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From Ska to Eternity: A Quick History of Fueled By Ramen's Unlikely Rise to the Top

fun. circa March 2012.
fun. circa March 2012.
Photo by Marc Brubaker

There is a very good chance that fun. is going to walk away with at least one Grammy come Sunday night. As one of the handful of artists with six nominations to their name; the Brooklyn pop-rockers are odds-on favorites to at least win the smaller categories they're nominated in.

fun.'s rise to the top of the music charts is more than just the story of a small band making good; it's actually the culmination of an entire label's journey from the bottom to the top. Who would have predicted back in 1996 that Fueled by Ramen would ever have a band competing for the four biggest awards in music?

Yes, the very label that was co-founded by the drummer of Less Than Jake and put out all those Hippos, Animal Chin, Ann Beretta, and Impossibles records in the late '90s eventually grew up, forgot about ska, and moved on to bigger things.

What better time to get nostalgic than right before the label potentially reaches the mountaintop? Every label has its defining releases; consider this your Fueled By Ramen Hall of Fame.

1998: Release 20, Jimmy Eat World, Jimmy Eat World Serving as a sampler for 1999's future classic Clarity, this self-titled EP featured a pair of songs that are JEW classics as well as some solid B-sides. It also managed to give the label its first real bit of attention. Not to look down our noses at the rest of the label up until this point, but if Jimmy Eat World doesn't get released this blog might not have ended up being written.

1999: Release 26, The Stereo, Three Hundred Perhaps the best power-pop album most people have never heard, Three Hundred was not Fueled By Ramen's biggest release but it may just be its most influential. The catchy riffs and vocal melodies Jamie Woolford and Rory Philips wrote may not have made them household names, but it did create a sound that other bands would ride to mainstream success.

2003: Release 61, Fall Out Boy, Take This To Your Grave One of the very bands that built its career off the sound of Three Hundred, there's no more important moment in the history of the label than the decision to sign Fall Out Boy. Not only did the band go on to be legit stars, but it also led to the creation of the Decaydance Records imprint label and all the hits that came along with it. Fueled by Ramen might not have known it at the time, but this was the label's turning point.

 

2005: Release 77, Panic! at the Disco!, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out By this time, the days of Fueled by Ramen being a small label with small bands were long gone. Now everyone on the label was swinging for the fences in hopes of becoming the next Fall Out Boy. Panic! at the Disco managed to connect first with "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." One VMA Video of the Year-winning video was all it took to get millions to sing about closing the god damn door.

2007: Release 95, Paramore, Riot! While many of the bands that had found success on Fueled By Ramen/Decaydance flirted with non-rock influences, Riot! was proof that that power pop could still connect with the kids. Riot! was also the first non-Fall Out Boy release from the label to enter the Billboard 200 Top 20 in its opening week of release, leading the way for big opening-week releases from Panic at the Disco (now without the !), Cobra Starship and Gym Class Heroes.

2012: Release 137, fun., Some Nights It might have taken 17 years and nearly 140 releases, but Fueled By Ramen finally had its honest-to-God Album of the Year contender. It's fitting in a way that it would be fun. to do it when so much of what they do is made up of Fueled By Ramen's past.

From the rock meets hip-hop meets dance sounds of Gym Class Heroes and Cobra Starship to the earnest lyrics of Fall Out Boy to the unnecessary punctuation of !-era Panic at the Disco, fun. is everything that the label has been (minus the ska), just bigger.



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