OneRepublic's Native was probably one of my more anticipated albums of 2013 in it's first quarter, but I hadn't really got a chance to look into it after it skipped me over for pretty much the entire year (I did review If I Lose Myself). This time, I finally got my grips together and decided to do a throwback review for Native, an album that I got around to but still has hand-prints along my mind.
Let's be sure, OneRepublic sure hasn't been that consistent with albums, but their singles have been topping charts all over the years. Apologize, Good Life and Counting Stars all got their fair share of popularity and success, but the albums don't exactly feel the same way nor provide an impact ever since their debut album back in 2007, which I feel happens to be their best album to date. With that, I guess you sort of know where Native stands as a whole when you compare their three albums together. And I'm not saying that Waking Up nor Native can't stand on par, but let's do a quick roundup before we review Native.
Now let's be honest, I liked Waking Up, but you have to admit that some of the songs on the album don't fit retrospectively, nor on the album as a whole. That surprised me, considering the album itself took quite some time to fuel up attention before it really started to burn through walls in the form of Secrets and of course, Good Life. I've never had problems with the instrumentals nor the vocals because Ryan Tedder and the rest of the band delivers and fires on those listed cylinders. But most of the tracks, while impressive, feel all over the place. Everybody Loves Me is a great song, and carries the same vibe of Good Life, but that's also one of a consistent problem OneRepublic concurrently has in their albums. While I like similarities to their previous album, such as All This Time and Prodigal, it just feels as though a tingling vibe is missing. Apart from the singles, Waking Up is not really a commercial success. And I suppose if you just transitioned into the album after hearing Dreaming Out Loud, you will notice differences.
So am I to say that their sophomore album is largely influenced by Native? I wouldn't think so. On another level, I would say Native is more of an eclectic-fused experimental album, due to tracks such as Au Revoir, Can't Stop and Light It Up. These three tracks are more atmospheric-themed that doesn't match into OneRepublic's catalog, and feels like something out of Coldplay's book. Obviously, it's new steps for the band, but it was a really ambitious one considering most of the tracks are too simplistic too tag and don't really necessarily pick up the edge nor melody that really stands out from the others.
That's why some of my favourite tracks include Counting Stars, Something I Need, Feel Again, Burning Bridges and Preacher. When you compare these tracks to the above three, you will notice the drastic difference that these tracks have. Unlike the above, the songs offer a tone and uniqueness that oftentimes is able to latch on to you easily, rather than having to specifically emote ourselves onto the tracks. This makes Native a very topsy-turvy album that surprises at times, but feels like a letdown on the other.
While yes, the production did come in handy at times, but for others, it was Ryan himself with his organic vocals and distinct lyrics that really pulled ahead for the album for sure. Tracks like Don't Look Down, Counting Stars, Preacher and I Lived really showcased his diversity in songwriting, and took Native to it's next level. While I know that these tracks have a more toned meaning than the others, OneRepublic's experimentation took them back and forth, leaving them stranded and stray of a certain direction, rather than focused on an aim that really hampered their progression by quite a mile. It's still a great album, and does have fantastic singles (Feel Again and Counting Stars are catchy, meaningful and great), but at the same time flawed, lacking and too disparate from their counterparts that the album felt messy and all over the place.
7/10: All in all, Native gets a decent 7. I would rank it behind their debut studio album because I still felt Waking Up was a letdown in certain directions, while Native still has that OneRepublic sense to it and continues to thrive on it. You will certainly either love it or hate it, depending on how big a fan you are of alternative pop, but OneRepublic can still do better because this is not their best by a long shot. Either they stick to their game plan or try out something that works because hey, they have great singles so I guess that is still a good sign, even though it's the label that usually has the last word. I'd recommend Native, but it definitely isn't for everyone.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.