100 & Single: fun., Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen, And The Era Of The Snowball Smash

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If you're a pop fan, I'm going to guess you like at least one of the last three No. 1 songs in America. In many ways, 2012 has been an entertaining year for discriminating chart-watchers, as a slew of left-field singles have made strides on Billboard's Hot 100.

I've met people who love fun.'s "We Are Young" featuring Janelle Monáe—it spent six weeks atop the Hot 100 for a reason—and people who hate it. But at least some members of the latter group have a soft spot for the record that ejected it from No. 1 in April, Gotye's Kimbra-assisted "Somebody That I Used to Know."

That Gotye smash, one of the least predictable chart-toppers of the last decade and the current frontrunner as Billboard's 2012 song of the year, inspired both admiration and passionate loathing during its eight weeks on top. But virtually everyone I know who hates "Somebody" loves Carly Rae Jepsen.

I mean, does anybody hate "Call Me Maybe"? About the worst thing anyone's said about it is it's like a drug. Frankly, even those of us who loved the Gotye record were rooting for Carly Rae to take over the penthouse, which she finally did in late June. Her smash is now in its ninth week on top.

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Live: Stephen Colbert Throws A Festival With The Flaming Lips, Santigold, Grizzly Bear, And fun.

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Benjamin Lozovsky
Wayne Coyne (left) and Stephen Colbert. See more photos from Colbchella here.
Colbchella: fun., Grizzly Bear, Santigold, Flaming Lips
U.S.S. Intrepid
Friday, August 10

Better than: All the world wars and Woodstocks combined.

Don't you ever question America's might. We do things bigger and crazier than other countries—and then we televise it. And while Stephen Colbert didn't officially endorse that message, he concurs. On Friday night, he took over the U.S.S. Intrepid for a nautical, turret-blazing salute to US military, industrial, and Indie rock superiority.

In dire response to the proliferation of "half-naked, patchouli-soaked, white guy dreadlock festivals," Colbert concocted Stephest Colbchella '012 Rocktaugustfest as an assertion of his fundamental conservative values and reverence of corporate sponsorship ("Pepsi, the official drink of my throat"). Colbert brought acts like The Flaming Lips, Santigold, Grizzly Bear and fun. to support his ultimate (if satirical) political goal: Self-aggrandizement and narcissistic back patting.

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Radio Hits One: Will Grouplove And Walk The Moon Follow fun. And Gotye On The Crossover Path?

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Both fun.'s "We Are Young" and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." topped the Hot 100 and the Alternative Songs chart, and did so in quick succession. The success of both those songs after a number of years when songs from the Alternative Songs chart seemed to be almost completely absent from pop radio might portend a cultural sea change, or at least the instant impact of Billboard beginning to factor Spotify streams into its formula for calculating the Hot 100.

Will a third alt-rock crossover rise to No. 1 this year? Will fun. and/or Gotye score big follow-ups, or begin to accrue the "one-hit wonder" stigma? I don't doubt that both will enjoy a healthy afterglow from their respective smashes—fun.'s "Some Nights" has already climbed to No. 8 on Alternative Songs and No. 41 on the Hot 100. But the future reception of those singles is up in the air. Will they continue to dominate both pop and alternative radio, or will they settle in one format? Both acts had followings prior to these songs—internationally in Gotye's case, and in the American indie/emo underground in fun.'s case—but neither had any previous Alternative Songs hits to establish that chart as their home base.

Ever since becoming a significant force in mainstream music in the early '90s, so-called "alternative rock" has struggled with an identity crisis about what, exactly, it's an alternative to—especially after it began to compete commercially with hard rock and metal. But even at its peak as a sales force, alt-rock has always been a relatively minor presence on the pop singles charts—Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit No. 6 on the Hot 100, but that victory helped open the floodgates for the band and its contemporaries to dominate album charts and rock airwaves. Hot 100 success remained elusive.


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Q&A: fun.'s Nate Ruess On Self-Help Lyrics, Second Chances, And "Pessimistic Optimism"

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Daniel Silbert
fun. has blanketed America with the song "We Are Young," a strange, anthemic, Queen-nodding song that, via Glee and a Super Bowl commercial, is a bright symbol of modern rock being a force in pop. On the first fun. record Aim & Ignite and in his previous band, The Format, singer Nate Ruess made music in which punk-rock sensibilities could sit uncomfortably near wild Broadway asides. His lyrics seem uncommonly directed toward the personal, and themes surface—the phrase "cause a scene" appears in both The Format's "The First Single" and fun.'s "Take Your Time (Coming Home)," with the former calling for people to "cause a scene" and the latter declaring that "we're through with causing a scene." SOTC interviewed Ruess about his lyrics and his music industry experiences.

