Jack Antonoff Talks Jay-Z, Kanye West Version of Fun’s ‘We Are Young’


Jack Antonoff
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Perhaps Jack Antonoff was destined to have bad blood with Kanye West even before he became best friends with Taylor Swift.

Antonoff, 40, shared how Fun.’s “We Are Young” nearly ended up on Watch The Throne, the 2011 collaborative album from West and Jay-Z, while speaking with Nardwuar in an interview published on May 9. Antonoff, who played guitar in the band, said that the song’s producer, Jeff Bhasker, was also working on Watch the Throne at the time. “We were told that the chorus was taken and that Jay-Z and Kanye had made the song,” said Antonoff.

Antonoff said that “We Are Young” was part of the track list that leaked ahead of Watch the Throne’s August 2011 release date. However, it wasn’t included in the album’s final lineup.

“The story, I heard, is that Jay-Z thought it was too pop, which he may have been right since it end(ed) up becoming a big pop song,” said Antonoff.

Bhasker offered some clarity on how West and Jay-Z got the song first when speaking to MTV News in 2013. Bhasker offered the “We Are Young” beat to West and Jay-Z, with the intention of them rapping over it.

“Everything gets changed at the last minute,” said Bhasker in 2013. “I was working with them on Watch the Throne when I met Nate (Ruess) and I said, ‘Maybe you guys want to mess with this,’ and he really liked it a lot. In the end, it didn’t quite fit on (Watch the Throne) because it’s a big pop song on an album they wanted to have an undergroundness and counter-culture sensibility.”

“We Are Young” became Fun.’s signature song, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2011 and eventually being certified diamond (indicating it sold over 10 million copies). The group — Antonoff, Ruess and Andrew Dost — would have similar success the following year, with “Some Nights” reaching No. 3 on the Hot 100. Fun. went on hiatus in 2015. Ruess went solo, Dost became a music teacher in his native Michigan and Antonoff started his band Bleachers.

Regarding the Watch the Throne version of “We Are Young,” Antonoff says he’s “never heard this song.” He also said that he heard rumors about why it was shelved. “Someone at Roc Nation or someone down the line (said) — the one bit of information that I’ve got to hear of the Jay-Z version of ‘We Are Young’ is that he shouts something like, ‘Lighters up. I’m the king of Bonnaroo, I’m the king of Coachella.’”

“And I don’t think I’ll ever hear this song,” added Antonoff. “And at this point, I don’t want to.”

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Watch the Throne arrived in August 2011. Fun released “We Are Young” in September of that year as the lead single of their 2012 album Some Nights. In November 2012, Antonoff met with Swift at the MTV Europe Music Awards, starting a personal friendship and professional partnership.

Jack Antonoff Reveals that Jay Z and Kanye West Made a Version of We Are Young For Watch The Throne

Kanye West and Jay Z
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Roc Nation

Elsewhere in the Nardwuar interview (around the 14:52 mark), they discussed “Jersey Boy,” a song by The Unloveables. “In (the song), they reference Taylor…” says Nardwuar, pausing to give Antonoff time to finish the sentence. At the mention of “Taylor,” Antonoff winces slightly while smiling awkwardly for six seconds of strained silence. Nardwaur repeats the question, saying that the song “references Taylor…”

“…ham?” asks Antonoff, and that was correct.

Antonoff was somewhat relieved. In March, he ended an interview with a Dutch publication when they asked him to divulge any secrets about Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department, which hadn’t been released yet.

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Instead of walking out on Nardwaur, Antonoff shared a story involving the other Taylor in his life. “When Taylor Swift played New Jersey, the government did a ‘Taylor Ham’ f—king meme about her and I was explaining it to her,” he said. Pork roll (sometimes called Taylor Ham) is a breakfast meat beloved by New Jerseyans.

Antonoff then went into a passionate moment about the “Taylor Ham vs. Pork Roll” debate in New Jersey, as different parts of the state argue whether to call the foodstuff “pork roll” or “Taylor Ham.” Antonoff says he calls it “nothing” because he doesn’t eat pork for breakfast.

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