In every social circle, there’s the one friend who always offers the shoulder to cry upon, the sleeve to wipe your nose on and the reassurance that everything will be alright, but they won’t do you the favor of shaking you to your senses, telling you to buck up and take it like an adult.
OneRepublic’s latest album, “Dreaming Out Loud,” which released on rapper Timbaland’s Interscope imprint, Mosely Records, is the auditory equivalent of that friend. OneRepublic plays up the uncertainty of transitioning from a late-teenager to early 20s but manages to do it tastefully and gracefully. Soul-searching is an obligatory step between the two ages of legality when one can buy indulgent magazines to that first legitimate Vegas trip, but OneRepublic makes no mention of the wilder sides of life. Produced by Greg Wells, who has worked with Rufus Wainwright, Mika and Lindsay Lohan, and on Timbaland’s “Shock Value” remix album that debuted OneRepublic, the album remains both Radio Disney and VH1-friendly. The first four tracks consistently delivering hit-worthy melodies for an American Idol-loving crowd.
The emotional album doesn’t hesitate on self-reflection – “Say (All I Need)” kicks off with robotic ooohs, aaahs and exhalations as songwriter/producer/frontman Ryan Tedder asks an anonymous listener about life, love and values: “Do you know where your heart is/do you think you can find it?” By the chorus, Tedder is already belting it out about the bare necessities (“All I need is the air I breathe/And a place to rest my head”), establishing himself as future king of stadium light rock.
The second track, “Mercy,” continues on that train of thought but this time, Tedder questions himself by contemplating how he fell down and got back up with the help of an “angel of mercy.”
“Stop and Stare” is a song of anxious optimism about getting out of a small town and making the leap to big-city life with grandiose Coldplay-esque choruses. With guitars reminiscent of U2, you won’t find The Edge here, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be the band’s next hit. “I think I’m moving but I go nowhere/Yeah, I know that everyone gets scared/But I’ve become what I can’t be/Oh, do you see what I see” Tedder sings, perhaps autobiographical of his own struggle in the music industry that eventually led him to become a Grammy-nominated songwriter.
Tedder had appeared on MTV’s TRL back when the network still made a dent in music and caught the eye of Timbaland, who took the aspiring musician under his wing, and went on to write and produce for artists like Jennifer Lopez, Hilary Duff, Bubba Sparxx, Natasha Bedingfield and Ashley Tisdale.
Tedder’s painfully earnest voice continues to reel listeners in on the third track, “Apologize,” which is already a Number One hit on the Billboard Pop 100 charts by way of Timbaland’s remix of the song. But the original version doesn’t pack as much of a punch in cross-genre appeal quite like its R’B re-working. Yet with its Eleanor Rigby-like intro, courtesy of cellist/bassist Brent Kutzle, and the piano-tinged chorus that unforgivingly announces an unnamed lover that “it’s too late to apologize,” the original still manages to strike a chord in anyone who has every played half a part in a failed relationship.
“Tyrant” is the most intense song on the album as drummer Eddie Fisher lets it loose and the guitarist turns up the amps (but still not enough to overpower the frontman’s vocals), while Tedder sings “justify me” as he lays down his vocal chops. The album’s de rigeur sleeper song is “Prodigal” and the band keeps it low-key up until the track’s ending chorus goes power-ballad.
It is somewhat fitting that planted on the cover of the album is a tree, long considered a symbol of humanity and the search for knowledge of life; however, the band skims on surface questions but doesn’t quite offer up an answer. OneRepublic’s freshman album is not just blazer rock for those who have already graduated from Dawson’s Creek to Grey’s Anatomy and need a sing-along soundtrack to go with it; “Dreaming Out Loud” is also a well-crafted something-for-all pop rock debut, even for listeners whose guilty pleasures are Top 40 FM hits.
OneRepublic has already established their readiness for chart-topping success with a well-crafted pop rock album; in addition to already scoring a hit song, they were among the most popular acts on Myspace last year after being dropped by their first record label, Columbia. But their next step is separating themselves from other alt-rock acts like The Fray and delivering a follow-up album ready to divulge in more than just dreaming about deeper meaning of life.