It’s almost been ten years since OneRepublic made their debut onto the scene, and almost ten years since releasing their number one single, “Apologize.” Since then, the band has gone on to release three full-length records, amassing multiple top ten singles, along with Gold and Platinum plaques galore.
Frontman Ryan Tedder is an even stronger beast – despite being the workhorse of the group, he’s made a career for himself as a lone songwriter, writing hit tracks for other artists like One Direction and Demi Lovato. Recently, he helped pen the big 25 track, “Remedy,” off Adele’s latest effort. Looking at his track record, there’s really no reason why Tedder needs to make another OneRepublic album ever again – he has seemingly accomplished it all in such a short time with the band, and with the songs he writes for other musicians, he continues to push the envelope with those endeavours.
OneRepublic, however, does not get the same treatment for some reason or another. Oh My My, Tedder’s latest offering with the band, is their fourth album overall, and while it doesn’t stick to the formula of their past three, it ultimately comes off as phoned in and underwhelming.
The most interesting aspect to Oh My My is the fact that the album isn’t particularly bad. It’s different, but not in a way that makes sense, leaving the listener with a bunch of questions about why certain decisions were made instead of being left with the decision to hit repeat. Clocking in at over an hour long and a total of sixteen tracks, the record is, first and foremost, entirely too long for a pop record. It works in some occasions – think Frank Ocean’s Blonde or The Weeknd – and it could work with OneRepublic, too, but far too many songs bleed together, making one wonder if a song actually ever finished. When the highlights of the album begin to queue up, you’re just too exhausted to really care.
With previous OneRepublic records like Native and Waking Up giving the band their signature sound, Oh My My heads back to the drawing board to try to revamp it entirely. As previously mentioned, what Tedder does differently sometimes works great: take “Let’s Hurt Tonight,” for example, which is an arena-ready anthem that soars from start to end, or the falsetto-centric “Human” – a catchy number showing off Tedder’s vocal prowess throughout the entirety.
Both songs are quality additions to his catalog, whereas tracks like “Fingertips,” “Dream,” or “Choke” make you wonder how they ever made the final cut. If the strange songs don’t lack something that catches your attention, they’re awkwardly inserted in between the ones that deserve to be there.
Perhaps one of the songs that attempts to make the most sense out of Oh My My is “Better” – which is essentially Tedder’s spin on a hybrid of Jon Bellion mixed with Twenty One Pilots, and it’s actually quite good. But it begs the question of whether or not the album is really just Tedder trying to replicate other artists and continuously coming up short.
It’s a weird situation to be in as someone who freelances for the biggest musicians around – at some point, your mindset while writing for others must blend in with the process for writing with your main act, instead of keeping it separate as different avenues to express creativity. We’ve seen something like this before – Sia’s latest record, This Is Acting, was more or less comprised of the songs that she had written for other artists that were rejected, so instead of scrapping them, she reworked them into her own once again. The only difference, though, was that Sia was self-aware – Oh My My sounds like a collection of songs that Tedder wrote for other artists but tried to convince himself they were really OneRepublic songs deep down, resulting in something simply uninspired.
Oh My My’s biggest flaw is that it’s a case of missing identity. It doesn’t know who it wants to be, and worst of all, nobody listening really cares by the end. It would have better been served as a five song EP than such a long running LP, but that’s what playlists are for. Luckily for OneRepublic, there are a couple of potential hits here – see “Lift Me Up” – but they’re not hits that make you remember why Tedder is bigger than ever – rather, they make you remember the bigger picture, and what exactly went wrong there.
While not terrible, Oh My My fails to deliver in ways that OneRepublic normally does, resulting in an album that's missing character, creativity, and inspiration.