Monday, November 23, 2009

OneRepublic 'Wakes Up'

It's been almost two months since I first reviewed "All The Right Moves", and my feelings on the driving pop track have not changed. After hearing the rest of the album, it's clear this is the most pop radio ready song on the disc. If you wanted a song that was basically a template of reasons for why Ryan Tedder is a bit of a musical prodigy, that song is it.

Sadly, Waking Up hasn't done for me what their debut masterpiece has. Perhaps it's because Tedder has accomplished so much since "Apologize" took over the pop universe, but what comes to us on Waking Up is a mixture of very good, very bland, and overall generally in cohesive. So many songs are gorgeous, with certainty, but they lack the appeal and desire to hit "replay" that so much of Dreaming Out Loud did. However, it was Tedder himself who said "we're a sum of a bunch of parts" and it certainly shows on Waking Up.

It's clear OneRepublic themselves is struggling in terms of defining who they are genre-wise. Some songs sound familiar, like carry-overs of how you'd expect to them to sound based on their debut ("Secrets, "Lullaby", etc.). I love that they are continuing to expand on their more symphonic roots, rather than cater too much to Tedder's super-pop sensibility or the growing pop/rock trend. Several songs are very sweepy, relying on their inclusion of a cello player, Brent Kutzle, as well as Tedder's piano playing. This definitely gives them a sound that sets them apart more from the relative glut of pop/rock acts occupying the Hot 100 and iTunes libraries of many. My favorite example of this: "Fear".

"Waking Up", although one of my favorite songs from the record, has a strong base in organs and showcases Tedder's raw vocals at their almost best before searing into blazing guitars and driving drums. Unfortunately, it never truly revisits that gorgeous organ sound, and instead kind of sounds like a Kings of Leon song with a more melodic singer. Not that that is particularly a bad thing, it's just that, as I feared two months ago, OneRepublic is beginning to cave to other sounds that are working rather than focusing on building on what made them different in the first place.

Another high point is the beat-heavy "Good Life", which definitely feels like a single in its own right, or at the very least, a lovely inclusion to some uplifting Hollywood film of choice. "Made For You" is another potential single choice. "Secrets" opens with a gorgeous cello solo by Krutzle, and is vaguely reminiscent of a Bach piece for cello before exploding into grandiose fashion. It is the second single following "Moves", has already been released in certain countries in Europe and slated for a US release in 2010, and the reasons are obvious upon first listen. It's fair to say that it may just be the best song on the entire record.

While I quite enjoy the handclappy-ness of "Everybody Loves Me", the slated third single, it's country-twang reminds me quite a lot of Cage the Elephant's "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." However, all raised eyebrows disappear when the chorus kicks in and that falcetto "Every-body loves. Me" floats and I'm done. Press repeat, please, as it tends to pass you by quickly (and that's a good thing).

Sonically, the most interesting is "Missing Persons 1 & 2", which opens breathing simulation, melding with cello, to piano, to Tedder, to xylaphone, before harder beats break and reverberate from out of nowhere into a rainforest-like crescendo of sound, fluid with its parts all working in tandem counterpoint. Incredible? Sure. Amazing to see live? Absolutely. Ready for radio? Not a chance.

Overall, Waking Up is definitely a fun musical adventure, and certainly proves OneRepublic's musical merit. Whether it will fare well for them chartwise is to be seen, as it lacks the gloss shine of an "Apologize" or "Stop and Stare". But from what I can glean from Tedder and the boys, this the route they wanna go -- and they are going full speed ahead.

1 comment:

Myfizzypop said...

I think my reluctance with getting this album stems from Ryan Tedder has been everywhere really - Battlefield, happy, halo, already gone, etc and I felt like I didn't need an album of his tunes when I could sample them elsewhere alongside more varied fare. Am I missing out? Probably. But oh well. He sometimes is insanely hot though :)

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