Nate ruess’ “grand romantic” has a song for every lover

As any musician, poet or grandma can tell you, life is replete with love stories both tragic and legendary. We may all get jaded about everything else life throws our way, but oftentimes we’re willing to charge — moth to a bug zapper-like — into every new romance with the gusto usually reserved for children on sugar highs in the presence of puppies.

At least that’s the conceit behind fun. frontman Nate Ruess’ new solo record, Grand Romantic, 12 bombastic jams bursting with romance and pain that we have the pleasure of premiering ahead of its June 16 release date right here on MTV.ca.

“I think at some point in my life I had my heart broken so many times that I was just willing to never get too up and never get too down,” Ruess told MTV News in a recent interview about his solo debut. “I think that the album is very romantic, but not in some sort of overt buying-flowers-for-someone type of way. I like to just think that romantic is the ability to feel the highs of falling in love, being in love — just the appreciation of wonderful things that happen. And then also acknowledging the low moments and being willing to go there.”

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And Grand Romantic is certainly filled with highs and lows — it’s like a Broadway musical in a way, opening with a kind of overture, a child’s choir singing, “Step right up for the grand romantic,” before launching into the first track on the record, the catchiest, most hit-like track, “AhHa,” in which our hero heads out into the world, quoting E.E. Cummings and possibly dealing with a broken heart: “It’s for the best you didn’t listen/ It’s for the best we get our distance,” he intones, while busting out lines from “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond.”

Despite the tragedy inherent in those lines — a relationship ending — there’s hope there, as Ruess sings, “But mom, I think I’m ready to free this grand romantic in me.” So, in short, he reached bottom — and now there’s only up to go to.

Or, you know, up AND down — because that’s where Ruess travels across the course of the record. He’s strident and earnest in “Nothing Without Love,” as the title suggests; he’s flirty as his voice mimics the bouncy xylophones on “You Light My Fire”; and he’s pessimistic, bitter and sad on the piano-heavy “It Only Gets Much Worse.”

Unlike a Broadway musical, however, the record doesn’t flow in a way that’s predictable — it doesn’t end neatly. After a reprise of the “Grand Romantic” theme, we hit “Harsh Light,” which could easily have been on Fun.’s last record — Ruess sings about going out in New York (seemingly happily single), proclaiming, “We all got scars.” Cue this being every single person’s anthem in five, four…

The final track on the record, “Brightside,” however, is the most enigmatic, as Ruess watches what is likely a past lover walking slowly past his house and opines, “I think it’s best you left me alone” — a kind of echo of his sentiments on “AhHa,” but reversed, as here he seems to be the dumper.

So, yes, everything does come full-circle at times. Love is lost and gained and lost again. But he’s less frantic now — on this final track. He’s still a grand romantic, still broken in many ways, but he’s one that floats on strings rather than screams toward the next love story.

Check out the full record here and choose which tracks will score your own grand romances.