MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 28: ONEREPUBLIC

Sometimes I wonder about the toil that it must take on someone who is a person of faith, but is ministering a lot (I don’t know if ministering is the right word, maybe creating their skills and expertise is probably better) within the confines of ‘mainstream’ media if you will. The media that seems to hate on Christianity everywhere you turn (I know that’s a big assumption, but that’s other thing to talk about in another post…not here!). What happens to a person’s soul if you are immersed into a culture that may or may not be what you initially think it is? What happens when what you stand for doesn’t necessarily line up to what the world says you should stand for…what then? I’ve been listening to a lot of music and artists these last 20-something weeks or so- some by people of faith, some by people who are not. And what I’ve found common amongst all the music is a need to be loved and accepted, to find purpose and meaning, to have music as a reminder to us all that whatever we’re going through, there is hope and light at the end of our journeys, moving from the mundane to the magical, the uncertain to the uncanny, from the hopeless to the happy. OneRepublic are such a band that have explored a lot of themes that I myself have been obtaining over the last few months, and then some- some may call them as artists who are following the step of Coldplay and U2, others say that they are reminding themselves of other under-the-radar artists like Lifehouse and The Fray.

Regardless of who they are being compared to, one thing is for certain- Ryan Tedder, lead singer, and the rest of the band; have created a space where honesty and hopefulness is brought to the fore, where we ask the tough question that sometimes don’t have an answer. That it is ok for us to wrestle with the things that make no sense, because in the wrestling we can understand that there things about what we believe that are truth regardless, things that are not, and things that nevertheless challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. The band are indeed influential, and though only releasing 4 albums thus far (plus a slew of singles!), Ryan and the band nevertheless create honest music to a fault. For me they remind me of the mainstream version of Switchfoot if you will. Asking the questions, poking and prodding, asking the question that often the general public don’t want the answer for. Nevertheless, in their 12 years of being a band, Ryan and the crew have given to us songs to dance to, songs to cry to, songs to be challenged by, and songs that are just plain dance tunes. And it is in this wide variety of music by the band that we can see the versatility of Ryan and how he goes about his music. OneRepublic are a gem, a diamond in the sea of charcoal (sad to say). They stand out for all the right reasons, and a certain enjoyable listen, I guess, if you enjoy other challenging artists, like U2, Coldplay, Lifehouse, The Fray and Switchfoot, to name a few!

Prior to this year, I wasn’t really a massive fan of the band. I mean, I did hear a few songs here and there, and yes, songs like ‘Apologize’, ‘Stop and Stare’, ‘Counting Stars’ and ‘Good Life’, all were in rotation on either the radio or just in movies, TV shows, also in my iTunes playlists over the years. But never did I stop and listen to this band who are fast becoming arguably one of the most influential American pop band’s of society at this current stage. There, I said it. Just like Ed Sheeran is now to male artists, and Taylor Swift is now to female artists, so to right now is OneRepublic is to bands. I know that it can be a stretch- considering there are many, many other bands out there that many people could argue would be the most popular or even the most influential- Mumford and Sons, Panic! At the Disco, Imagine Dragons, 5 Seconds of Summer and TwentyOne Pilots are all bands that have stretched the musical boundaries of today, and in any other universe, could easily be stated by me as the top band at the moment (since I haven’t listened to these bands, my assessment of OneRepublic in relation to these other artists could change as time goes by. But the fact of the matter remains- Ryan and the band have choreographed a career full of songs of pain, of joy, of sorrow and hurt, and of healing and restoration. Since once again hearing OneRepublic, I can safely say that this group is by far one of the most honest I’ve heard in a while. Staggering their album releases in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2016; listeners are given a great time to soak in the music for years, and to allow songs that are confrontational to set down deep into the soul, allowing fruit to yield, and to remind us all that songs don’t necessarily have to be ‘religious’ in nature for the Lord our God to move through artists are they teach us about Himself and ourselves in the process. OneRepublic is one of these artists.

