Nate Ruess is the man who penned mega hits for P!nk and Eminem, and found success fronting FUN. No longer young, growing up, the Grammy Award winning recording artist returns with Grand Romantics, reviewed by Scott Ford.
Atlantic, 15 June 2015
[dropcap size=small]Y[/dropcap]ou’re probably familiar with Nate Ruess, even if you don’t know him by name. You would’ve heard the mega-hit that is ‘We Are Young’ by FUN that was everywhere in 2012/13. Nate was the frontman of that band and has now gone on out on his own with debut album, Grand Romantic.
Having stated that Fun was “three individuals in music that come together to do something collaborative” rather than an actual band, Ruess has suggested that his solo material is strong enough to stand on its own. Like the random assortment of objects on the cover art, the album itself is a mixed bag that ranges from big-band arrangements to 80s influenced pop and all the way to the power ballad.
Ruess shines on smaller, intimate songs with a slower pace such as the album’s namesake, ‘Grand Romantic’ rather than the chaotic ‘Ah-Ha’. On the surface it sounds like FUN, so you already know if you like Ruess’ voice or not, it straddles the line between being soft and sweet to whiney and grating. There’s no denying that Ruess has a penchant for emotive song writing, but by the album’s end you feel that he could do with something to cheer him up as there’re only so many lines like “we all got scars” and metaphors for long-lost love that a listener can take.
That said, the classical arrangements on the slower songs are very good and compliment Ruess’ voice brilliantly, soft jazz drums that draw you in and suddenly you empathise with whatever plight he’s singing about. The lead single ‘Great Big Storm’ is suitably epic and shows off the range of Ruess’ vocals but the lyrics feel a little hollow; “It’s a great big storm and we’re holdin’ on” and the spoken word bridge verges on the realm of the cliché. Ruess does however come across strong on the 80s sounding ‘You Light My Fire’ which feels like it could be on the soundtrack to a John Hughes film, all big drums and xylophone. This track is followed by the sombre ‘What Is The World Coming To?’ featuring Beck, clearly Ruess is drawing on some of his friends in the music industry, which include Eminem and P!nk among others. It is a slower song, but this suits Ruess well.
Ruess is at his best on the album’s quieter moments. The only downside is, that if you close your eyes on most of the songs, you could be listening to FUN. Whether or not that’s a criticism, you’ll already know if this is an album for you or one to let fly by.