Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe – We Are Young (Acoustic Version) (Music Video)

  “We Are Young” is a song recorded by American band Fun for their second studio album Some Nights (2012). It was released on September 20, 2011 as the lead single from Some Nights. Musically, “We Are Young” is an anthem that incorporates the genres of indie pop, alternative rock, and power pop. The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, with many noting the song […]

!Fun. - We Are Young feat. Janelle Monae (ACOUSTIC) - Single iTunes cover 600x600

 

We Are Young” is a song recorded by American band Fun for their second studio album Some Nights (2012). It was released on September 20, 2011 as the lead single from Some Nights. Musically, “We Are Young” is an anthem that incorporates the genres of indie popalternative rock, and power pop. The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, with many noting the song as a breakthrough for the indie genre and praising the song’s catchiness. “We Are Young” has attained commercial success worldwide, reaching number one in several countries.

The track initially only gained attention from online media, although it did receive its first commercial radio airplay on WDHA-FM during the October 2, 2011 edition of Anything Anything with Rich Russo. However, it was soon covered by the television show Glee. With the Glee version having success on the charts, the song was licensed for use in a Chevrolet Sonic commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLVI. The single song propelled the band into mainstream success, topping the digital charts in February 2012 and becoming a crossover hit, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 through airplay on contemporary hit radio stations, topping the chart for six weeks straight. It is also the first song to log seven weeks of 300,000 or more in digital sales, a record that was previously held byEminem‘s “Love the Way You Lie” (2010). “We Are Young” has been certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and is both Fun and Monáe’s first charting single on the Hot 100, as well as their first number-one single. The song also topped the Hot 100 Airplay chart with 120 million impressions in seven weeks, becoming the first group since Destiny’s Child‘s “Survivor” (2001) to do so.

An accompanying music video was directed by Marc Klasfeld at David Sukonick Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It features the group performing on a stage at a bar where a riot breaks out. As part of promotion for the song, it was performed at the 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the American late night television show Conan, and was used as the opening song at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards. The song is featured in the music video game, Rock Band Blitz. The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 55th Grammy Awards, where it was also a nominee for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Background and recording

American R&B singer Janelle Monáe, pictured performing in 2009, is featured on “We Are Young”.

The song’s roots can be traced back to February 2011, when Fun frontman Nate Ruess met with high-profile hip-hop producer Jeff Bhasker in New York City. Ruess was anxious about meeting Bhasker, so he arrived early at the bar in the Bowery Hotel on the Lower East Side “and had a little to drink just to make sure I was loosened up.”Bhasker had just finished a long day in the studio with Beyoncé, and had decided to give Ruess 10 minutes. He had previously already canceled two meetings with him. The two began talking about music, and Ruess’ desire to merge hip-hop beats and electronic effects with pop rock intrigued Bhasker, who invited Ruess up to his hotel room to show him some Beyoncé tracks he had been working on. “Slightly tipsy and feeling inspired,” Ruess belted out the chorus for “We Are Young”, which at that time was an unfinished composition. Bhasker was taken aback and automatically “freaked out,” demanding he see the band for studio time “in the next few days.” The next day, Bhasker and Ruess booked a New York studio and cut a version of “We Are Young” not far from the final version of the track.

The band invited Janelle Monáe to provide guest vocals on “We Are Young” through her friendship with Bhasker. After being played the song, Monáe was enthused about the song and recorded her vocals in Bristol,England. Guitarist Jack Antonoff called “We Are Young” the “bull’s-eye center” of the sound the band was striving for while producing Some Nights.The song displays the influences brought by Jeff Bhasker and hip-hop music. Antonoff agreed with the notion that the song was their de facto anthem: “It’s pretty rare, because any other projects that we’ve done, I don’t think any of us have ever had that song that was like, ‘This is our band,'” Antonoff said. “We’re proud to say, ‘Listen to this one song, and then come listen to the rest. Here it is.'”

Composition and lyrical interpretation

“We Are Young” is a power ballad that combines the genres of indie popalternative rock, and power pop. The song is written in the key of F major, based almost entirely on the 50s progression (I vi IV V) with the exception of its bridge, and follows a tempo of 116 beats per minute, changing to 92 bpm from the pre chorus to the end. The song has a slow hip hop groove from the first chorus onward, and the song in its entirety is in common time.

