For those who expected Ryan Tedder and company might deliver a OneRepublic album filled with statuesque ballads in the style of much of his work for other artists, Waking Up will indeed wake them up. Instead, the band shows off their versatility in rhythm, instrumentation and mood. OneRepublic remain firmly grounded in a pop aesthetic, but there is a restless, creative energy present on the majority of the tracks that is likely to make you smile and think simply, "That is a good song." Waking Up risks being lost in the avalanche of pre-Thanksgiving releases, but it is well worth seeking out.
Escaping "Apologize, Pt. 2"
In a recent interview with Ryan Tedder, the group's lead vocalist, songwriter and producer, he stated that the group wanted to avoid repeating their biggest success and sounding like "Apologize, Pt. 2." The release of the lead single "All the Right Moves" announced that the band indeed was moving on. There are ballads here, but they head in other directions for the band.
Despite the fact that OneRepublic have left "Apologize" behind, they have not ignored influences from the song's collaborator, Tedder's mentor Timbaland. The rhythmic intensity that kicks off the album on "Made For You," complexity of textures on "All the Right Moves," and ramped up drums that kick off "Good Life" all point toward good lessons learned at his side.
The Elements of a Successful Pop Song and Album
If you are looking for a stirring depth of lyrical meaning, OneRepublic is not your band. However, if you enjoy listening to pop songs with engaging structure and multiple hooks blended into an album programmed to maintain interest throughout, Waking Up is a great bet. The majority of the songs here abound in layers of sound stacked together in a way that will catch your ear the first time through leaving you wanting to hear it again. Ryan Tedder's smooth tenor voice floats above the band's tight playing like a tour guide through the best elements of contemporary studio pop. Here and there things become a bit too self-conscious. The title song shows the band seeming to want to outdo U2 at being U2, but the best songs here are distinctly the band's own.
Top Tracks on 'Waking Up'
- "Made For You"
- "All the Right Moves"
- "Marchin' On"
Expertly Crafted Pop Music
The most obvious impression left from listening to Waking Up is that its a work of expert pop music craft. These are songs designed to please an audience and most are very successful at that goal. "All the Right Moves" is a small masterpiece that somehow gets better every time it is heard. Mainstream pop fans should not miss this album. It is one you can return to for basic pop pleasure time and again, and my instinct is a number of the tracks here will become long-term favorites.
Released November 2009 by Interscope