"We Are Young"
There was a time, not so long ago, when being an indie band was synonymous with having integrity. And having integrity was synonymous with not selling out. And not selling out was synonymous with maintaining a tight grip on your music, lest some awful marketer should come along and appropriate your honest tunes for his nefarious, soul-besmirching capitalistic purposes.
Back in the day, for instance, you never—never!—would have heard an R.E.M. song playing in, say, a Volkswagen commercial.
Folks, those days are gone. Just as surely as R.E.M. itself is gone.
These days, from the biggest band to the smallest, survival is all about synergy. And synergy means getting noticed and staying noticed. And getting and staying noticed means seizing any and all opportunities to put your music in front of people … even if it means "selling out" to those aforementioned nefarious, soul-besmirching capitalistic marketers.
Except that no one calls it selling out anymore. They just call it success.
Take the example of fun., for instance. (And, yes, that's how it's spelled: fun. Little f in the front, period in the back. Awkward? You bet. But that's how the guys in fun. like it.) This indie pop trio—whose musical DNA is a blenderized smoothie of Queen, The Beach Boys, Kanye West, Panic! at the Disco (maybe awkward punctuation has taken the place of not selling out), Weezer and Bay City Rollers—has cranked out three albums in the last three years. None of the band's first five singles charted at all. The sixth? "We Are Young" hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped iTunes sales chart this week.
So what made the difference? Nefarious, soul-besmirching capitalistic marketers … from Glee and Chevrolet.
Glee covered the song in December, which helped propel fun.'s original version onto the charts shortly thereafter. And then there was the Super Bowl. Chevy featured "We Are Young" in a commercial, which resulted in a whopping 338% surge in track sales. One week, fun.'s at No. 41. The next, No. 3.
As for the song itself, well, fun.'s conception of the glory of youth means living with no regrets. That can be a good thing. But in this case, perhaps not so much.
"Give me a second/I need to get my story straight," lead singer Nate Ruess begins. "My friends are in the bathroom/Getting higher than the Empire State/My lover's waiting for me/Just across the bar."
He apologizes to her "between the drinks" for undisclosed sins and promises to carry her home if necessary. And from there, proceedings descend into a haze of raised glasses and booze-fueled toasts to the glory of misspent youth.
"Tonight/We are young/So let's set the world on fire/We can burn brighter than the sun," the rousing, piano-driven chorus instructs. A bit later, Ruess adds, "I just thought maybe we could find new ways to fall apart/But our friends are back/So let's raise a toast/'Cause I found someone to carry me home."
There's a joyful, if inebriated, camaraderie here, to be sure: "Carry me home/Just carry me home tonight." And the singer promises he'll gladly return the favor (though how everyone can get carried home if they're all sloshed probably bears further—more sober—inquiry). "So if by the time the bar closes/And you feel like falling down," we hear, "I'll carry you home tonight." As for tomorrow—and the headache likely to accompany it—well, it's not really on the band's radar.
Given the lyrics to this boisterous barroom anthem, it's no surprise that the video takes place in … a barroom. The band plays as patrons drink and dance. Then a young woman types "NOW!" into a smartphone and hurls it across the room. The man next to her immediately smashes a bottle over her head for no discernable reason (maybe it was his phone?) and instantly the place plunges into melee-minded mayhem and madness as an epic, slow-motion barroom blitz breaks out.
As bottles and bodies fly (slowly) through the air around the still-playing band, one couple makes out in the middle of it all like it's the end of the world as we know it.
"Carry me home tonight/Just carry me home tonight/ … Let's set the world on fire."
But first, this short message from Chevrolet.