Lead singer Nate Ruess says the lyrics were inspired by one specific night, after “my worst drinking night of all time.” Ruess told Rolling Stone that he was kicked out of a taxi cab for puking all over it. “The cabbie was demanding all this money, and all I could do was stand on the corner with my head against the wall. It took me another day before I was a functioning adult and could actually write down the verses,” he said.In the song, “careful arrangements layer sharp, bright piano melodies with big, booming drums and multiple vocal harmonies.” Ruess shifts from “vulnerable verbal tumbling in the song’s sonically sparse intro to the grandiose declaration, ‘Tonight, we are young / So let’s set the world on fire / We can burn brighter than the sun’ in the massive chorus.” According to Spin, the song incorporates a “marrying fist-pump stadium rock to the prim indie-pop of Grizzly Bear‘s “Two Weeks“, keeping the deliberate beats and soaring melodies but replacing choirboy primness with a percussive whomp.” Andrew Unterberger of Popdust compared the song’s chorus to that of Pat Benatar‘s “Love Is a Battlefield” and Supergrass‘ “Alright“, and noted that nearly every word in the chorus is imbued with maximum passion and importance. Tim Jonze Guardian.co.uk described the chorus as anthemic and compared it to work done by Arcade Fire and stated that the lyrics were “life-affirming and fit for a teen movie soundtrack.”

Critical reception

“We Are Young” has received generally positive reviews from critics. Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called the song “rollickingly catchy,” writing that “Ruess’ knack for the anthemic is matched by Gen-Y humor – emo self-deprecation that leavens the bombast.” In addition, fellow Rolling Stone columnist Steve Knopper compared the song’s crossover success to that of Foster the People‘s “Pumped Up Kicks” (2011), writing that the song displays a “sprightly pop-novelty feel” that is the best track on the album. Al Shipley of The Village Voice agreed with this comparison, attributing the song’s success to the changing music industry as a result of advertising and iTunes. MTV News called “We Are Young” the band’s “breakout anthem” and one of the year’s most unlikely sensations.

RJ Cubarrubia of Billboard commended the band for taking their “warm retro sound into soaring ballad territory,” calling the track a “bold statement.” He did however, criticize the small inclusion of Janelle Monáe in the track: “Monáe’s guest spot is a missed opportunity, as the budding R&B star is relegated to background harmonies instead of adding something soulful and special to an already powerful hook.”Bill Lamb of About.com praised the chorus stating : “We Are Young” carries a hook in the chorus that is likely to stop many listeners dead in their tracks the first time they hear it. The second time around this just might have become your new favorite song. However Luke Lewis of NME gave a highly negative review of the song, giving a 5 out of 10 stating: “It’s not clear what compelled Janelle Monáe to work with these New York-based Panic! at the Disco soundalikes. They’re hardly natural bedfellows, and her input is limited to a brief vocal. It’s a winning formula though – this stirring emo ballad went to Number One in the US. This year’s Owl City then, if that concept doesn’t chill your blood.”

The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards, where it was also a nominee for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Chart performance

In the United States, “We Are Young” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in December 2011 at number 53 but quickly fell off. While the release of the Glee version did cause a 1,650% jump in sales of “We Are Young” (from 3,000 to 49,000 during the week of December 11, 2011), it wasn’t until the song appeared in the Super Bowl spot that it took off, exploding at radio and at retail. The song began to climb up the charts immediately following the Super Bowl, climbing its way back up to eclipse its peak position. In the week following the Super Bowl, it Rose 26 spots to number 63 on the Hot 100, and jumped from number 72 to 41 on the Hot Digital Songs chart. It eventually rose to number 41 and then rocketed up the chart to the top ten, peaking at number three. The following week, the song dropped to number six but rebounded back to number three on February 29. On March 7, 2012, “We Are Young” ascended to the top position on the Billboard Hot 100.It remained at the number one position for six consecutive weeks, and is also the first song to log seven weeks of 300,000 or more in digital sales, a record that was previously held by Katy Perry‘s E.T. (2011).”We Are Young” topped the Hot 100 Airplay chart with 120 million impressions in seven weeks, becoming the first group since Destiny’s Child‘s Survivor (2001). The song was certified by the RIAA 3 times platinum with sales of over 3 million, becoming the first song of 2012 to do so. It has sold 6,200,000 copies in the US as of February 2013.

In the United Kingdom, the song climbed to number one on the UK Singles Chart on May 27, 2012 ― for the week ending date June 2, 2012 ― after floating around the top ten of the chart for several weeks. In November 2012, it made a re-entry to number thirteen. At the time, the song had sold 986,000 copies there, becoming Britain’s third biggest-selling single of 2012. Since then, the Official Charts Company have confirmed that “We Are Young” has now sold over one million copies in the United Kingdom, becoming only the 128th single to do so in the 60 year history of the UK Singles Chart.