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The 17 Best Songs Of 2012 (So Far)

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Tomorrow is the last day of March, as you might already know, and it also marks the end of the first quarter of 2012. What better way to close out a three-month span than to size up its musical offerings via playlist? Below, please find the contents of my "2012 awesomeness" playlist, a running-all-year diary of the songs that have hit my ear in a particularly pleasurable way. Among the 17 bands on it are Tanlines, Pop. 1280, fun., and Pistol Annies!

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100 & Single: fun., Gotye, M83, EDM, And The Beginning Of The Hot 100's Spotify Years

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The top three songs on Spotify, March 20, 2012. "Young" is at No. 1 on the Hot 100; "Know" is at No. 5; and "Came" is at No. 4.
How do you know when you're at the dawn of a new pop era?

It's not like someone sends a memo. Sure, occasionally there's a well-timed cultural event that offers a hint—the disastrous Altamont festival in December 1969, which signaled that the flower-power dream was over, or Comiskey Park's Disco Demolition Night in July 1979, which warned that dance music's days were numbered, at least with middle-American dudes. But even bright temporal lines like these only seem significant in retrospect, and they don't actually change the sound of young America overnight.

The same goes for the Billboard charts, the Dow Jones Industrial Average of pop. Occasionally you get a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 that feels like a revolution instantly. Or there's a blockbuster album that feels like a generational torch passing.

This week, the song sitting on top the Hot 100 doesn't necessarily sound like a revolution. But from its title on down, "We Are Young," the soaring, Janelle Monáe-assisted rock anthem by emo-pomp band fun, wants to be generational. Two weeks ago, fun. rampaged their way to the summit thanks to a pileup of digital sales. For each of the last two weeks, "We Are Young" has topped the very healthy sum of 300,000 downloads; it's the only song to roll that many weekly downloads in 2012, let alone do it twice.

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Will The Chart-Topping Success Of fun.'s "We Are Young" Break Pop-House's Top 40 Stranglehold?

Categories: Chart Talk, fun.

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The new No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, crowned today, is the grandiose slice of car-commercial-approved arena-pop "We Are Young," by the trio fun. Thanks to some massive sales at iTunes and other digital outlets—302,000 of them last week—"Young" leapt over Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" to top the singles chart, the first song by a rock band to do so since Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" went to No. 1 all the way back in 2008.

As SOTC pals Popdust note, "We Are Young" is a bit of an outlier as far as top-40 radio goes, with its tempo shifts and Queen-like pomp and harmonies that vaguely bring to mind Grizzly Bear (surely I'm not the only one who's reminded of "Two Weeks" when the chorus hits?). Could the ascent of this twisty, singalong-ready track signify the end of the era where four-on-the-floor pop-house that pounds its melody into your brain for three-and-a-half minutes without end (or without even the escape hatch known as "the bridge") dominates the charts to the exclusion of everyone else not named Adele?

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Radio Hits One: fun.'s "We Are Young" Brings Indie Pop To The Super Bowl And The Hot 100

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Lindsey Byrnes
Last week Billboard published the Hot 100 chart covering the post-Super Bowl week, and unsurprisingly the most notable leap on the chart was made by a song featured on the telecast. The surprise was that it wasn't "Give Me All Your Luvin'," Madonna's new single, performed during her halftime show performance with the help of some controversial hand gestures from critical darling M.I.A. Instead, "We Are Young" by the New York-based band fun. (with the help of Pazz & Jop-beloved Janelle Monáe) rocketed up 38 spots to No. 3 on the Hot 100 after being featured in a Super Bowl commercial for the Chevy Sonic. (Madge's latest settled for a piddling No. 10 in its second week on the charts.)

Since being released in September, "We Are Young," the lead single from the band's new album Some Nights, has seen a steady rise in profile. Its Hot 100 peak comes primarily from sales—the song topped the Digital Sales chart with nearly 300,000 units sold—but it had already sold more units that that before the Super Bowl ad aired. So far, it's only made airplay waves on rock radio, rising to a new peak of No. 6 on the Alternative Songs chart last week. But it's hard to imagine that the song won't quickly cross over to pop radio in the same way as Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks," which peaked at No. 3 last year.

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Live: Panic! At The Disco Stoke The Nostalgic Flames At Terminal 5

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Panic! At the Disco w/ fun.
Terminal 5
Tuesday, May 24

Better than: Actually being 18 years old again.

The weather outside last night was stale, and there was no wind at all, so everyone brought with them into Terminal 5 a piece of the air. By the event of Panic! at the Disco's arrival on stage, the heat was such that you could close your eyes and, environmentally, wait for a train. You could also wait for yourself or a version of yourself, which would arrive, given a particular song. The band's first album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was released in 2005, when many members of the crowd at Terminal 5 last night were enduring high school; the songs the band revived from Fever and the reaction to them--excitement so heightened, it felt more like an entirely relived intensity--seemed to be both the band and the fans speaking across years to long-diminished shapes.


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