Maybe you’ve been following fun.’s emo-fried, Queen-inspired power-pop since the trio brought together members of The Format, Steel Train and Anathallo in 2008. If so, you probably heard “We Are Young” when the band released it last September. Perhaps you discovered the song when the “Glee” cast performed it in December. You might be one of the hundreds of thousands who heard the track in Chevy’s Super Bowl ad and rushed to download it from iTunes.
Regardless of when you first heard “We Are Young,” you can’t escape it now unless you walk around with your fingers in your ears — and even then, you’ll probably catch yourself humming it. The most pervasive single of the year by far, it has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks running and is the first rock song to hit No. 1 since Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” in 2008. It propelled fun.’s sophomore LP “Some Nights” to a No. 3 debut on the album chart. It pops up on various radio stations like Whac-a-Mole. People are forming circles and singing it at wedding receptions.
After such smashing success, is the band nervous about scoring a follow-up hit?
“Oh yeah, terrified,” keyboardist Andrew Dost said over the phone. “But on the other side of the coin, we’re still really grateful for what has happened.”
Fun. accrued a devoted cult following with debut “Aim and Ignite,” but nothing like this. Thursday’s concert moved from Newport Music Hall to LC Pavilion, but honestly, fun. could pack several LC Pavilions at this point.
At its core, “We Are Young” is the kind of sing-along anthem that has been closing down bars and selling out arenas for decades. It shares DNA with “Piano Man,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” and especially “We Are the Champions.” But in a major break from fun.’s previous work, the song’s classic rock genome is spliced with epic hip-hop tropes courtesy of producer Jeff Bhasker, who usually works with the likes of Beyonce, Drake and Kanye West.
“We were listening to the last Kanye album pretty heavily, ‘Dark Twisted Fantasy,’ and we were fans of how that was so theatrical and just a vast masterpiece,” Dost said.
Fun. wanted to apply similar bombast to bring their retro sound into the future. The result has been a gold mine for the band but plenty polarizing for their old-school fans.
“I think some of our fans from the first album really like it and it’s really resonated with them and they’re kind of going along with us for this ride in terms of hearing the song on the radio,” Dost said. “And then others tell us we’re sell-outs, and we shouldn’t have used AutoTune and the beats are stupid.”
Still, it’s hard to hear the haters among so many cheers. Right now, fun. is on top of the world.
“It’s a really amazing feeling,” Dost said. “I think that’s something that artists really hope for, whether or not they talk about it.”