Music video

The music video, directed by Marc Klasfeld, was filmed at David Sukonick Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It features fun. performing on a stage at a bar where a riot breaks out. A majority of the scenes were shot in slow motion with the rest shot in real time. The video opens with a girl (played by Rachel Antonoff, the sister of band’s guitarist Jack Antonoff and girlfriend of lead singer Nate Ruess  messaging another person on an HTC Titan. On the screen a was a text message reading “NOW!” giving the implication that the message was possibly a signal to begin a flash mob. The girl then throws the smartphone into the middle of the bar where it hovers in mid-air. As the first chorus begins the girl gets a wine bottle smashed over her head as the patrons degenerate into a bar fight. Different types of food are thrown and smashed at various points in the video, most notably grapes. Large amounts of flour and confetti are sprayed across the stage from the left and right. People run, fall and fly across the bar. Streamers and a disco ball also fall from the ceiling. During the second chorus various glassware is thrown around and as a result, shatter. A couple kiss with food spread all over their faces and Janelle Monáe walks into the center of the bar and sings the first half of her bridge in real time and the second in slow motion. Monáe’s role in the video was described as being The Eye of the Storm. It is also implied that Fun’s performance mirrors the intensity of the bar’s atmosphere, as their performance becomes more intense and energetic as the video progresses. The video concludes with Fun ending their performance as the girl from the beginning of the video walks out of the bar smiling.

Live performances

On April 27, 2011 the song was performed at the 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival before the song was met with mainstream success. On February 22, 2012 Fun performed “We Are Young” on Conan backed with a choir. On April 23, 2012 the song was performed on the IHeartRadio music festival among six of the band’s songs including “Some Nights“. The performance was critically successful and even garnered positive feedback from Bon Jovi. On June 3, 2012, the song was performed to open the 2012 MTV Movie Awards. The performance began with the band pounding away in a tiny red-lit cube, dressed in white tuxedos, with frontman Nate Ruess bounding back and forth in the enclosed space. Eventually, as the song grew into the chorus, Ruess stepped out of the cube, and at that widescreen moment, Janelle Monáe herself appeared on the stage, Monáe met Ruess in the middle of the stage, and the two traded verses and embraced. Then, Ruess bounded back to his bandmates and brought the song home.In June 29, 2012, Fun performed ″We Are Young″ on british talk-show The Graham Norton Show and November 11, 2012 on 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards in Frankfurt, Germany. The last performance of ″We Are Young″ was on December 5, 2012 for “The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live! – Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night” in Nashville, Tennessee.

Cultural influence and cover versions

The song was covered on Glee on the episode “Hold On to Sixteen“, aired in December 2011. The track was given to Glee music supervisors by John Janick, head of Fueled by Ramen, “about five months” before its release, according to Ruess. Janick brought the song to the attention of Glee music supervisor PJ Bloom. “I vividly remember John dropping by my office with a just-mastered ‘We Are Young’ in hand,” said Bloom. “It was still on its original blank CD-R titled in poorly handwritten red Sharpie.” When Janick suggested that the track was perfect for the musical show, Bloom demurred. “Gleedoesn’t break bands, we celebrate existing pop success—that’s our core model.” Bloom changed his mind after playing the song only once and less than five minutes later sent it to Glee co-creater Ryan Murphy. Bloom called the cover of “We Are Young” one of “the pinnacle song moments of the entire series,” and continued, “For Fun, Glee provided a launching pad for much of the success to come. ForGlee, Fun allowed us to show the world we could be an A&R source and break a band. It was music business perfection.” According to Columbia, which handles Glee releases, “We Are Young” marks the first track that was truly broken by Glee. Producers of Glee were incredibly receptive to the track, and set on including it in an episode regardless of whether it became a hit or not. The Glee cast version topped the Digital Songs chart in December 2011, hitting number one on iTunes and number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.As Glee‘s version of “We Are Young” gained popularity before the original did, Ruess e-mailed the musical director of the program, writing, “You guys are #1 right now, but we are coming for you, we’re going to reclaim the spot!” It has been covered by Pentatonix whose a cappella version went viral on YouTube.

“Obviously you never write the song hoping it ever fits into a commercial of something, you just want to write a good song. I think we’d be more apprehensive if it was something like a cheese commercial.”

—Reuss, on the song’s licensing for the Chevrolet spot.

“We Are Young” was selected as the soundtrack of a one-minute Chevrolet advertisement for the Chevy Sonic, aired during Super Bowl XLVI on February 5, 2012. Chevrolet’s agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners considered “hundreds of songs” before settling on the track. “It’s a beautiful song, with a number of different projections in that driving beat and very sweet melody,” said Andrew Bancroft, associate creative director for Chevrolet. “He liked the track so much he selected it even before pairing it with the ad’s footage, a rarity in music-synching terms,” said Billboard. Although most commercials of that kind go through many different competing soundtracks, Chevrolet loved “We Are Young” from an early, rough cut of the spot. After the song’s appearance in the spot, it was largely credited for the song’s massive commercial success to come. The following year at Super Bowl XLVIITaco Bell aired its own Super Bowl advertisement with a Spanish version of the song as its soundtrack.

