It’s only natural for a foodie and music lover like me to compare the two: Imagine you’re at a restaurant you’ve never been to. They bring you the menu and you see your favorite dish on it: fettuccine alfredo. You order it because you know, roughly, what you’re going to get. No surprises. They bring you the dish and for the first five or six bites, it tastes just like the delicious pasta dish you know and love. Then, you start to notice subtle differences. Maybe it’s the freshly made pasta, rather than the stuff out of a box. Maybe it’s the hint of nutmeg that some places use in their recipe. Maybe it’s the fresh parsley, pepper or parmesan scattered on top.
Hungry, yet? Good, because that’s exactly what OneRepublic wanted to do to fans with their new album “Oh My My” released on October 7; to leave them hungry for new music and satiated after listening.
They started getting fans stomach’s rumbling by releasing a series of catchy singles, each one more daring than the previous. The first “Wherever I Go” had a bit of a Maroon 5 vibe about it: undeniably catchy but with a techno beat drop that was new for the group. It’s no surprise, since the band’s leader singer (Ryan Tedder) has penned tracks for Maroon 5 and other big names like Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson. They followed it up with “Kids,” “Future Looks Good” and “A.I.,” each single exploring their newer electronic sound that does nothing to compromise the quality of production that they are known for. For “A.I.” the band even brought music legend Peter Gabriel in on the track to lend his haunting voice to the lyrics about artificial love and give it that dark 80’s vibe that’s so popular right now.
The group also teased other tracks by posting the instrumentals (like the infectious bass hook on the title track “Oh My My” that’s not unlike the sound of 90’s Euro House songs) or live videos (like for the stadium anthem that’s begging the crowd to sing along and lead-off track “Let’s Kill Tonight”) on their Twitter. But with such a strong outing, could the group rise to the occasion and defy their own expectations by releasing an album that would start off strong rather than benefit from the slow burn that their previous efforts have?
The group wisely utilized subscription streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify which gave curious fans a chance to listen to the album all the way through starting at midnight without having to purchase it. The world of purchasing music is not dead, people just need convincing to part ways with their hard-earned money in exchange for music and “Oh My My” does a good job, even on the first impression, of convincing you to bite that bullet. Putting the infectious singles aside, the band has other tracks that standout right off the bat. The swooping lift of the choir on “Choke” takes the songs heartbreaking story to another level and the beatnik-fast rhythm of the lyrics in “Better” will make you want to immediately replay it.
The album was labelled “eclectic” by the band themselves and given the fact that they travelled all over the world while making it, it’s no surprise that the end result has such a varying sound. From filming three music videos in Mexico to stops in London, Rio, Paris and New York City, the group has found ways to weave the romantic reverie of Paris into tracks like “Fingertips” (one of my personal favorites) with the gritty urban vibe of New York in the Santigold collaboration “NbHD.” They even stopped to pay homage to their faith, something the group often does on their albums but in ways that don’t polarize fans who don’t share it. Their most faith-heavy track, “Human,” plays out as a conversation between Tedder and God where God marvels at what is so great about being human: that you get to make mistakes and feel the emotional highs and lows that make life worth living.
Perhaps, then, the album isn’t best described as one delicious dish with subtle complexities, but a 16-course meal or buffet where fans get a taste of everything the band has to offer, from the rhythms they’re known and loved for, to the bold new sounds they’re experimenting with. It’s difficult to pull off an eclectic sound without it sounding disconnected, but Tedder & Co. have had plenty of practice making songs that span and defy genres and it shows.
The band’s fourth full length album “Oh My My” is available on iTunes and is currently streaming on Apple Music and Spotify. Take a listen, then let me know what you think in the comments below.