Though only 4 albums in the span of 12 years, OneRepublic’s music career is full of songs that inspire as well as convict, they challenge as well as calm and soothe, as Ryan and co. invite us to partake in the songs that bring forth a new generation of people who aren’t afraid what they think about themselves, society and the rest of it when identity and acceptance are concerned. ‘Stop and Stare’, the band’s first hit, speaks of a common frustration that everyone can have in life- not being where they want to be at a certain moment, and feeling like they’re stuck in a rut. Melancholic and heartfelt, Ryan and co. want such a song as this to be the impetus for change, hoping that life that passes us by, passes us by no longer. ‘Secrets’, the first single from OneRepublic’s 2009 album Waking Up, speaks about the universal aspect of worry and uncertainty that comes along with second-guessing and doubting your own abilities. It’s the notion that often comes when secrets are unveiled, and what ties us down is lifted- being the catalyst for us to stop worrying. Freedom in unveiling secrets is what will lead us to the hope that are indeed loved and accepted as who we are, not necessarily by the people we think (some will leave and some will stay upon the unveiling of these secrets), but nevertheless, we are loved regardless. Featuring Sara Bareilles as guest vocals, ‘Come Home’ is a lesser known track on Dreaming Out Loud and is completely done acoustically with acoustic guitars and keyboards. Also covered (and originally heard by myself) by Faith Hill in 2011, ‘Come Home’ recalls the worry, hurt and strain a long-distance relationship can have, and the song itself was based upon Ryan’s friend who was deployed in the military, while his fiancé was back at home (and thus the strain that follows). ‘Good Life’, a song that has had much product placement in various TV shows (One Tree Hill, Rookie Blue, 90210 to name a few), is by far one of the band’s catchiest songs, and despite the swear word (bulls**t), we nevertheless are met with a struggle that Ryan Tedder has, about him wanting the life he leads to be the good life. Convincing himself, that after all the success, the life he’s living should be a good life; there’s a slight inclination that the good life he wants to lead isn’t in his grasp- and if it isn’t, then all the compromises he’s taken to be where he is now, has made him into a worse person because the ‘good life’ he’s chasing may not be worth it in the end!

Much of the band’s discography discuss a myriad of themes that are not necessarily present in today’s pop culture, and thus, for a band to survive as long as it has done, delivering thought-provoking music in the process, is nothing less than a miracle. Ryan Tedder is by far one of the most talented singer-songwriters, and for me, is perhaps the mainstream equivalent of Tenth Avenue North’s Mike Donehey- giving us all bite-sized ideas for us to consider and ponder upon. ‘Counting Stars’, by far, is one of my favourite songs from the band, and is a timely message even for today- the persona (maybe Ryan himself) is fed up with the money he accumulates, and wants to move from counting monies to counting the stars, from looking at himself to looking outside of himself in wonder and awe and to see the things that aren’t discovered yet. As Ryan himself puts it, ‘…I think it’s our responsibility as a band, and what separates us from everyone else. I took that from being a fan of U2 for two decades now, since Achtung Baby. To this day, they might be the only band on that level who sings about things other than just boy-girl troubles or the kind of selfish, ‘I’m a badass’ stuff. I’ve spoken with Bono about this when we toured with him, and he said the same thing. I felt a responsibility to actually write and sing about things that have a level of human gravity to them. If everybody else sings about sex and love and lust and money, then somebody’s gotta be singing about life and faith and hope and things of that nature. And in the pantheon of their esteemed career, they’ve had two #1 hits, and I think both were 25 years ago. It’s not about that – it’s about what songs feel real. I’d rather have a song that peaks at #15 that’s meaningful and embedded in the cultural framework we live in than a #1 song that explodes for five seconds, becomes the dance hit of the summer, then goes away…Much respect for Ryan and the band after this above quote- it is a reminder that there are still bands out there that make music for art, connection, healing and hope rather than the 5 seconds of fame that comes with a #1. As Ryan reminds us all, as humans and creators of things (as we are made in the image of God, since He is the creator of the universe, that is indeed a quality we have inside of us!), we hopefully seek more outside of ourselves and not worry about amassing too much or too little- for what we own and have won’t come with us in the grave when we depart this world anyway.

Then there are the songs that are just plain challenging, songs that strike the heart and allow us to give rise to feelings of moving forward and committing to our own beliefs in spite of what we may feel. ‘All The Right Moves’ challenges the current state of the music industry, and that sometimes, who you know can catapult artists who may not have a clue about singing, ahead of the people (like OneRepublic) that grind and work everyday, thereby, a song like this, is a tongue-in-cheek ‘what’s wrong with the industry’ style song, while ‘Feel Again’ was inspired by children in remote villages who live in other international countries, who have severe lack of water, food and healthcare- and yet they feel and are in many ways, much more in touch with their sense of self, than we in the western world are (in spite of all the things we materially amass). Originally written for his son to navigate through life, ‘I Lived’ has become an anthem over the years- to live life fully and live it well. Similar in theme to Switchfoot’s ‘Live it Well’, Ryan himself divulges about the story behind the song, and that ‘…the whole idea, to quote the late great Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society, is very much ‘carpe diem’…it’s absolutely universal and applicable to everybody…So for every day that you’re on this earth, for every minute that you have, the whole idea is doing nothing less than exactly what you feel you’re supposed to do and squeezing every last drop out of life every day, regardless of the difficulties or trials that you face…’ We are called to live with no regrets, and thus a song like ‘I Lived’ is a melody full of heart and hopefully inspiration as we hear such an anthem that can and does become the soundtrack of certain aspects of our lives moving forward.

