NEW YORK -- Jeff Bhasker, the hitmaker behind acts like Kanye West, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, had only been interested in producing for seasoned acts. So when he was approached by pop-rock trio fun. to produce its sophomore album, there was little excitement.
"I figured I'd just meet with them for 15 minutes and then I don't have to hear them bugging me anymore," admitted Bhasker, who had canceled two previous meetings with the group.
Then he heard lead singer Nate Ruess – who was admittedly "liquored up" – belt out the lyrics from the group's song "We Are Young." Bhasker was so impressed he immediately booked studio time to record the band's next album, and now "We Are Young" has become the group's breakout hit.
"I was really excited about working with Beyoncé ... (but working) with this indie band from Brooklyn turned out to be equally as exciting," Bhasker said.
Bhasker is not the only one excited about the band or its song, which has already reached the No. 3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
"We Are Young" initially got a boost thanks to its cover on Fox's "Glee," but its use in a Super Bowl commercial for the new Chevrolet Sonic helped it top the iTunes singles chart, and in a week it jumped 38 spots on the Billboard chart.
"What happened with the Super Bowl ad has been the theme for us recently," said guitarist Jack Antonoff. (Andrew Dost, who plays keyboard and other instruments, rounds out the trio).
"We've been really lucky that the times that we've licensed the song, people have used ... (it) in a way that does the song a little bit of justice," Ruess added.
"We Are Young" features Janelle Monae and is from the album "Some Nights," which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week after selling 70,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's a far stretch from the group's debut "Aim and Ignite," which peaked at No. 71 and has sold 74,000 copies since its release in 2009.
Fun. is now on a North American tour that wraps up June 16 in New York City.
Bhasker says he's "lucky Nate was so persistent about wanting to work with me."
"This whole experience has opened me up to working with the new generation and the new, unknown artists of the world," added the producer, who has also worked with Drake, Lana Del Rey, Robin Thicke and Brandy.
"Some Nights" was recorded in three weeks and is a theatrical adventure of groovy tunes that have both a party and a dark vibe. Ruess sings about his mother and father on several songs; the upbeat, fast-paced jam "It Gets Better" is about a girl losing her virginity; and on the title track he sings: "My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she called love, but when I look into my nephew's eyes, man you wouldn't believe the most amazing things that can come from some terrible nights."
"I'm always thinking about, `Who am I and why did I do something like that?' And I think then it harkens back to my family, and I have such a strong tie to them and it's always therapeutic to sing about them," Ruess explained about his lyrics.
Antonoff says the combination of heavy lyrics and catchy tunes is what makes for great pop music.
"The best pop music is the songs that a group of people can dance to, but you can also listen to in your bed and cry," he said. "That's something obviously that The Beatles started and ... so having that darkness there opens another door."