Being the supposed pop superstars that they are, I would describe the melodic intrigue on this album to be disappointing. I would expect a group with this much magnitude and popularity to be able to capture the listener first and foremost through melody, but sadly the melodies lacked any sort of thought or detail throughout most of the album. Oh My My shows that OneRepublic simply do not have the ear it takes to turn a simple structure into a likeable tune. Only “Kids”, “Choke” and “Heaven” had any sort of command or nuance to their melodies out of the 16 tracks. A common theme throughout this album melodically was the use of a plain, flat line that would transform into another plain, flat line in a higher register. This formula results in very uninspiring and boring melodies. Granted, the lines did have a sense of motion that led the songs and were memorable to a degree. They were memorable mostly because of the heavy repetition done at the end of certain lines. Repetition for a melody is normally a good sign, but not when the bar being repeated is so melodically ugly that it makes stomachs turn. The song “Human” is a good example of a melody repeating many boring and unappealing sections, along with following the unsuccessful register shift formula. Due to the lack of ingenuity in the most prominent aspect of the songs, I felt like OneRepublic was talking down to their listeners. It sounded as if they didn’t feel the need to care about their melodic quality; as long as the lines were loud and energetic, they thought people would find it good. I sure hope that’s not the case, and it certainly doesn’t fool me. I guess they got lucky in “Kids”, because they really did have the workings of a great intriguing melody there. Perhaps they only focused their attention on their singles, which is really too bad. They need to put more effort into shaping true and unique melodic shapes if they are to seriously be considered a quality music group. Their good energy and overall feel is a start, but how about some consistently strong musical attributes next time?
This album isn’t terrible; in fact, it’s surprisingly listenable. Although OneRepublic fell flat on their faces with melody, they savored some musical quality through their good use of harmony. The way they demonstrated their strong command over simple harmonic progressions made me recognize that they are indeed musicians who have something worthwhile to say in their field. They are talented enough to work at finding creative ways to implement simple chord structures that can easily enhance the song and maintain a musical atmosphere that is easy to understand. While the creativity dipped at times throughout the album, there was still a good overall sense of uniqueness that is refreshing to hear in today’s pop world. Harmonically, the album starts out very well, with the title track “Oh My My” providing some nice twists and turns through the progression that truly lead the song. Also, although it was only four chords that never changed, I thought the use of the I ii bVII IV progression in “Future Looks Good” was a great choice. The middle of the album lost some of that creative spark, and while it was mostly interesting to a degree, the harmonies had no motion or big changes to them. Then, all of a sudden, the last song of the album “Heaven” had a wonderful creative progression with a great surprising rhythm that took the song to a new level. All in all, the way that OneRepublic dealt with simple harmonic structures in Oh My My is what saves this album from being bad. It could have been One Direction level bad without its harmonic creativity.
There seems to be a singular blueprint for timbre that the few massive radio-friendly pop groups use today, and it’s not pretty. Somewhere down the line about 10 years ago, someone must have thought that boisterous synthetic sounds automatically added a new dimension to musical appreciation, without any attention to structure, build, or finesse. In effect, the only atmosphere that this timbre produces is “drunk at a nightclub”, which cannot sustain throughout an entire album. Sadly, OneRepublic was too nervous to break away from this disastrous formula and didn’t add enough additional instruments or roles for the timbres to be different. That being said, it is effective to a degree; the “drunk at a nightclub” feeling isn’t bad in itself, and it does provide a nice sense of energy and carelessness that listeners enjoy. Plus, the small differences that OneRepublic do make; the guitar at some beginnings, the piano that comes in and out, and the electric slap-bass; all work very positively within the album. These subtle differences simply weren’t enough to overcome the nuisance of the overly-synthetic textures that had no purpose to them whatsoever apart from trying to sound mainstream for a dancefloor. “Born” and “Heaven” were done well within this atmosphere, but more experimentation and development was needed from OneRepublic in order to create a consistent timbre that is truly worthwhile. “Choke” was the one song that didn’t have a trace of overly-synthetic sounds, and it was very nice and refreshing to hear that they didn’t feel to need to shove dance beats down our throats all the time. “Choke” showed me that OneRepublic has the mind to be different, but they didn’t have enough courage in Oh My My to always act on it. Instead, Oh My My employed very run-down and bland modern pop techniques to try and be enjoyable, which in turn made the timbre mostly un-enjoyable.
How and where does OneRepublic get their immense popularity? It beats me. Perhaps many listeners have found joy in blandness and sameness, to which they use for a sole purpose within their color-less world. People don’t like change these days, and if they want their music to have no sense of danger or surprise while making them feel good, then I guess OneRepublic hit the jackpot for today’s audience. The singles “Kids” and “Wherever I Go” have been listened to millions of times before the album was even released, which signals a very strong but possibly blind fan base. This album doesn’t have enough firepower to keep it from becoming irrelevant within a year, especially with the way people’s attention span seem to work these days. The singles will get massive attention for a while longer, but will soon drift off into space as if nothing happened. There are many better current pop groups then OneRepublic, and it’s only a matter of time before their once-endearing fans will forget about them and turn their attention to the next newest crave.
Final Score: 107/180