Review Summary: Native is a major player in a growing revolution towards musical accountability in pop music. Who saw that coming from OneRepublic?
“If we only die once, I wanna die with/ if we only live once, I wanna live with you”
Beginning with a revelation about only living once, ‘Something I Need’ ends with the above line, finally stating the answer to the question of with whom exactly he wants to live---and, by extension, die. It’s absolutely predictable, but that’s beside the point. In the era of #YOLO, where the wisdom of carpe diem has been perverted and diluted to justify all sorts of short-sighted behavior---and keeping in mind that pop music is designed to place the listener as the narrator of the lyrics---a pop artist declaring his life’s dedication to a cause beyond hedonism or self-aggrandizement is both surprising and refreshing. Lyrically, most of Native follows suit, with a dedication to someone, likely the wife of vocalist and songwriter Ryan Tedder. Yet despite the cliché, there’s a certain degree of sincerity that is otherwise conspicuously absent from today’s pop circle. Consider the gospel undertones of lead single ‘Feel Again’ and ‘Preacher.’ Deviating from the formula, the latter is a genuine contemplation on Tedder’s faith and family. Even though the song never strays from being pop, it also never feels manufactured or processed, and the lyrics are beautiful and intimate. Even though the rest of the songs’ lyrical themes are far more conventional, they retain this aura of authenticity.
Consequently, Native is a release that should have people excited for the future of pop once again. It’s the foil of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience---in terms of sound it is relatively unassuming and meek, yet it’s equally heartfelt and intelligent. Opener ‘Counting Stars’ is the infectious, vital, and bombastic track that Timberlake’s album avoided, a smartly made anthem that shows pop doesn’t have to try to break boundaries to succeed. But Native is not anthem after anthem---from the heartfelt, violin-driven ballad ‘Au Revoir’ to the glut of midtempo tracks, including second single ‘If I Lose Myself,’ to the edgy ‘Light It Up’ (which isn’t pop at all), there is undeniable variety here, even if it’s all evenly dressed up and slicked over with a healthy dose of polish. Not everything succeeds---some of the understated midtempo tracks get drowned out by the synthesizers and other elements of production, and ‘Light It Up’ doesn’t shine until the extended outro---and it rarely stumbles upon brilliance, beyond the opener. Yet it’s different and sufficiently high-quality enough to indicate actual songwriting effort was put into the album, and Native thus never feels formulaic. This is what pop music needs right now. Luckily, the worst-kept secret in the industry is how influential Tedder is in mainstream pop’s songwriting process, and if musicians more talented than he put in as much effort as was put into Native, this may be a release ultimately more influential than even Timberlake’s.
It’s a quiet, unassuming rebellion, and one that may fizzle out soon. But Native is a major player in a growing revolution for musical accountability in pop music. Who saw that coming from OneRepublic?
You know, I must say, I completely agree with everything you said in this whole review, right down to the rating. It's also pretty well written. I'm happy that when you do review, you do a really nice job. Consider urself posd.
So far, I think this is one of the best albums of the year. The instrumentals are very well made and the lyrics are well written. This album is seriously underrated. I actually like it a lot better than JT's new album.
"At the same time though, the two are completely different and shouldn't be compared in the first place."
I have to disagree on this point. In the same sense that JT's album was compared all over the place to MBDTF despite no similarity in sound, I thought it was an apt comparison due to their (potentially) being gamechangers in the pop scene, or at least evidence of a shift towards legitimate songwriting instead of singles-chasing. I can see where you're coming from with regards to 'Preacher' and 'Au Revoir' and believe me I was, but I decided it didn't really fit the point of my review.
Either way it's good to see you aren't too satisfied with my review---now you can write one to argue your point ;-)
It's a fair opinion to have. It's a well-crafted album, and the lyrics are much better than they'll be given credit for.
I'm not 100% sure this will change your opinion of them. This isn't so exciting that it'll make a fan out of a non-fan, but it's evidence that OneRepublic isn't a bad band (with, again, Au Revoir and Preacher showing that the band can write meaningful music. When's the last time you heard that about pop?)
I can see where you're coming from. It's not my rating is a 4.5 or anything.
@Henry, whoops didn't see your comment there. If you liked "If I Lose Myself" you should quite enjoy this album I'd say. Most of the tracks are midtempo in that vein.
@Ecnal, yeah I know where you're coming from. They definitely got overplayed here as well, though I think most of their singles were pretty good for what they are. I'm still not convinced this album will change your opinion at all---if anything you'll probably hate it once the singles gain more traction. haha
I am not in a situation where I have to listen to pop radio anymore (like because of work, etc.). It's been nice, lol. I do remember thinking this guy had a great singing voice. I will give this a try.