When: Wed., Aug. 13 2014
Ryan Tedder, the leader of OneRepublic, has been a formidable pop presence since 2007, when his band delivered the breakout hit of Timbaland's Shock Value, a mixtape made with major-label money. The brooding ballad "Apologize" featured a couple of Timbo gulps and Tedder's own falsetto pleas, becoming a staple for the like of Delilah and drugstore aisles. Tedder, in turn, became a go-to songwriter for an array of artists including Kelly Clarkson, Beyoncé and Demi Lovato.
He's continued to build OneRepublic, who released their third album, Native, last year. Its hit, "Counting Stars," is a slip of synthpop that contains the sort of celestial imagery that has proven crucial to radio staying power in 2014. (Loving the nightlife these days means being really into knowing one's constellations.)
Tedder's fluency with styles means that he's bound to hit on a listener's sweet spot at some point, with or apart from OneRepublic. The amount of material he's produced means he also returns to his own well. Take the dark "Rumour Has It," from Adele's 21: Tedder co-wrote the spiteful bit of "she isn't me" invective. While Adele's formidable burr helps sustain its contemptuous mood, Tedder's ability to shape instantly implanting melodies is every bit as crucial.
He knows it, too. OneRepublic's current single, "Love Runs Out," follows the "Rumour" playbook from the pounding-drums opening to the deflated-balloon last measure. Pop music's upper echelon is full of artists who flogged their gimmicks with pro-wrestler glee, and "Runs" at least has a bit more swing than its top-20 compatriots.
Hidden among Native's Benny Blanco collaborations and ersatz Imagine Dragons tributes is "Light It Up," a soaring bit of fuzzed-out guitar pop that sounds like it was exhumed after Tedder and bassist and co-producer Brent Kutzle gave up on a quest to get MTV to revive the Buzz Bin. It's a sweet surprise, a sop to potential fans who care about the '90s enough to hold a grudge over Tedder's involvement in Chris Cornell's club makeover. If you haven't heard it, don't worry: He'll likely use the song as a source of inspiration again, whether for his own band or a pop star in need. With American Authors and The Script. —Maura Johnston