Oh My My
Most musical megastars don't thrive on anonymity. Yet despite nine years of hit singles and three very successful albums, OneDirection frontman Ryan Tedder is kind of shocked that his platinum-selling band isn't more immediately recognizable than it is. But he's also OK with that.
"We're … a band that's gotten where we've gotten, operating below the radar," he told radio.com. "We're maybe sonically ubiquitous; you've heard us everywhere, for almost a decade. But visually, we can still walk into a Walgreens and not get mobbed. That's been amazing."
Below the radar and sonically ubiquitous are apt descriptors of OneRepublic's highly polished fusion of pop and rock. Tedder and Co. excel at crafting easy-on-the-ears hits that you might well find yourself humming by heart … even if you couldn't name the band (or perhaps even the songs themselves) if someone asked you to do so.
Like previous OneRepublic efforts, the band's fourth album, Oh My My, offers a catchy, melodic, upbeat take on life … with just enough grit to prevent anyone from accusing these guys of being too sanitized or Pollyannaish.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"Human" unpacks a prayerful dialogue between a man and God. "Yesterday I talked to God, we had a conversation," Tedder begins. "Told Him that I'm sorry I lost communication." A bit later Tedder adds, "I said that the things I've been trying end up in frustration/Life ain't what it seems in any situation." The deity responds by suggesting that He can relate to how the man feels: "Then He said, He said the strangest thing/He said, 'How does it feel to be human?/Some of the best plans you make get ruined/Do people curse you and the flowers ain't blooming/How does it feel?'" Elsewhere, the song suggests that a medicated generation yearns for a deeper experience of transcendence ("Most of us are happy with some medication/Lord, I could really use some wings").
"Let's Hurt Tonight" recognizes that loving another person can be messy and painful. The song deals with weariness and conflict, but it suggests that couples with healthy relationships firmly confront each other ("When I was off, which happened a lot/You came to me and said, 'That's enough'"), and they stay engaged until they've worked through their differences ("So I'll hit the lights and you lock the doors/We ain't leaving this room 'til we both feel more/Don't walk away, don't roll your eyes"). "Born" insists, "I was born, born to love you." On "All These Things," a man tells his beloved, "I've been lost, but I'm here today/I'll do all these things for you/ … I'll tell you the truth when it's all lies." And "Heaven" promises delighted attentiveness amid turbulent times: "And when the world ain't righteous/It's raining Cain and Abels/I'll be trying to dance with you."
On "Future Looks Good," Tedder takes a hopeful stance about what's next ("I swear that you are, you are the future/And the future looks good") and vows to speak plainly even if others don't ("Because you know anybody, everybody else can lie/But honey, I won't see you with a, see you with a broken set of eyes"). "Better" finds a mentally ill man striving to convince someone that there's still hope for positive change: "Yes, I'm neurotic, I'm obsessed, I know it/ … I think I lost my mind/ … I swear I'm not insane/ … In the morning I'll be better."
The title track recognizes life's brevity ("Days are long, life's so short") and reaffirms a romance ("Just what I wanted, you're just what I wanted"). "Kids" fondly recalls adolescence but rejects the nostalgic notion that the past was automatically better: "I refuse to look back thinking days were better/Just because they're younger days." "Dream" affirms the importance of pursuing what we think is important, even if those around us are sometimes critical. "A.I." seems to pine for genuine love amid artificial counterfeits. "Lift Me Up" deals with asking for help when we're down. Similarly, "NbHD" longs for a happy ending even if the present is dark ("Searching the horizon for a sign/All I see is dark, but I sail on/ … Fly closer to heaven and far from hell").
Three songs contain a total of seven partially censored s-words, which is the biggest concern here.
"Wherever I Go" flirts with a reckless relationship ("I feel alive when I'm close to the madness/No easy love could ever make me feel the same"). "Let's Hurt Together" metaphorically conflates love and pain in lines that could be misheard as a literal suggestion: "They say love is pain, well, darling, let's hurt tonight." "Oh My My" includes lines about a couple connecting at a bar. Adolescent antics in "Kids" include smoking cheap cigars and staying up all night ("We were searching for Oz/We were burning cigars/With white plastics tips 'til we saw the sun").
"Fingertips" describes a young, unmarried couple drinking and falling asleep together: "You were talking about the night when I cashed out/Traded glances as I stole your lover's light/ … We were drinking from the same old glasses/That we borrowed from my roommate down the hall." There may be another cohabiting (or perhaps they're married, it's unclear) couple in "Future Looks Good": "Woke up staring at this, staring at this empty room."
I love that OneRepublic continues to deliver albums with a generally positive outlook. Ryan Tedder and his bandmates write songs that deal honestly with life's struggles even as they emphasize a message of hope and the possibility of positive change.
I'm less enamored with the way the band occasionally chooses to articulate its perspective on brokenness: via bleeped s-words that undermine the album's otherwise encouraging vibe.
Yes, I know they're partially censored. Yes, I know sometimes people say bad words in the real world. But I can't help but feel that the band's indulgence of profanity detracts from its otherwise mostly redemptive perspective on dealing with life's inevitable difficulties.