Plumbiferous Media

Waking Up – OneRepublic

Dec 6th 2009
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Waking Up - OneRepublicOneRepublic
Waking Up
Score: 11

OneRepublic (yes, without the space) has been active since 2002, but only produced its first album in 2007. Since then, it has released numerous singles, and most recently, its sophomore album. Waking Up is best described as a mix of indie, some rock, and a healthy portion of pop. But while the three genres are easily among the simplest to combine, something clearly went awry with Waking Up.

Waking Up starts weakly, and quickly begins to worsen from that point. The opening track, “Made for You,” combines what could have been an interesting drum rhythm paired with decently original chords, but the choice of piano for the main instrumental voice was simply a mistake. The piano fits neither with the vocals nor the drums, and each additional instrument that enters fits no better. In fact, the instrumentals don’t quite fit together on the second track either, with an organ playing alongside an extremely heavy drum beat (another characteristic of the album), nor the third, or really, any of the tracks.

But it is the later tracks such as “Good Life” that really make the listener wonder how such odd instrumentations and musical decisions can sound so utterly generic and boring. The answer, of course, is that nearly all the tracks of Waking Up effectively use random instruments that don’t really fit together playing generally uninteresting harmonies over an extremely loud drum line to a generic poppy melody. And sure, the tracks are relatively diverse, but that’s not particularly difficult when instruments are chosen seemingly at random.

There is nothing harsh, sharp, or even vaguely interesting about Ryan Tedder’s vocals. Instead, they’ve been processed and produced to be as palatable as humanly possible. They’re left completely souless – at several points on Waking Up, it is completely believable that a computer could have taken over for Tedder with no effect whatsoever on the vocals. Occasional bits of vocal flair – the short quasi-rap segment on “Secrets,” various shrieks, and attempts at some sort of stunted creativity – fall flat. By the end of the album (or rather the end of the first track), Tedder’s vocals have become tedious simply by existing.

Waking Up is admittedly not the sort of music that’s meant to stand up to any sort of deep listening. Nevertheless, when the lyrics of an album are alternately so generic and so irritating that they stand out in spite of being unimportant to the music, it is by no means a good thing. Waking Up falls soundly into this category. Between incessant repetition (“Everybody loves me!” “This is gonna be a good life!”) and mostly useless choruses, Tedder finds time to sing the truly awful parts of the album, including the inanely arrogant “And everyday I see the news / All the problems that we could solve them / When a situation rises just write it into an album” from “Secrets.” But Tedder’s favorite pastime on Waking Up seems to be talking about himself. The obvious example is, of course, “Everybody Loves Me,” but the majority of the album is speckled with Tedder’s attempts at musical self-aggrandizement. It, needless to say, does not come off well.

In the end, Waking Up seems to be little more than an elaborate massaging of Ryan Tedder’s ego. It’s not creative musically, lyrically, or in any other notable manner. It doesn’t stand out among pop or rock music, and worse, it doesn’t even stand out against itself. There are very few notable moments on Waking Up, and what moments exist are generally notable for being worse than their immediate surroundings. Waking Up only has merit (barely) as the sort of music that floats by unnoticed on a soft-rock radio station – but more than a minute or two, and you’ll want to change the track in favor of something with a bit more substance.

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