Dreaming Out Loud, OneRepublic
Myspace may be a breeding ground for bad grammar, gratuitous and borderline Penthouse photos, and flaming wars, but for struggling artists trying to find footing, it can also be a useful avenue to bigger and better things.
DREAMING OUT LOUD
YOU WANTED TO KNOW
This is where OneRepublic comes in. If you haven’t heard their international hit, “Apologize,” you may have been drilling for oil in Alaska for the past year. “Apologize,” which was remixed and featured on Timbaland’s compilation album, Shock Value, is a double platinum phenomenon and has enjoyed ample airplay in what seems like the past four years. For many of us, OneRepublic is a fresh face, but in reality, this rock band has been around for some time. This rags-to-riches story begins on Myspace, where the band is currently the social networking site’s top artist. On a good day, their songs can be streamed over twenty thousand times.
Formed in 2003, OneRepublic comes from humble beginnings. One fine day, founding members Ryan Tedder and Zach Filkins found common ground in their musical abilities while attending the local Colorado Springs high school. With Eddie Fisher, Brent Kutzle, and Drew Brown rounding out the band, they signed with Columbia Records only to watch their deal fall apart. Luckily, Tedder’s previous producing prowess and tutelage from Timbaland led to a newly inked deal with Timbaland’s record label, the Mosley Music Group, and distribution via Interscope Records. As it stands, OneRepublic is the first rock act to be signed to the label.
But frontman Tedder is hardly a stranger to success, having amassed an impressive resume of production and song writing credits that run the gamut from Jennifer Lopez to Ludacris to Hilary Duff to Tupac. He’s responsible (or to blame, depending on your perception) for “Love Like This” (Natasha Bedingfield), “He Said, She Said” (Ashley Tisdale), and “Bleeding Love” (Leona Lewis). He’s also worked on Paul Oakenfold’s Grammy-nominated album, A Lively Mind. Although Tedder is clearly a talented producer with an ear for current pop, writing and performing music is his first love. Thus, Dreaming Out Loud was born.
With the abundance of exposure that the band has received from Timbaland’s R&B-fied version of “Apologize,” the band has used the momentum to release their second single, “Stop And Stare.” “Stop and Stare” is markedly different from the initial sound that we’ve heard from the band. With a rock base infused by poppy beats, this melodic song is a better representative of Dreaming Out Loud than “Apologize.” Chances are that if you don’t enjoy this single, you probably won’t like much of the album. Luckily, I do.
“Stop And Stare” is by no means inventive or groundbreaking, but it’s an enjoyable song that features two of the band’s strongest draws: vocals and writing. Tedder has a natural affinity for singing (as Paula Abdul might say on “American Idol,” she loooooooves his “tone”), and his voice, smooth like butter and exhibiting broader range than most lead rock singers, keeps most songs here afloat. Referring to his voice, Rolling Stone deigned Tedder’s vocals to be “bland,” but I think it’s a welcome change from the overly exaggerated but thin voices of most pop rock bands. I’d take a song from this album over another whiny song from Simple Plan on any day. On the other side of the argument, Tedder’s voice may seem too manicured for the raw sound of rock that the band seems to be leaning toward (even if it does come from the Coldplay school of affected rock).
Thematically, Dreaming Out Loud is angst-ridden, and perceives the world to be a cold, unforgiving place. Yes, it’s one of those albums that your college roommate might play on loop while getting over an especially rough break-up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re looking for variety, you might have better luck with Alicia Keys or the Juno soundtrack. Heck, even Chris Brown or Rihanna might give you a wider range of style. But even if being depressed isn’t your cup of tea, take comfort in knowing that Dreaming Out Loud often features profound, relevant lyrics. Most songs rely on ambiguity (and, apparently, so do their videos, if “Stop And Stare” is any indication), which leaves much room for interpretation – or frustration – depending on how deep you want to get on any given day.
