On Nate Ruess and Being a Cynical Romantic

Yesterday, I listened to a radio interview featuring former fun. frontman Nate Ruess. He’s in the Philippines to perform some of his past hits, along with some songs from his current solo effort, “Grand Romantic.” In line with that, the DJ mentioned that he’s characterized himself as a “cynical romantic,” then asked what that is. Nate responded by basically saying it’s someone who knows he will get hurt, but has a good time anyway.

That’s something I totally get.

The Tension is Clear

I’ve always been kind of pessimistic in my thinking. I never expect the best because I only expect disappointment; I believe in managing expectations more than dreaming big. But at the same time, I enjoy the idea of romance, of having a good time, of being a good person in spite of every crappy thing that can happen.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still maintain the ability to function.” Well, that may be true in the case of cynical romantics. Or maybe to them, that duality is essential: love isn’t true unless it’s tested, and you can’t say someone is good unless that person can be good even at the worst times.

#NoFilter: There’s Beauty in Rawness

Curious about his new album “Grand Romantic,” I listened to a few songs online. The ones that made an impression on me were “Nothing without Love” and “Great Big Storm,” both of which depict a great, beautiful vulnerability. Did a little more research and checked out the Wikipedia entry for the album; apparently critics said that it was overly theatrical in terms of production, lyricism, and vocal delivery.

I could see where they were coming from, but I have to say I don’t totally agree. Sure, a lot of it tends to be really sappy and cheesy. Maybe the lyrics lacked subtlety, and maybe the music was just too inelegant in its presentation of emotions and themes. Still, I find it refreshing. On the radio and online, we hear a lot of music about people owning the club, twerking the night away, grinding, getting wasted, and so on. That’s inelegant, that’s devoid of subtlety, and that’s what a lot of people listen to. So for me, the album is still a worthy contribution to the world of music. It’s a naked, take-me-as-I-am peek into the mind of a true romantic, who I’m sure is not alone in the world. And it fills a niche for an emotion that many people feel but few people have the courage or opportunity to express.

My girlfriend and I will have the chance to see him perform live tonight. I’m really excited to sing along to his familiar hits, and listen to his new ones that will surely uncover a new side for many fans. His new music might alienate some of them. It might be a hit with others.

But when you’re an artist putting your whole self out there, for all the world to see and hear, that’s beside the point.

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One thought on “On Nate Ruess and Being a Cynical Romantic

  1. “On the radio and online, we hear a lot of music about people owning the club, twerking the night away, grinding, getting wasted, and so on.” – This made me smile. Those were my thoughts at the moment.

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