a mortifying state of affairs. How Fun’s works remain on the radio is a mystery; all Americans – not just parents – should reject the band Fun and its works and try to get radio stations to stop playing their songs. After all, if the track record so far is domestic violence and unprincipled killing, do we really want to know what the subject of the “third strike” song might be before listeners are exposed to it?
For other musical analysis commentary, please visit my article on why the LGBT Community Should Actively Boycott Katy Perry.
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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