Ryan Tedder has built up an impressive résumé as a producer and songwriter for the likes of Leona Lewis, Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson. But he and his OneRepublic bandmates have also racked up quite a few accolades and awards for their Colorado-originated pop rock quintet.
The band splashed on the scene with its first album, Dreaming Out Loud, in 2007. That release's piano-driven ballad "Apologize" was remixed by über-producer Timbaland and re-released on Timbaland's debut Timbaland Presents Shock Value. It soared to triple-platinum sales—becoming the biggest radio airplay hit in the history of the Top 40 in North America.
OneRepublic was suddenly on everybody's musical radar.
With its sophomore effort, Waking Up, the band pours lots of studio production, melodious instrumentals and catchy hooks into a concept album examining the temptations and struggles of fame and fortune.
The first four songs ("Made for You," "All the Right Moves," "Secrets" and "Everybody Loves Me") point to the world's tendency to abundantly praise those who are on top. But they also warn that the sweet back-slapping can be short-lived and quickly turn sour ("It can't be possible, the rain can fall/Only when it's over our heads/The sun is shining every day, but it's far away/Over the world that's dead").
On "Missing Persons 1 & 2," Tedder laments that success can ruin formerly loving relationships ("Everything changed when you got along/ … Suddenly you can't even be found"). He goes on to say that he won't keep making the same negative choices (You spend it all chasing those lies/I don't really wanna take that chance/I don't really wanna do that dance).
Tedder sings of reclaiming youthful innocence on "Fear." And on "Marchin On" he dedicates himself, in spite of past failures, to keep moving in the right direction ("There's so many wars we fought/There's so many things we're not/But with what we have/I promise you that/We're marching on").
"Lullaby" proclaims that at the end of a hard day, "Thoughts turn to angels/Over us." Peace is found as "Dreams start their drifting."
"Good Life" references the "bulls‑‑‑ that don't work."
OneRepublic has been accused by some music critics of being "too blandly radio pop," but there's really nothing blah-feeling about Waking Up. It's a very listenable album that well-showcases the group's production savvy as it offers up light rock, cello-laced refrains, rhythmic versatility and soulful singing.
Professing Christian Tedder includes no direct references to faith in his lyrics. But the best parts of Waking Up, "All This Time" and "Lullaby," can easily be seen to hold spiritual overtones. Outside of one vulgarity, the album is a wholesale—and wholesome—encouragement to stick to the high ground and the positive things of life.