Grammy voters can't seem to get enough fun. Going into the Feb. 10 awards show, the pop trio has a field-leading six nominations, including the "big four": best new artist, song, album and record of the year.
By any standard, Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost have set the bar high for their future. Second album Some Nights should reach a million sales soon, possibly in the week following the Grammys telecast on CBS. The group has sold more than 10 million downloads of singles We Are Young, Some Nights and the new Carry On.
Building such career momentum is one thing. Maintaining it is another matter entirely.
"There are a lot of ways for people to go off the rails if they make an impact fairly early," says Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis. "When you deal in the pop realm, it's a fickle place. There's no way around it."
But fun. has factors working in its favor. Before the group formed in 2008, each member developed grassroots followings in other bands (Ruess, 30, signed his first major-label record deal at 19). Their Some Nights album combined different genres to form a distinctively exuberant sound. Breakthrough hit We Are Young developed a broad audience base at alternative and adult-alternative radio formats before crossing over to mainstream top 40 airplay.
Dalton Sim, the band's manager, says they want to continue developing that audience as their career grows.
"If they can become an arena band, they want to be an arena band," Sim says. However, "we don't want to skip any steps on the touring side. We've seen other bands in similar situations that went for the big thing and got it for a minute, but it disappeared. Then they didn't really know what they were worth."
While recording the Some Nights album, fun. "tried to buck trends more than anything and make their own path," says producer Jeff Bhasker. "Artists who do that have a long career, because you're not chasing anything and falling into the trap of being hip."
The band is in the writing stage of a follow-up album that will go a long way toward proving how much staying power fun. has. "Everyone feels the next album shouldn't try to re-create Some Nights," Bhasker says. "It should create a new, surprising, pertinent statement."
How fun.'s members deal with their newfound fame may be as key as any musical direction, says Scott Lindy, program director for WSTR-FM in Atlanta.
"It's a pretty steep climb to success in a short amount of time," he says. "That's a lot for young guys to handle. If they can keep their emotions in check and remain friends, these guys could be around in 10 years. They've got the kind of talent to do it."