Review Summary: Further ambition results in marginal progression, but Coldplay need not fear just yet.
Pop-rock is an often derided musical genre due to its safe and inoffensive nature leaving it susceptible to little-talent one-hit wonders looking for their 15 minutes of fame. There is no reason why artists looking to ply their trade within its confines cannot display a little imagination however. More than that, there could well be a market for it. Coloradan quintet OneRepublic hinted at such ambition on their debut LP ‘Dreaming Out Loud’. Two years later they look to build on that promise with follow-up release ‘Waking Up’.
Of course, their debut did have one thing going for it; producer Timbaland remixed their single ‘Apologize’ and turned it into a worldwide smash hit. There is nothing as grand here, although lead single ‘All The Right Moves’ is another catchy & polished piece which does a not too dissimilar job of bridging the gap between pop-rock and contemporary R&B. Once more, there are plenty of choices for subsequent singles: ‘Secrets’ follows the hit-making formula near-perfectly, while ‘Good Life’ has an up-tempo feel-good vibe that is difficult to dislike. The best of the rest though, may be the tongue-in-cheek ‘Everybody Loves Me’, where lead vocalist Ryan Tedder injects some welcome character through lines such as “Don’t need my health, got my name & got my wealth”.
So what of that aforementioned imagination? The intentions of Tedder & Co. on their debut were admirable, if a little misplaced. And the same can be said second time around as well. Positively, such ambition adds some much-needed variety. For the most part, this is not a boring album. However, this ambition is never quite fully capitalized upon, resulting in a lot of hit-and-miss ideas. Look no further than the multi-component ‘Missing Persons 1 & 2’ or strings-heavy’ Fear’ as examples of this.
The latter half of ‘Waking Up’ will indeed be its barometer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hold up to the very end. Heart-on-sleeve ballads such as ‘All This Time’ & ‘Lullaby’ float on by without making an impression, while uplifting motivational piece ‘Marchin On’ will have as many detractors as fans with its military-like approach. There are other issues that work against the band also… The half-decent title track is so derivative that you would swear that U2’s The Edge was playing guitars, while (similarly to their debut) there tends to be an over-reliance on piano & strings which dulls their effect.
OneRepublic are likely be lumped into the same grouping as countrymen The Fray and Maroon 5. A more apt comparison would be English pop-rockers – and arguably genre leaders – Coldplay. As the marginal progression of ‘Waking Up’ attests, OneRepublic gladly mix things up a little. Unfortunately, whether it be through compromise, confusion or otherwise, they are still to find their consistent sweet spot. Chris Martin & Co. need not fear that their crown is in jeopardy just yet, but one would not at all be surprised if OneRepublic’s ‘Viva La Vida’ is just around the corner. ‘Waking Up’ is not quite it though.
Recommended Tracks: All The Right Moves, Secrets & Everybody Loves Me.