OneRepublic – they’re the type of band that you may not have heard of, but you have almost certainly heard.
Since the beginning of the month, their debut single “Apologize” has been dominating the airwaves via contemporary rock stations around the world. The single features ominous cello, an undeniable beat and the type of hook that most pop artists only dream of.
If none of that rings a bell, it’s that song where the guy wails, “it’s too late to ‘pologize, it’s too la-a-a-a-ate!”
The band also just so happens to hail from Colorado Springs. Considering OneRepublic shares a strong sonic similarity with Denver rockers The Fray, it would appear Colorado has a knack for producing earnest, piano-centric moderate-rock bands that know how to climb the Billboard charts.
Now OneRepublic is looking to match the success of “Apologize” with their first full length album, “Dreaming Out Loud.” Unfortunately, the album never manages to live up to that infectious lead single. Instead, OneRepublic’s debut is teeming with underdeveloped, overproduced rock songs that fail to leave a lasting impression on the listener.
But it isn’t all bad. Frontman Ryan Tedder is blessed with impressive vocal range and a clean, appealing timbre. His work on the piano drives the songs forward and provides an adequate foundation on which the band’s four other instrumentalists can build.
That includes guitarists who adorn the album with layers of clean electric guitar, acoustic guitar, digitally effected guitar and even slide guitar.
Meanwhile, their bassist frequently sets aside his bass in favor of another, more bohemian four-stringed instrument: the cello. The rhythm section is rounded out by percussion that oscillates between hip-hop beats and standard rock drumming.
All of this is ornamented with occasional bursts of synthesizer and other electronic flourishes. With such an admirably eclectic assortment of instruments and sounds, it should be safe to assume that OneRepublic has achieved a degree of freshness and individuality with their music. But all of the instruments in the world can’t save the album from its too-safe songs and their predictable structures.
Maybe “Dreaming Out Loud” would be tolerable if the lyrics weren’t just as uninspired. In case the album title didn’t already hint at the band’s unhealthy affection for weak, corny metaphors, Tedder provides us with lines like, “I need you like a heart needs a beat.”
Still, this is standard fare in the spectrum of modern rock and the fact is that OneRepublic’s songs manage to be consistently listenable and enjoyable.
But therein lies the music’s biggest flaw: it’s too streamlined. OneRepublic sacrifices raw, organic energy for a sound with about as much edge as a rubber ball.
So if you’re looking for pleasant, by-the-numbers piano rock, “Dreaming Out Loud” might be worth a listen. Otherwise, you would probably be better off just turning on the radio and singing along to “Apologize.”
Entertainment writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.