Music education always & always looking forward.

An Often-Unheard Interval as a Hook: Ascending Minor Sixth in fun.'s (feat. Janelle Monae) "We Are Young"


A new classic song, something that most of your kids will likely know, this is a great song to teach this particular interval.  I arranged it for my pep band kids in the fall of 2012 and I found that at the start of the year, my trumpets couldn't hit that minor sixth interval.  Amazingly enough, once we hit January of that year, they had no problem with the aforementioned interval.  Gotta love clearly demonstrable progress!

We Are Young” - fun. (ft. Janelle Monae)

Intro: The first band (as opposed to a solo artist or singing/rapping collective) to have a #1 Billboard hit in 10 years, fun. dominated radio airwaves of several genres in 2012. This song crossed over from the group's territory as an indie rock band to become #1 on the Rock, Alternative, Adult Top 40, and Mainstream Top 40 charts. It was the first song to chart on the Billboard Top 200 (or to hit #1) for fun. as well as for guest vocalist Janelle Monae. The song appears on the band's second album, Some Nights and has propelled them to pop culture significance.

Analysis: Possibly the most notable line of the song occurs when singers Nate Reuss and Janelle Monae sing “so we'll set the world on fi-ire”, with the stretched out word “fire” containing an interval of a minor sixth, which is not often heard in pop songs. Much of the rest of the song contains smaller, less dramatic intervals throughout its melody, allowing the minor sixth to stand out.

Considerations for Teaching: Although students have surely heard this song already and it contains no objectionable language, the subject matter in the song is questionable.  The main topic of the song is the narrator attempting to reconcile differences with an old love, but the setting of the song is a bar, and there are multiple references to alcohol and drugs (“my friends are in the bathroom / getting higher than the Empire State”). It has been also postulated that when the narrator mentions a scar and states “I know I gave it to you months ago” that it is a reference to domestic violence. While this is a single interpretation of the lyrics and not entirely clear, playing the song in its entirety in a classroom might prove problematic.

The Beat Blows Around with the Wind: Changing Meter in Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone"

You just keep me hanging on