Fun’s “We Are Young” Lyrics Meaning

We Are Young is a famous song by the American band Fun featuring singer and songwriter Janelle Monáe.

The song talks about being young and just enjoying the liveliness, lustiness and buoyancy of youth. According to Fun lead singer Nate Ruess, the song’s lyrics are autobiographical and are inspired by a memorable event in his life.

Speaking with Rolling Stone, Ruess said the memorable event in question that inspired the lyrics of the song was a night he went out binge drinking. On that night, he got so intoxicated that he was kicked out of a taxi he was riding in because he vomited in it.

According to Ruess, it took him a full day to become a proper “functioning adult” after that wild drinking night. He went on to refer to that night as his “worst drinking night of all time”.

We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun”

A More Detailed Analysis of the Lyrics of “We Are Young”

Like was said above, this song is based on an actual experience that Nate Ruess, the frontman of Fun, had, in which he ended up so smashed that it took him an entire day to recuperate. 

Verse 1

At the beginning of the first verse it is implied that he may be in New York City, with a reference to the Empire State building and all. But more to the point is the metaphor that reference is connected to. And that more plainly illustrates that the vocalist and his homeys are effectively taking drugs.

Later parts of the verse are more difficult to understand. Indeed they read as if they were written by someone who was recovering from a major hangover. But what we are able to ascertain early on is that the setting is a bar. 

Also, in addition to his homey the vocalist is there most-importantly with his “lover”, and both of them seem as if inebriated.


That latter notion is further buttressed by the chorus, though in this case the lyrics which theoretically point to inebriation are metaphorical. Or more directly explained, what Nate is rather asserting is a notion like he and the addressee should live life to fullest since they “are young”. 

And based on the information above we are presuming that in his mind, if not for both of them, that living up to this ideology involves consuming a considerable degree of alcohol.

Verse 2

Now if we haven’t already made the point clear, this song is one which relies heavily on poetic language. So accordingly, considering the wording of the second verse, we are compelled to go even further out on a limb. 

And it may be that what Nate is saying is that the addressee, i.e. this romantic interest, is also dating someone else – perhaps cheating, we can say, from his perspective. Thus the implication is that they’re in a troubled relationship that he wants to mend. 

And – again digging deep here – under normal circumstances, i.e. if they were alone, the two of them would be quarreling. But everything is all good since this particular night their “friends are back”. 

Or explained, more simply the vocalist is using the company of others to get closer to the addressee, who on a more directly-interpersonal level he has some type of beef with. Thus going back to some of the more challenging parts of the first verse, perhaps the “some sunglasses” reference points to another dude trying to kick it to his lady. 

Also it now becomes more obvious that the “apologies” would be due to something the vocalist did to offend the addressee related to their aforementioned beef, or something like that. Let’s just say conclusively as far as this romance is concerned that he appears to be the apologetic one.

Interlude and Conclusion

Meanwhile, the interlude and bridge don’t read as if they are related to romance at all. Here, the vocalist is rather expressing a desire for someone to ‘carry him home tonight’. 

We could postulate, based on the above, that said someone would be a lover, but the second half of the bridge doesn’t really support that presumption. 

Instead it reads like Nate is in need of the support of any genuinely caring person, an ‘angel’ even. And considering that, as already established, we know this narrative was inspired by him getting dangerously drunk, it would be easy to conclude that he’s literally talking about someone assisting him in reaching home due to being too incapacitated to do so himself, as even implied back in the first verse. 

But again, it would be difficult to directly connect such an idea to the overall narrative and thesis sentiment play, unless what he is actually putting forth is a notion more macrocosmic like youth possessing the tendency to damage themselves in the name of enjoying life, or what have you.

It is also feasible that all of the above actually went down in real life on said evening, which Ruess has called the “worst drinking night of all time”. A lot of times when people overdo it with the booze, it’s because they’re dealing with some sort of stress. 

