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Friday, February 22nd
The Critics Corner: Albums
Waking Up
OneRepublic- Waking Up
Colorado pop/rockers craft near-perfect sophomore effort
Name: "Waking Up"
Label: Interscope/Mosley Music
Release Date: November 17, 2009
My rating: 4.8 out of 5

Review written by: Alan Ho
OneRepublic took the music world by storm in 2007 with the mega-hit "Apologize", both the original version and the popular remix by Timbaland. It was the hip-hop producer that decided to try his hand in pop/rock by signing the Ryan Tedder-led group to his label with Interscope Records. They put forward a dreamy pop/rock concoction buttressed by superior lyric songwriting from Tedder the songwriting prodigy (certainly left his best material for his own group).

2 years later and many Tedder-penned hits for others later, how would the pop/rock quintet armed with a cellist do for a sophomore effort? The 2 years in between has allowed the band to explore different sounds, technique and of course even more superior songwriting and the end result is a spectacularly made and produced second effort called "Waking Up" and be rest assured, you will certainly wake up to this extremely uplifting and eclectic album that has no track that one can say, "Well this is the strongest track on the album!". Every track itself has strength and quality to it.

The album begins with the very creative "Made For You", which has to be one of the longest intros in recent memory. To craft a track to sound like protracted intro to the second track (clocked at 4:17) is impressive in enough itself but "Made For You" is a double-layered track. The first layer is a drumbeat-heavy, piano-led warm-up which leads to a creatively setup children's chorale singing a few bars from the next track, "All The Right Moves". The aforementioned second track showcases some of the band's growth with a hypnotically produced track that will have you chanting the refrain at the end and beating your feet to another snare-drum/cymbal-led track. The end of the track features a mini-guitar solo to create some freshness.

What probably will end up the best track on the album is the cello-driven "Secrets". Colleagues in the press who think the cello should be eliminated completely from the band due to perceptions that the string instrument simply cheapens their music or makes it to syrupy and indulgent is wrong in this reviewers opinion. The cello-driven beginning is a perfect complement to Tedder's slight falsetto vocal delivery and adds a very compelling music element very few bands dare to try. Besides, the cello-driven beginning leads to a wonderful crescendo of sounds in the refrain. The violins are a very nice touch in the middle of the song. Like said before Tedder's vocals give a great sense of passion, making this ballad their most passionate to date. Dare we say that "Secrets" could end up being the new "Apologize" when its all said and done?

More growth in OneRepublic is seen in the very upbeat "Everybody Loves Me", a funky guitar and percussion-driven track that will get you up off your seat and clapping to the refrain and hook. The vocals in the funky track show off a side of Tedder never seen before, either in music he has done for other artists or even OneRepublic themselves. Even more growth is shown on the next track, "Missing Persons 1 & 2". Past efforts from Tedder or OneRepublic would not have gone as bold with a hypnotizing drum loop and introduce African pop rhythms (which happen near the middle of the album in the instrumental intermission about 2:55 into the song). There is definitely a playfulness around this track that one did not hear from the dreamscape "Dreaming Out Loud".

"Good Life" is perhaps another must-listen on the 11 track effort. The lyrics will definitely do its trick to wake you up and give you an uplifting sense of feeling. Now for those who enjoyed the dreamy landscape put forth by "Dreaming Out Loud" won't be disappointed by the heavy piano-driven track "All This Time". The dreamscape segues into the another dreamy landscape called "Fear", which will definitely give "Secrets" a run for its money on best track of the album. The string-heavy track should put the listener in a very upbeat but mellow mood after the end of the song. The piano helps add clarity to the song.

Again, OneRepublic is the master of the title track, this time in the form of the organ-driven "Waking Up". When was the last time you heard a pop/rock song start with an organ? Of course that leads into a very uptempo, electric guitar roll lick, drum-driven piece that is easily the hardest song on the album. Tedder also shows a aptitude for delivering soaring uplifting vocals full of soul, something he rarely did on "Dreaming Out Loud". The track is further enhanced at around the 3:15 mark with a soaring piano and string-driven instrumental intermission and ending, which might be one of the most beautiful arrangements of strings and piano in pop music in recent memory.

After the military-like march "Marchin' On", their most political statement to date, another side of OneRepublic is seen in the very tender "Lullaby", whose drum beat vaguely sounds like the drum roll from Coldplay's "Viva La Vida".

Overall, the album is strong from start to finish with no glaring weak spots or songs. You can make an argument for each and every song that its the strongest in this spectacularly made 11 track effort. It is an incredible feat upon itself to avoid putting any song into the firm mainstream category because despite seeing about 3 or 4 songs that could land on radio/television, it wouldn't be right to call any of them firmly mainstream. This is a highly eclectic effort, with something for everyone and shows off the kind of musical growth and evolution you want to see out of a highly talented group like OneRepublic. Even more so, Ryan Tedder has saved the best for last and last would be his own guys in this band from the mountains of Colorado. At the end of the day, "Waking Up" should be in your music collection and it will CERTAINLY wake you up.
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