Timbaland, a remixer who just recently remixed For KING AND COUNTRY’s popular hit ‘God Only Knows’, had his hand in the remix of ‘Apologize’, a song from 2007 that was one of the band’s earliest hits. The song itself is a sad one- holding onto someone who appears to be negatively affecting the person, when what they really should be doing is letting them go; but nevertheless, OneRepublic has given us a song that I’m sure people can relate to, because in life and throughout history and time, relationships change, and a song like ‘Apologize’ is a reminder of the fragility and the ever-changing nature of relationships and friendship circles. ‘Mercy’, from OneRepublic’s first album Dreaming Out Loud, was a single from the album and is a classy and timely reminder for us all to never count God out when we’re down and needing assistance, as we’re seen that the persona in the song is a sort of disbelief that God could ever and redeem a situation, especially his, from the brink of despair and chaos; while ‘Marchin’ On’, from their 2009 album Waking Up, is a telling reminder of perseverance and pressing on as we move through this life with a fighting spirit and one foot in front of the other. OneRepublic continues to present heartfelt themes to listeners in songs like ‘Love Runs Out’ (an anthem of pressing on and persevering towards a goal, until the love we have for the task at hand becomes dull and we lose the passion for it), ‘If I Lose Myself’ (the notion and theme that if we die for whatever reason, we want it to be beside the people we love) and ‘Something I Need’ (a song that is a sober reminder of our own mortality and that if there is only one life, we ought to be with the people we love, even if it means to live and die with them), while also giving us a slew of other radio singles across the last few years. ‘Connection’, ‘Truth to Power’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Wanted’, ‘Rich Love’, ‘Somebody to Love’, ‘Champagne Supernova’ and ‘No Vacancy’ all were unveiled from 2017 onward (after OH MY MY which was sadly a little overrated aside from songs like ‘KIDS’, ‘Lift Me Up’ and ‘Heaven’), and all spoke about various topics that are relevant and current in the media at the moment.

‘Connection’ gave rise to the theme that we as humans were all made for connection with one another, and that the big conundrum is this- we want to connect via social media to people around the world we haven’t met, but as a trade-off, we lose the ability to have real face-to-face conversations and thereby become glued to our devices- hence fulfilling the very thing we so desperately don’t want to happen- disconnection. ‘Truth to Power’ was a song created for the documentary/concert film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, a sequel to the Al Gore led An Inconvenient Truth, this time also presented by Al and further continuing his mission to bring to the fore a necessary awareness to the global issue of climate change, while ‘No Vacancy’, quite possibly the most pop song the band has created, tells of the struggle if you will, of how when kids come into your life, there’s no room for anything else. Whether that can be seen as in a good way or bad, it’s up to the listener, but a song like ‘No Vacancy’ should promote discussion around this theme. As Ryan himself unveils, ‘…I wrote it thinking about my kids – you have all the space in your life and then you have kids, and that last little hole that you have in your life is completely full. The concept, to me, came from such an internal place that I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t care if this is the poppiest thing we’ve ever done. It feels good, and I want to roll with it.’ For the first time ever, I’m embracing the idea of pop and going all the way with it…’ Collaborating with Swedish EDM duo Seeb, ‘Rich Love’ is layered with electronics similar to that of Capital Kings or GAWVI, and gives us a message of how love and the connection we have to our family and friends will in the end make us much richer than the money we longingly chase, while ‘Rescue Me’, one of the three songs released in 2019 (alongside ‘Wanted’ and ‘Somebody to Love’), features the theme of being vulnerable and longing to be rescued- asking the people around us whether they will indeed ‘rescue’ us and stick by us, even in our own demise and calamity. ‘Wanted’, a tad under 2 and a half minutes, unpacks the universal need for everybody to feel accepted and needed, and having the satisfaction that we are indeed told the words ‘well done’, while the band’s latest song ‘Somebody to Love’, from their yet-to-be-titled 5th album, speaks of a failed relationship, and how the persona feels a little jaded and even hurt that their ex-significant other has moved on so quickly and has found, as the song suggests, ‘somebody to love’. A song from the depths of the heart in the expression of hurt and wondering why someone can move on so quickly after a separation, ‘Somebody to Love’, though painful and unsettling at times, will nevertheless be a catalyst to heal as such a song like this can bring people together as people around the world can relate to such a theme as this and be reminded that they are not alone.

