All The Right Moves

One of the bands that I do not think is well understood is OneRepublic.  The band exists, it seems, because lead singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder does not appear to want to be a solo artist.  To be sure, he could be.  He has written and produced a slew of hits including Beyonce’s “Halo” and Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” and Natasha Bedingfield’s “Love Like This” an a slew of other songs.  He sometimes appears as a guest artist on other people’s music, but he has shown no interest in being a solo artist.  He seems to like being in a band.  Not everyone does.  And the fact that he is unquestionably the leader of the band means that everyone else in the group seems to enjoy going along for the ride from Paris to China to Colorado and that Tedder doesn’t have to go solo in order to get the sort of creative control he wants.  He gets to avoid being the center of attention while having the sort of power and influence he has to have a talented and capable band of brothers perform the music that he writes.  That sounds like a pretty good situation.

But most people do not seem to understand the band’s music nonetheless.  A very large percentage of the music of OneRepublic is about the music industry itself and life as a musician.  This is not entirely unusual.  Plenty of other bands have written songs about their life as musicians and dealing with the pressures of celebrity [1].  Edwin McCain sang “Beautiful Life” about the way that he was pressured to lose weight so that he would be more presentable and appealing on music videos.  Wheezer sang about the pressure that the band faced releasing an obvious single that would help promote the sale of the album they were making.  Lisa Loeb had one of her biggest hits that was written as a song about the abusive relationship between her and her label that appeared at first listen to be a song about an abusive romantic relationship, because the label couldn’t tell that “Let’s Forget About It” was a worthwhile single.  But few musicians have done it as often as OneRepublic has.

How often has OneRepublic referred to their music career in their music?  Quite often.  Here is a brief summary for the uninitiated.  In “Secrets,” Tedder wishes that he had some dark secret to tell and confesses that he doesn’t really like his flow, signifying his recognition of the appeal of emotional intimacy in songs without having in his mind anything to share.  “All The Right Moves” shows Tedder lamenting that after the great success of “Apologize” that there is nowhere to go but down, and that other people will have better connections and prettier faces to hold on to the spotlight a little bit longer.  “Good Life” sings about the traveling experience of the band and the fact that it’s hard to keep in touch as a busy and touring band, and that even if one doesn’t get as much sleep as one might want, it’s the good life.  And so it goes.  Not only is OneRepublic a reasonably popular band–their first two albums went gold and their third album went platinum, a respectable career so far–but they are also a band that has spent a great deal of their popularity existing in a metaworld where the song refers to the what it is like to be in show business.  This is not to say that every song is like that, but even songs that are not obviously like that can at least be interpreted like that, if “Counting Stars” refers to stars as celebrities and not as stars in the sky.

It is likely that this move had mixed results.  There were some critics that didn’t seem to understand what the band was doing, putting some of those songs that related to their life as musicians in the public eye on their worst list because they couldn’t understand what the band was after.  But their release of those songs indicated at least to me a great deal of insecurity about their place as a band and their longevity in a world that tends to have a lot of flashes in the pan.  I think it is appropriate for people to write about the life they live.  If people are surrounded by celebrity and concerned by their status in the world of artists and entertainers, why make them pretend that they are relatable.  If they have different concerns than I do, then I can learn from their world and their perception of it by their music.  I love it when bands sing about the loneliness of live performance, about the alienation of technology and the fake intimacy they feel with fans when performing live.  I am not offended in the least that their lives are different than my own, being a creative person myself I am well aware of the tensions between being isolated and simultaneously intimate as a writer.  Perhaps it is artists who can be most sympathetic to other artists.  If we do not stand up for each other, who will stand up for us?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Music History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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