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Human Review

by Neil Z. Yeung

As a producer and songwriter, Ryan Tedder has remained atop contemporary trends since he began to ascend the industry ranks in the 2000s. Usually, that savvy eye and keen ear for what's hot has served him and his band OneRepublic well, amassing hit after hit in the pop mainstream. For their fifth studio set, 2021's Human, that approach mostly works. However, by including tracks that have been around since 2019, much of the effort feels like a time capsule of days gone by (especially in such an ever-changing genre) and, in a harsher sense, of dated material that can sound out of place when presented as a whole vision years later. Still, Tedder and company write such emotive and compelling songs that the asynchronous track listing can be overlooked by less critical listeners because they are so catchy. From their first single of 2019, "Rescue Me," to 2021's "Run," OneRepublic prove to be masters of the galloping, upbeat pop anthem, packing whistles, handclaps, throbbing basslines, and dance beats into every second of a song. Arenas, stadiums, clubs, and radio stations aren't safe from their motivational charms and affirmations, making uplifting moments like "Better Days" and "Someday" irresistible in their sheer optimism (if one is into that sort of positivity). For fans of the "classic" OneRepublic sound -- think 2013's globe-conquering Native -- the yearning "Distance" and soulful "Savior" are standouts. Also of note is the sweeping midtempo ballad "Somebody to Love," which was penned by JT Roach, the winner of the television songwriting competition Songland, which is hosted by Tedder and fellow producers Ester Dean and Shane McAnally. Overall, it's no surprise that there aren't many surprises on Human, just solid, inoffensive pop nuggets that soothe the soul and offer solace without challenging listeners with more than what real life throws at them each day.

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