Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Left-Field Pop
If there's one thing that's clear about Nate Ruess based on his debut solo album, 2015's Grand Romantic, it's that he's in love, and he wants you to know all about it. Purportedly inspired by his relationship with designer Charlotte Ronson (sister of DJs Samantha and Mark), Grand Romantic is a fittingly grandiose, occasionally silly, passionately effusive, and ultimately very catchy album. As the lead singer of Fun., Ruess has built a fan base with songs that manage to combine the bombastic pomp of '80s arena rock, the sample aesthetic of hip-hop, and the earnestness of emo, adult contemporary, and singer/songwriter pop.
Nate Ruess is the Freddie Mercury of freaking out: "I thought of taking my own life," he sings over moody, triumphal backing on his solo debut. "But Mama, don't cry, I found songs among the tragic." As lead singer in alt-pop drama kings fun., Ruess has a self-deprecating romanticism that gives his band's over-the-top ambitions a relatable emotional core. With fun.
On “AhHa”, the second single from his debut solo album Grand Romantic, Nate Ruess does all of the following things: he laughs obnoxiously four times in a row to open the song, affects a blues growl and an emo snarl, samples a song by his previous band Fun., samples a passage from an E. E. Cummings poem, references his mother, and laughs obnoxiously a final time to close the song.
Nathaniel Joseph Ruess, age 33, is what we call a rock star in 2015. He has a bleeding heart, a big voice right out of musical theatre, and a pair of #1 singles under his belt. His band, fun., is one of those subversion-free mainstream rock bands—think Imagine Dragons or Mumford and Sons—to become chart staples during Obama’s presidency, which must undoubtedly perturb Kid Rock types prone to caterwauling about how rock stars used to kick ass.
If showbiz kids give a f—k about anything else, it’s their performances, and this nephew of a Broadway hoofer is a thick ham on rye with gorgonzola. As the lead singer of fun., Nate Ruess opened his mouth and out came fully-formed Expressionist librettos like “We Are Young,” in which he stood with one hand on the mic stand and the other waving at Madison Square Garden, first row. Ruess, whose jawline gives him the look of a David Johansen after months of Pilates, capped an impressive 2012 and 2013 with a sweet, implausible Pink duet.
Nate Ruess’ runaway mainstream success with Fun felt like a vindication of his years in the trenches co-fronting power-pop band The Format, as well as a victory for the ambitious music in which he’s always specialized. In turn, his solo debut Grand Romantic feels like his way of finding his own distinct voice separate from a group, a chance for him to indulge in styles and directions he’s never explored before. Perhaps that’s why the delineation between his previous work and this album is so significant.