And if the above songs are not enough to convince anyone who hasn’t been a fan of OneRepublic to indeed become one, maybe, just maybe, that songs like ‘Let’s Hurt Tonight’, written and placed in the 2016 Will Smith movie Collateral Beauty (and also having a theme in and of itself- that if love requires hurt to let us realise that the relationship in question is worth saving, then we ought to bring on the hurt in full force), and ‘Start Again’ (featuring up and coming rapper LOGIC with a song of starting again from all the hurt and pain, hoping for a chance to redo all the unjust and unfair decisions of the past in a way of penance or redemption) can inch someone closer and closer to the reality that OneRepublic, though popular throughout the years for their catchy songs, deliver music much deeper than the hook that is on everyone’s minds and lips. Music from this, dare I say, underrated band, is by far one of the most unexpected artists I’ve come across within my own exploration of artists over the last 20 something weeks so far. The band continue to amaze me and remind me that bands who focus on the art still exist, within the sea of music that is seemingly the same.

Which brings me to these next two points, that when considered alongside all of the band’s career thus far, make Ryan Tedder the lead singer and the rest of the band arguably one of the much-needed bands to ever grace this earth this side of the millennium. There, I said it. Ryan Tedder is a man who works; and works hard. He envisages and sees what can be, and thus, brings to light things that otherwise would’ve stayed dormant for much of history if it was left up to another artist (or maybe I shouldn’t call them artists, nowadays, maybe creators and all-round dreamers of things to be). ‘Right Where I’m Supposed to Be’, a song that has become a motivational anthem and the theme song behind the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics of 2019- my brother reviewed the song here, and you can read about how the song came together here, and so I won’t really say too much about the song, except that I myself am reminded that such a melody as this can inspire millions upon millions, that, even though unexpectedly, God Himself can breathe through a song like this. ‘Right Where I’m Supposed to Be’ has been one of my favourite songs of 2019, and if anyone else has heard it (or they should), I’m sure they’d agree too. Ryan Tedder has also been involved in the next and newest reality TV show to grace the screens of the U.S.- this time on NBC. Songland is not a reality show about singing or about talent (leave it to The Voice or ___ Got Talent, or even X Factor for these types of reality programs). No, Songland is of an entire breed of reality show altogether. And so below, we leave it to Ryan Tedder himself to explain about Songland, and why I believe, such a show like this can launch careers and become a better platform into the music world compared to that of The Voice.

Around three years ago I got approached by NBC. I had been a mentor before on The Voice for Adam and Pharrell and they approached me to replace Adam’s chair. He was getting kinda burned out. They called me and said ‘Adam is leaving and you’re first choice. You have 48 hours to decide.’ Before I had a chance to respond, they called me back and said ‘false alarm, Adam’s decided he does want to stay. However, we have another show that you could be the face of which makes more sense for you’. Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics came up with the idea initially and I obsessively love the Eurythmics; Annie Lennox is maybe my favourite female vocalist of all-time. Long story short, I was roped in as an executive producer and started fleshing out the show with Audrey Morrissey, the brains behind The Voice US and probably the top non-scripted TV producer in the US.
I can’t compare it to The Voice, or X Factor because it is so unlike any of these shows. This is the first show in my opinion that has cracked the code on music. At the end of a cooking show, you don’t get to taste the food. At the end of Songland, you get to taste the ‘food’ – you get to hear the song. It starts with five mostly-unsigned writers that come in. You could be a school teacher in Bristol or a cabbie up in Liverpool who is a part-time songwriter but you’ve not really told anybody and send your song in. Each episode a different artist comes on, like Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, and the songwriters audition their songs in-front of me, Ester Dean and Shane McAnally. We narrow it down and me, Ester and Shane each produce a song down fully, aiming it at the artist. At end of the episode, the artist picks one and it becomes their new single. The songwriter could go from zero to having a John Legend single. It changes their life immediately.

OneRepublic is a band where fame and everything that comes along with it doesn’t seem to faze them. They just keep delivering songs full of meaning and heart as Ryan Tedder, lead singer, fast becomes a man who brings to the fore hope and emotion in just about every song he has a hand in, OneRepublic songs included. For I have been impressed this last week of the staying power of this quintet- songs from their debut album and their second underrated 2009 album still have reach and durability even now in 2019, and a band like OneRepublic, though not as impactful in the industry at the moment, still have songs that speak to the heart of the industry at the moment- let us have ‘All the Right Moves’ on cue. And with songs like ‘Good Life’, ‘Stop and Stare’, ‘I Lived’ and ‘KIDS’ at your disposal, what’s not to love about the band? And so now it’s over to you all. What have you all thought about OneRepublic? Does this band make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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