Monday, February 27, 2012

Album Retrospective: fun.- Aim and Ignite

Album Rating: A+
The classic pop album has died. No one knows the exact date of this occurrence: maybe it was when John Lennon gave up the ghost, maybe it was when our society was infected by the plague of disco, or maybe it was even when an angst ridden and awkwardly blond Thom Yorke screamed that "pop is dead" in the early 1990's. Even though we do not know exactly when the classic pop album died, it is quite easy to figure out why it died. It died because of technology that encourages musicians to just make one quality song instead of a quality album, it died because other genres of music became so much better, and hell, it died because pop music just isn't what it used to be.

Maybe we all just need to accept the fact that modern pop music will never have another classic album. With all of this being said though that does not mean a band cannot create an album that is a "classic sounding classic pop album." Pop was at its best when it actually was an accurate representation of pop culture, yet was still one of the most creative and unique outlets of music. It is tough to say that Kelly Clarkson and Britney Spears produce the most creative and culturally defining music, but it is easy to say that The Beatles and Queen did produce some of the most creative music and that these bands created music that defined their respective cultures. So, instead of a pop act going for the watered down radio sound of Clarkson and Spears, why would they not instead go for the sound of The Beatles, Queen and the Beach Boys and create "a classic sounding classic pop album?"

The main objection to this idea that pop music should take a step backwards to when it actually mattered is that a lot of today's pop "musicians" simply do not have the creative ability that The Beatles, The Beach Boys or Queen had in the prime of their careers. These people would say that no current pop band could write as creatively as The Beatles, no current band or act could harmonize like The Beach Boys did on Pet Sounds, and no current band could ever give off the creative energy that Queen did in the prime of their careers. These objections are fair but illogical even on the first listen of the 2009 fun. album, Aim and Ignite.

Aim and Ignite is an incredible modern music achievement and the first reason why is the sound of the album. The music on Aim and Ignite has the energy of one of Queens best live shows, has the diverse nature of one of The Beatles classic later albums (more Sgt. Pepper than The White Album), and has the calming nature of all The Beach Boys best work. The first reason this album is a classic is essentially because it takes all of the classic sounds from the glory days of pop music and the best arena rock and puts it on an epic ten song album. Whether it is the homage to The Beatles emotionally draining later work that is the gigantic chorus of "Be Calm", The Beach Boys like harmony that is go on throughout "All The Pretty Girls", the Queen esque poetry that fills "The Gambler", or even the combination and culmination of all these influences in the albums closer "Take Your Time (Coming Home)" fun. finds a way to create an album that sounds like the best offerings of three of the most important artists in the history of music and still make an album that is still simple and relevant in the 21st century.

Aim and Ignite is not just an album that sounds fantastic but it is an album that features great singing, excellent songwriting, and it is an album that really does not have a bad song on it. It is tough to overstate how good of a singer Nate Ruess is and how his unlimited range matches the music perfectly on every song of Aim and Ignite is one of the albums many highlights. Ruess has a great moment in just about every song on Aim and Ignite:
his spaz out at the end of "Be Calm" sets up the rest of album perfectly, the breakdown to "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)" is the best moment of the entire album, his storytelling type of vocal on "The Gambler" is a nice change of pace from just about everything else on the album, and his entire performance of "Take Your Time (Coming Home)" is beyond impressive. Ruess never does a perfect impression of Mercury, McCartney or Wilson, but he does a great job of being himself throughout the album which turns out to be a perfect combination of all three of these legends.

Ruess' lyrics on this album are also brilliant. Ruess' lyrics are not the same type of brilliance of many of today's songwriting, but a more unique brilliance because Ruess writes lyrics that are relevant not only to modern culture but the culture of the pop icons he idolizes. On "Walking The Dog" Ruess writes about the boys of summer but the harmony of the song still makes it sound culturally relevant, on "Barlights" he references James Dean but makes sure that this lyric leads into his classic lyric about how he is going to live forever. "The Gambler" has the lyrics that sound like the plot to a bad Lifetime movie about an old couple but the lyrics also sound like they could be applied to any young couple who actually thinks they could grow old together. Ruess'  ability to write lyrics honoring his idols and still be able to make these lyrics relevant to today's market is nothing short of incredible.

It is safe to say that Aim and Ignite really does not have any bad songs. Even the album's worst songs ("Light A Roman Candle With Me" and "Walking The Dog"), are still excellent songs. The album has lots of classic songs and just about every song on this album is catchy. Aim and Ignite is a "classic sounding classic pop album" that combines the best moments from all of Ruess' influences on one album and still manages to stay modern. And, most importantly, it is an album that made modern music fun. again.


1. Be Calm
2. Benson Hedges
3. All The Pretty Girls
4. I Wanna Be The One
5. At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)
6. Light A Roman Candle With Me
7. Walking The Dog
8. Barlights
9. The Gambler
10. Take Your Time (Coming Home)

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