Dreaming Out Loud
Sounds like: Something south of The Fray
Short take: OneRepublic certainly listens well
With Colorado Springs' own Ryan Tedder being as hot as he is on mainstream radio these days, producing tracks for artists like Natasha Bedingfield and Blake Lewis, it's not altogether surprising that he's gone a similar route with his own band (even though super-producer Timbaland gets billed as the album's executive producer). And on OneRepublic's Dreaming Out Loud, Tedder indeed shows off his chops and finely tuned ear.
Clearly, the guy knows what's big on Top 40 radio these days, and he's crafted an album that, more than likely, has no fewer than three radio-friendly hits on it. Aside from super-smash "Apologize" (which is actually a better song in its un-remixed incarnation), our money's on the Fray-like second-single "Stop and Stare" and the pleasing "Someone to Save You," which sounds like U2's "Stuck in a Moment" mashed with Coldplay's "Clocks."
But the promise of continued radio success doesn't necessarily mean OneRepublic has hit one out of the park here. In reality, it hasn't. The problem with the disc is its transparency: Whereas a number of recent rock acts have been criticized for having a sound that's all build-up and no payoff (Arcade Fire, for instance), Tedder's gone the opposite route.
He's taken a page from hip-hop, crafting an album of songs that are all payoff and hook without much, if any, build-up. Worse, a number of these songs sound ridiculously alike, even upon multiple listens. Piano backed with ambient strings and guitars can only go so far.
The album's top tracks are the ones that diverge from the otherwise derivative formula: "Tyrant" showcases Tedder's vocals and non-mainstream writing talents, and "Won't Stop" is an upbeat, simple song that offers a nice break from the rest of the album's over-arranged epics.
Tedder's no dummy. This album will sell. Big-time. But with so much songwriting talent, Tedder and OneRepublic are capable of better, more exploratory work.
In a recent interview, Tedder acknowledged as much: "There's a huge part of [the band] that wanted to be this really indie-cred, super-cred, non-accessible band. We can do that kind of music. We have a super-weird side to us that, every now and then, we let out of its cage. But if you write stuff that the masses are going to love, the critics are going to hate you. And if you write stuff the critics are going to love, you won't sell the record. It's kind of a catch-22, so I just decided to say, 'You know what? Screw it.'"
The album speaks for itself in that regard. And given that it's likely to be a success, we can probably expect more of the same in the future.
And it's too bad, coming from such a promising local talent.