Up until now, I’d avoided OneRepublic’s albums. Just hearing their singles on the radio was more than enough for me. I could never really get an idea of who they actually were from songs like “Secrets” and “Good Life.” They mostly sounded generic to my ears and when they didn’t they felt like they were ripping off other artists. I also felt like most of their songs were just slightly different versions of songs their singer/songwriter/keyboardist Ryan Tedder had previously written for other artists. To that end, Kelly Clarkson hates Tedder because he sold her “Already Gone” after he’d sold Beyonce “Halo.” You see, Kelly hadn’t heard “Halo” when she recorded “Already Gone” and released it. So when she finally heard “Halo” after “Already Gone” had been released she felt like she was slapped in the face, like Tedder had just sold her a slightly different version of the same song. In fact, Kelly was so pissed that she wrote a song called “Wash, Rinse, Repeat,” which was a full-scale attack on Tedder’s songwriting abilities and character. What’s worse, OneRepublic’s “Secrets” is basically another version of “Halo” and “Already Gone.” At least to my ears, but I know I’m not alone in thinking that.
Maybe I was biased when I listened to Native, but I was actually hoping that they’d prove me wrong, that I’d discover there was some substance beyond their predictable hooks and lackluster vocals. Unfortunately, Native was even worse than I could have feared. Songs like “Feel Again” and “What You Wanted” were terrible, horribly generic anthems. And Tedder’s voice was often just plain grating. Furthermore, it comes across like Tedder is trying to imitate other artists in the way he sings the songs. “Counting Stars” is basically a major rip-off of Train’s last two albums. The lyrics, the melody, the almost-rap style vocals — it couldn’t have sounded any more like Train. “Lose Myself” is a rip-off of Maroon 5’s last album. And many of the songs required as many as four writers and three producers. You’d think with that many cooks in the kitchen they could come up with something more original. Instead, you can’t help but suspect that they sat around saying “we should do something like Train’s “Drive By” or “we’ve got to do something like Coldplay’s last album.” You hear stories about guys like Dr. Luke just trying to re-make the same songs over and over again with different artists, but at least Dr. Luke’s stuff has some personality to it and it’s usually quite catchy. And Dr. Luke’s tracks always sound focused. Like they know what genre they are and they stick to that. On Native, OneRepublic often tries to mix dance, pop, electronica and new age within the span of a single song. They borrow from blues, gospel and folk as well. Always with the same boring, unoriginal results. This is easily the worst album I’ve heard so far this year.