OneRepublic continue their stride on #4 “Oh My My”
With Ryan Tedder staying as busy as he does, writing pop gold for Madonna, Beyonce, Adele, U2, and more still, one wonders how he has any creative juices left when it comes to writing songs for OneRepublic. On album number 4 “Oh My My” it is clear that he has quite the deep well of ideas to draw from. Tedder stated that the length between this album and Native was partly due to the number of songs on it. It was recorded all over the world, including during breaks on the Native tour, and it shows in the sound. It truly is all over the place, and while there are some similarities to past work, they have largely managed to avoid the “self-copycat” slump this time around.
Right from minute one, Oh My My hews to a more subdued vibe. Here, and elsewhere on the album, the emphasis on soaring power ballads is evident. Opening track “Let’s Hurt Tonight” takes a well worn love song trope and flips it neatly on its head, stating simply, but effectively, “They say love is pain / well darling, let’s hurt tonight.” Continuing on with the low-key vibe, “Future Looks Good” sees OneRepublic putting on their “Coldplay hats” — not a perfect fit, but they mostly manage to make it work. Track 3, also the title track of the album, swiftly delivers on the promise of avoiding repetition. This track blends a classic funk groove, while borrowing some of the current-day pop-fused-with-funk embellishments to make it sound both a song out of its time, and a song of the moment all at once. And with 2nd single “Kids” leading the charge into the middle half, Tedder and co. spin a charming ode to indestructible youth, seen through the lens of a late-30 something father who lives in a world of duality — he will never rhapsodize his youth as a great time lost, but at the same time, remains able to look back in awe on the wonders of being young. Not an easy balance to keep up, but the strident urgency of the music and the song’s earworm-grade catchiness sell the whole production with ease. Right at the halfway mark, in marches single #3 “AI” which features Peter Gabriel, is a strange animal — it feels like something that could have ended up as one of the “just ok” tracks on other-wise back to back classic Peter Gabriel albums “So” and “Us.” It is an interesting experiment of sorts that seems to be trying to pull the band out of their comfort zone, but doesn’t always manage to hit the mark.
Tedder’s love of gospel flourishes remains, and as before, is used to good effect whenever it shows up. “Choke” is the creme de la creme among this album’s ballads. A few tracks on this album also feel like spiritual successors to past tracks — while some could call them a retread of old work, they mostly avoid this problem. “Human” is a strange animal in this regard — it contains the questioning-of-life-through faith vibe that ran deep through “Preacher” off their previous album. For “Human” the vibe is maintained, only this time the speed is ramped up, and the beat calls to mind their previous hit “If I Lose Myself” even as the lyrics paint a conversation with God and poses a “What if God got sick of being God and just wanted to be 1 of us?” (And yes, Joan Osborne fans, I see what I did there.) Against all odds, it manages to work.
Overall, at times “Oh My My” comes across like the drive to not repeat their past success as a band made their sound this time around a little too all over the place. But these moments of scattered focus are the exception, not the rule. The rule is that OneRepublic still have a keen ear for creating shined-to-a-gleam pop, covering a wide range of flavors. Well worth the listen.
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