Diehard fans of The Format had a lot of soul-searching to do when fun.--the band formed by erstwhile lead singer Nate Ruess--hit the mainstream with Some Nights. Some of it was about the music, and some of it was about the reaction: What are you supposed to do when somebody who isn't from Phoenix tells you how much they love fun.?
Thankfully, Express Feelings of Intense Betrayal appears to be the least-popular option. I've certainly come into contact with people who believe that Ruess leaving for New York and (even) poppier production values was an unthinkable betrayal of anyone who spent 2007 forcing "The Compromise" onto their friends, but most of them are at least able to avoid shouting "You lie!" at that Chevy Sonic commercial.
You'll recognize Format fans who have just moved past that phase because they'll be telling you about how great the Format is. When "We Are Young" and "Some Nights" were unavoidable--and again when Ruess and Pink's "Just Give Me A Reason" topped the Billboard charts--these still-convalescing fans would take any quiet moment as an opportunity to explain that sure, the song you were listening to was popular but "The First Single" was much catchier and also so self-aware and I have the songs on my phone, actually, just listen to this one.
For these fans, still bewildered by the breakup, a fun. song is a necessary evil, useful primarily for illustrating how good The Format was to the uninitiated. That guy talking to you while "Just Give Me A Reason" was playing on the closed-circuit TV at Carl's Jr. has chosen to Become a Format Missionary.
It's a noble pursuit, if also a little reductive--many a Format Missionary is so dedicated to his cause that he still hasn't listened to the entirety of Some Nights, having found himself on important proselytizing business 30 seconds into the title track's weird, nervous monologue.
After going through both of those phases--along with intermediary periods like Wonder If You Liked The Format In The First Place and Wonder If You Liked Pink the Whole Time, Secretly--you might be lucky enough to pass into Format-diehard nirvana, and Decide fun. Is Pretty Okay After All, Even If That Idiosyncratic Punctuation Is Goofy.
Because they are, even though it is! Ruess's voice is still one of the best in pop, sliding between sincerity and bemused facetiousness on the back of the same word. And as mainstream as Some Nights became, its ubiquity was never a foregone conclusion: There's another weird, nervous monologue wrapped around that all-time wedding-reception chorus on "We Are Young," and if the lyrics throughout are a little more New York than you're comfortable with, those verses are still coming out in inadvisably thick, unsingable paragraphs of self-doubt.
It's still part of what made me love The Format, in short, even if you'll never again hear all of what made me love The Format. "We Are Young" is somehow almost two years old now; Glee is a spent cultural force; Pink is making a movie, for some reason.
The war is over, and as some consolation the music video for "She Doesn't Get It" gets several YouTube comments a week--"Oh, Nate's old days :)"--from happy fun. fans discovering it for the first time.
Now that the storm has passed--at least until their next album, and the next Chevy Sonic commercial--you can lay down your weapons, put on your Format shirt, and just go see fun. play live. Of course, if a few giddy 13-year-olds happen to hear Interventions + Lullabies playing on your boombox outside the show until the police take you away... well, it is what it is.
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Fun. is scheduled to perform Tuesday, September 10 at Comerica Theatre.