Believing deeply, in the power of pop music

Believing deeply, in the power of pop music

standing out

Believing deeply, in the power of pop music
The first time Jack Antonoff hit it big — more than a decade after he began touring as a teenager in crowded vans that often arrived at empty rooms — he walked away. The band Fun. had started as a side project for Antonoff, a chronic multitasker. But by 2012, after placements in Glee and a Super Bowl ad sent the group’s song ‘We Are Young’  into the stratosphere, Antonoff found himself experiencing “truly inhumane, goofy, ‘almost famous’-level” success, he recalled. Suddenly a platinum-selling act, Fun. toured arenas around the world and won Grammys for song of the year and best new artist. Then the band declined to make another album.

“I remember immediately — immediately — feeling like, ‘I don’t want to play ‘We Are Young’ when I’m 35’,” Antonoff said. But his aversion wasn’t to stardom, or even the burden of a megahit, which he still openly chases as a go-to producer and songwriter for those on the pop A-list, like Lorde and Taylor Swift. The problem was that Fun. was merely something Antonoff was a part of, he explained recently at his home studio in New York; he needed the music he made to be a part of him.

Born of that borderline self-sabotaging earnestness was the band Bleachers, an intensely personal project that Antonoff, 33, has put at the centre of his life ever since; ‘Gone Now’ is his second album under that moniker, and it furthers his maximalist approach to anthemic, life-affirming pop-rock about loss and just how taxing it is to be a decent human being.

Antonoff has broken out as one of the most in-demand architects of modern hits — an insider’s outsider who has used his punk essence and idiosyncratic approach to forge a distinct lane of his own. He proved himself with smashes like Sara Bareilles’s ‘Brave’ and Swift’s ‘Out of the Woods’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ (with Zayn Malik), and helped to usher in a strain of 80s pop revivalism. In the process, he has gone from industry curio to known quantity and artiste’s favourite.

On top of Bleachers comes the release next month of Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’, for which Antonoff served as an executive producer, moving toward his goal of collaborating on complete albums instead of individual tracks. Jumping easily between worlds, he is working on new music by the cult singer and guitarist St. Vincent, and logging recording time with Pink, Carly Rae Jepsen and the Killers.
“The heart and soul of pop is newness, excitement, innovation,” said Antonoff. “The music industry is built on chasing that ambulance — ‘someone did it, let’s go that way.’ I don’t want to be a part of that. I want to be away from it.”

A true believer in the purpose, weight and potential of music and fandom, Antonoff has built Bleachers as a bottomless text that rewards the obsessive, completist mentality he had toward bands like the Beatles and Green Day as a child growing up in suburban New Jersey. Antonoff knows he is “straddling a lot of fences,” merging an indie ethos and megastar associations. But “the whole goal is impact,” he said. “I love connected culture. You can say forget it,” he continued, using stronger language, “and go into your corner of the sandbox, or you can try to make a difference” on a wide scale.
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