Most of the album is produced by Greg Wells, a fellow Canadian who’s worked with Mika, Rufus Wainwright, Pink, and Natasha Bedingfield. However, OneRepublic’s own Tedder takes credit for “Won’t Stop” and “Come Home.” With so much producing experience, you’d figure that these songs would be top-notch, but they aren’t. I wouldn’t say that they’re atrocious, per se, but they are quite uninteresting, for a lack of a better word. “Won’t Stop,” in particular, is a whimsical ditty that veers off into elevator music territory by the chorus. If you don’t mind being bored for five minutes, “Won’t Stop” might not be a bad choice. “Come Home” is a soft piano ballad that features too much falsetto and not enough zing, but it does have the distinction of featuring the eponymous “dreaming out loud” line.
There are plenty of so-so songs on this album, like “Say (All I Need).” The slow single begins with an interesting opening, and features some tight production throughout, though I still have no idea what the song is supposed to be about. Due to its popularity with digital downloads, this may end up being the group’s third single. “Mercy” is a decent track that grew on me after repeated listens, but it’s one of those songs that you just can’t seem to remember once it stops. “Someone to Save You,” a drum-heavy track that toes the pop line, is worth a listen, especially when it comes to the line, “’Cause I can see by your eyes, you’re wasted” (maybe it’s because I hear that a lot, especially on weekends).
An review of OneRepublic can’t go by without a mention of “Apologize,” which is featured twice on the album – first, in its original form, then as its reincarnated remix on the last track. Vocally, both versions of “Apologize” are virtually identical and, if you’re familiar with the smoothness of Tedder’s voice, you’ll know that he carries much of the song. But on Timbaland’s re-imagined “Apologize,” the backing track is more precise, more definite, more Timbaland than most of the songs appearing on Shock Value. In OneRepublic’s take, the band incorporates pianos, guitars, and strings for a grandiosely melancholy sound. Both versions have merits on their own right, and both are produced wonderfully.
The inevitable Coldplay comparison comes from “All We Are,” a solid piano ballad that has a high chance of appearing on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” This track, which speaks about breaking up, is on par with “Apologize” in terms of writing. With melodic switches and anguished growls, this could easily pass as a Chris Martin clone superficially. But if you listen closely, it’s about a hundred times less annoying than a Coldplay song, and speaks frankly about losing a love rather than about burying bones or making things yellow. “We'll say our goodbyes, you know it's better that way,” Tedder sings on the chorus. “We won't break, we won't die – it's just a moment of change.” In the light of day, truer words have never been spoken about heartbreak.
But then things fall apart again on “Prodigal.” There is a trippy beginning and stripped down vocals, but overall it’s slow, and as enjoyable to listen to as a Beyonce and Shakira collaboration (minus the discomfort brought on by watching a video based on said collaboration, but I digress). Likewise, “Goodbye Apathy,” a pseudo-love song, is a layered piece that doesn’t resonate. For me, it’s just filler before we get to “All Fall Down.”
“All Fall Down” more than makes up for the weaker songs on the album. It might even make up for the fact that the band has Enrique Iglesias as one of its top friends on Myspace. “All Fall Down” might just be my favourite track off the album (yes, even before “Apology,” which I know is blasphemy). With a staccato string punctuating every syllable, the song flows from beginning to end. The cello makes a formidable backing track, and the production finally sounds cohesive. The lyrics, especially, are moving. There’s a lot of symbolism (“Yeah, God love your soul and your aching bones, take a breath, take a step, maybe down below”), but there are also truths that we can all relate to, especially as the song hits its stride in the chorus (“Lost ‘til you're found, swim ‘til you drown, know that we all fall down / Love ‘til you hate, jump ‘til you break, know that we all fall down”).
“I don’t want someone just to say, ‘Oh, nice voice, nice song,’” Tedder has stated in interviews. “I want that person to walk away and feel like he or she has had a religious experience; we want them to feel moved.” In that case, he may not like what I have to conclude about the album.
Dreaming Out Loud is a compilation of nice songs and nice vocals, but it doesn’t go beyond that. There are possible follow-up hits to be mined from this album, but nothing that stands out as much as “Apologize” does. What the band mostly needs is its own voice, which it is slowly gaining. OneRepublic isn’t poised for world domination, but it is equipped to stick around. ¤ C.Ho.
DREAMING OUT LOUD: (out of 5)
“ALL FALL DOWN”: (out of 5)