Review Summary: Oh my...
Remember Dreaming Out Loud
" Those were very promising times for OneRepublic, because they displayed a ton of potential for being both unapologetically pop
yet also possessing actual talent (well - vocally, anyway). They even garnered the ever-so-coveted label of “heirs to Coldplay” (it seems every couple years a new artist relishes this title, which is hilarious because Coldplay sucks now) – and of course they subsequently squandered that
by spinning their wheels while the real Coldplay went on to redeem themselves with Viva La Vida
. But OneRepublic’s potential no longer matters in light of Oh My My
– an album that sees the quintet collectively and abruptly run out of ideas. At least that’s what I choose to believe happened, because the alternative is that these guys actually wanted
to make a terrible, hour-long pop album with cover art that features bassist Brent Kutzle trying (and possibly failing) to fist bump himself while the others are decidedly mesmerized or otherwise staring into space.
The biggest problem with Oh My My
is that OneRepublic forsakes the few characteristics that once made them relatively unique in favor of bland, done-to-death radio pop. The good songs are stacked up in the beginning, and there are really only two of them – ‘Future Looks Good’ and ‘Kids.’ To be fair, ‘Kids’ is one hell of a tune, and it’s easily on par with some of the best mainstream songs you’ll hear all year. The pre-chorus is catchy as hell and the atmosphere allows it to feel as though it would have blended in seamlessly on the far superior Native
. Unfortunately it’s all downhill after that, though. The title track possesses the same beat as a Robin Thicke song and has one of the worst choruses ever – Ryan Tedder simply repeating the words “just what I wanted”; ‘A.I.’ has this funky yet somehow un-danceable beat that makes it seem like Peter Gabriel’s guest feature was some type of hostage incident; and ‘Better’ sees the band go the route of The Script with some awkward half-rap verses and wobbly high-pitched synthesizers that sound comically misplaced. ‘Fingertips’ tries OneRepublic’s hand at going lo-fi, but it just ends up sounding like Tedder wailing atop a classical piano about someone he had sex with last summer; ‘Human’ begins with the line “Yesterday I talked to God we had a conversation” and then proceeds to see Tedder declare “But I just, I just needed some holiness.” This album truly isn’t for the faint of heart, because there are cringe-worthy decisions made at every turn here from the lyrics to the production.
Every track follows the same sort of template as well – faux R&B beat, Tedder mumbling something that is supposed to be deep, pre-chorus, and then falsetto. Critiquing one track on this album is kind of like critiquing them all, which is why it’s such a shame that the majority of this outing strays from the dynamic, upbeat style of ‘Kids.’ An unintended result of these songs’ homogenous formulation – not to mention the absurd sixty minute album length – is that even some of the more tolerable tracks (‘Choke’, ‘NbHD’) end up either blending in to the surrounding forgettable moments, or taking way too long to reach in order to be worth enduring the mess that precedes them. Even for avid OneRepublic fans, it’s difficult to imagine this being the sort of album that you might listen to all the way through. When the worthwhile tracks are this few in number and so easy to pick out from the surrounding bunch, it becomes more about taking what you want and getting the hell out. But I guess that’s what happens when a band is in the midst of an obvious cash-grab; one or two legitimate songs get padded with whatever it takes to make an album and meet a deadline.
Oh My My
marks a low point in OneRepublic’s career. It’s actually a little bit surprising, considering that the preceding Native
could easily be considered their strongest showing to date. Unfortunately, whatever magic they captured to create that quality blend of atmosphere and pop sensibility is now totally gone. They clearly still have the talent to recover, which is evidenced by small bursts of creativity here and there, but their apparent satisfaction with resorting to a quality single or two in order to define an entire record won’t keep the ship afloat for very long. If you look at Coldplay’s recent struggles with the underwhelming Ghost Stories
and A Head Full of Dreams
, it almost lends credence to the early comparisons between these bands: both
appear to have reached an impasse in terms of creative direction. It just took OneRepublic half the time to come crashing down in that fiery, insipid wreck.