So in trying to put all of these different pieces together, we’ll conclude that the reason the vocalist got so smashed in the first place was due to his less-than-ideal romantic situation

Facts about “We Are Young”

We Are Young was written by producer Jeff Bhasker and all 3 members of Fun (Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost). Bhasker handled the entire production of the song.

According to producer Bhasker, singer Rihanna was initially the one they wanted to feature on the song instead of Janelle Monáe. However, things didn’t work out as planned, and they had to settle on Monáe.

The song was officially released on 20th September 2011. It was the first single from the band’s commercially successful second studio album titled Some Nights.

In 2012, the song was the most listened to song by users of Facebook.

At the 2013 Grammy Awards, We Are Young was nominated for three Grammy Awards, winning one – the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. In winning the award, the song beat other famous songs including The A Team by Ed Sheeran, Stronger by Kelly Clarkson and Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen.

The song peaked at number 1 in various countries across the globe, including the United States and the United Kingdom. It’s remarkable achievements, currently makes it one of Fun’s most successful songs of their career.

Aside the aforementioned countries, this song also reached position 1 in the following regions:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Mexico
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Scotland

Notable Appearances

The song was covered on the famous American musical comedy-drama TV series Glee in December 2011.

It was used as the soundtrack of a Chevrolet advertisement that was shown on Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012.

FYI, the song’s appearances on the aforementioned platforms played an instrumental role in turning it into a smash hit worldwide.

8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    the first verse is talking about how he abused her

    • TheHat says:

      “Abused her” mentally, from a breakup. That “scar” isn’t physical, it’s a mental thing. Probably as the “sunglasses”, seriously who wears sunglasses in a bar, except “dickish guys/girls” who hit on people believing they are better than anything the person they are hitting on has had before, is hitting on this guy’s ex and she/ they aren’t interested in that person hitting on them, and tells them so.

  2. Disgusted says:

    Totally missed the physical abuse that left a scar. Great analysis… not.

  3. Anonymous says:

    First, technically Scotland is still part of the UK, so yeah, reached number one in both, as they have a shared music board. Unless you want to break it down to 4 separate boards.
    Also, your “physical abuse”, from the above comments is so bullshite! Those “scars” aren’t physical, but mental. He is was with her, but they broke up, though he still cares about her, and maybe wishes he hadn’t broken up with her, but things changed, and it made sense to end it. Though, they are still in the same circle of friends so have to deal with each other, and will be there when they, or he, drinks too much. Some of you are too quick to jump on the physical abuse wagon. Sure, it happens, but not in this song! Why would the person he apparently physically abused be willing for him to take them home, or take him home, if that was the case?!!! It’s a metaphor for a relationship breakup, that he blames himself for.

  4. TheHat says:

    In fact, looking closer at the lyrics, that “scar” is mental, and more about him having cheated on her a some point. But she is still with him, and he regrets it. Still NOT physical abuse!

  5. Cassie says:

    I’ve always taken the ‘sunglasses’ to be a dismissive way of referring to a guy chatting up his girl at the bar – and that ‘sunglasses’ is enquiring how she got a scar that the singer says “I know I gave it to you months ago. I know you’re trying to forget” and goes on to sing about “the holes in my apologies, you know I’m trying to take it back” suggesting he hit her in a drunken argument and that they are both trying move past it, but he thinks his excuses are weak. Had never considered it could be a mental scar, but that’s possibly because of the video! But if it WAS a mental scar, how come ‘sunglasses’ has brought it up in the short time the singer has been in the bathroom? I think that’s another reason I’ve always thought it was a physical scar. ??‍♀️

  6. Anonymous says:

    Definitely about domestic abuse

  7. Abir says:

    Yes, according to song’s writer.. emotional scar.

    “A fan randomly approached me the other day,” the songwriter says, “and almost attacked me, saying, ‘That song’s about domestic abuse. What’s the deal?'”

    When he told her it was not, she replied, “Yes, it is. Who are you lying to?”

    Ruess replied: “Trust me, I wrote the song, I know.”

    So what does it mean?

    “It’s metaphoric,” he explains. “A scar doesn’t have to be visual. It can be emotional.”

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