The song was used by the WWE as background music to highlight the nominees for Game Changer of the Year at the 2011 WWE Slammy Awards on the December 12 edition of WWE Raw and in the Once in a Lifetime: The Rock vs John Cenaspecial that aired on the USA Network to help promote their highly anticipated match at WrestleMania XXVIII. It was used at the end of Interactive Multimedia’s Trash Bash 2012 at MCCTC. “We Are Young” was used in the episode “Chuck versus the Baby” of Chuck‘s fifth season. It was also featured on both the season finales of Gossip Girl season 5 and 90210 season 4 as the closing number of the episode. It was used as the soundtrack for the trailer ofJudd Apatow‘s film This Is 40.

The breakout success of “We Are Young” catapulted Fun to levels of success that “no bands today usually receive,” according to Billboard. “Since the moment the first note was ever written, there’s just been this huge level of excitement,” said Ruess. “It’s always seemed like we had this big secret, that we couldn’t tell anyone, and now, it’s just slowly unravelling.”John Janick, president/CEO of Fueled by Ramen and co-president of Elektra Records, states that everyone involved felt like “We Are Young” was a special song. “It just felt like a massive record from the beginning,” said Janick in March 2012. “Not to say that we can foresee the future, but I’ve noticed in my life there’s very few projects where something feels special and you go after things and they come to you and things fall into place. This is one of those projects.”

The band’s extensive touring, which has included playing Coachella, ensured that the groundwork was already in place for the act to grow, according to Fun’s manager, Dalton Sim of Nettwerk Records. “From my perspective, the success comes from the hard work the band, Nettwerk Records and Fueled by Ramen have put into the band for the last three-plus years to develop a real fan base. Now, with some great exposure, the Fun fan base is taking those looks and spreading and connecting the band to new people.”In addition, influential Los Angeles-area alternative station KROQ put “We Are Young” in rotation before the Super Bowl appearance based on its anthemic sound and lyrical relatable nature. “That’s always the first thing that will get a song on the air, if it’s a song we love and we think the listeners will love,” said Lisa Worden, music director of KROQ. “That’s why it went on the air, and then all the marketing around it is an added bonus. That’s helped in getting the song out and reaching a different audience.” Al Shipley of The Village Voice called the track “one of 2012’s ubiquitous songs,” predicting it would fully saturate pop culture in May 2012, when “it inevitably becomes the biggest commencement song sinceVitamin C‘s ghastly ‘Graduation (Friends Forever)‘.”

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (2011–12) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)
1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)
1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)
5
Belgium (Ultratop 40 Wallonia)
2
Brazil (Billboard Hot 100 Airplay)
52
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)
1
Canada (Canadian Active Rock)
39
Canada (Canadian Alternative Rock)
3
Croatia (Airplay Radio Chart)
3
Czech Republic (IFPI)
2
Denmark (Tracklisten)
3
Europe (Euro Digital Songs)
1
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)
14
France (SNEP)
7
Germany (Media Control AG)
4
Honduras (Honduras Top 50)
11
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)
9
Iceland (Tónlist)
1
Ireland (IRMA)
1
Israel (Media Forest)
1
Japan (Japan Hot 100)
8
Luxemburg Digital Songs (Billboard)
6
Mexico Top 20 General (Monitor Latino)
11
Mexico Top 20 Inglés (Monitor Latino)
1
Mexican Airplay Chart (Billboard International)
1
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)
10
New Zealand (RIANZ)
2
Norway (VG-lista)
2
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 5)
1
Portugal Digital Songs (Billboard)
1
Scotland (Official Charts Company)
1
Slovakia (IFPI)
5
Spain (PROMUSICAE)
12
Spain Airplay (Promusicae)
5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)
4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)
2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)
1
US Billboard Hot 100
1
US Pop Songs (Billboard)
1
US Rock Songs (Billboard)
1
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)
1
US Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)
21
US Adult Pop Songs (Billboard)
1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)
12
Venezuela Pop Rock General (Record Report)
3

Certifications

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)
5× Platinum 350,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)
Platinum 30,000x
Belgium (BEA)
Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)
6× Platinum 480,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)
Platinum 30,000^
Germany (BVMI)
Platinum 300,000^
Italy (FIMI)
2× Platinum 60,000*
Mexico (AMPROFON)
5× Platinum 300,000^
New Zealand (RIANZ)
2× Platinum 30,000*
Sweden (GLF)
4× Platinum 80,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)
2× Platinum 60,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)
Platinum 1,000,000
United States (RIAA)
6× Platinum 6,200,000
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone 

Year-end charts

Chart (2012) Position
Australia (ARIA)
12
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)
3
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)
55
Israel (Media Forest)
2
Spain (PROMUSICAE)
30
UK (Official Charts Company)
3
US Billboard Hot 100
3
US Pop Songs
7
US Adult Contemporary
24
US Adult Pop Songs
4
US Alternative Songs
5
US Rock Songs
8


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