On Nov. 17, 2009, OneRepublic surpassed any possible expectations set with the release of its second album, Waking Up. Though it had already attained worldwide recognition for its mega-hit “Apologize,” the 11-track album helped OneRepublic cement itself as a household name — and it was only telling of how far the band would go.
The Colorado-based pop rock band — led by Ryan Tedder, who has engraved his own name into the list of the greatest musicians ever by writing and producing smash hits for recognizable names like the Jonas Brothers and Adele, among others — thought it had officially made it in 2006. Signed to a major record label and thriving in all avenues, OneRepublic was two months away from released its debut album when Columbia Records dropped the band. At the time, however, OneRepublic was ruling Myspace as the No. 1 unsigned act, Tedder told BBC News in 2007. The success it attained on the former website helped it secure the attention of Mosley Music Group, who believed in the band’s potential and signed it. The rest is history.
Waking Up envelops the soul and passion that made 2000s pop unparalleled into one cohesive album, and no track is dissatisfying. The transition from the first to the second half in “Missing Persons 1 & 2” is incredibly smooth, and the entire track brilliantly tackles the feelings that come with grief. “Made For You,” the opening track, can stimulate any listener with the infectious vigor in Tedder’s vocals. “All This Time” is a first-rate ballad that’s reminiscent of the band’s more slower-paced debut, Dreaming Out Loud. 10 years later, Waking Up is still the embodiment of fervent music, and even though OneRepublic will inevitably continue to soar, it will remain unmatched within the band’s discography.
Here are the best five songs from the flawless Waking Up:
5. “Good Life”
“Good Life,” with its gorgeous harmonies and infectious whistling, is the perfect track to turn on during a road trip. The meaning is straightforward: Despite the occasional poor moments, it’s important to remember that life is a wonderful adventure. Backed by a soothing acoustic guitar and steady drum, Tedder feeds listeners with suave vocals and feel-good lyrics: “When you’re happy like a fool, let it take you over / When everything is out, you got to take it in.” The track was the highest-charting track from the album, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100. Even though it’s not the best from Waking Up, it rightfully earned its spot.
It would truly be a tragedy if “Secrets” wasn’t included in this list. The track, though it’s a mainstay for people who crave nostalgia, is even more than meets the eye. Tedder reveals he’s doing his best as a much sought-after writer and producer, and he will divulge all his secrets if that’s what it takes to remain authentic: “So tell me what you want to hear / Something that’ll light those ears / I’m sick of all the insincere / I’m gonna give all my secrets away.” The track’s infamous cello riff is not original, as it’s interpolated from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, but it perfectly encapsulates Tedder’s evident emotion, molding it into the iconic track it is.
3. “All The Right Moves”
Despite the upbeat instrumentation and seemingly positive nature of “All The Right Moves,” its theme consists of Tedder and company questioning whether the band will make it in the long run. OneRepublic did, of course, but it spent many a moment letting disbelief from critics convince it otherwise: “Am I bright enough to shine in your spaces? / Between the noise you hear and the sounds you like / Are we just sinking in the ocean of faces?” The riveting guitar line that commences before the bridge, intertwined with the exquisite cello, enhances Tedder’s already gorgeous vocals.
“Lullaby” is a perfectly-named track, as Tedder’s honeyed vocals and the gentle instrumentation will want to send you right to sleep. It features some of the more poetic lyrics on the album with Tedder comparing the change of seasons to falling into hard times: “Days feel harder / Night grows longer / Summer says it goodbyes / In darkness’ cover, we find shelter / Our own place to hide.” Tedder goes on to say sleep allows us to escape from the chaos of life for a little while, and the track only grows calmer as it continues.
1. “Waking Up”
Though it’s the title track, “Waking Up” is the most overlooked part of the album. Implementing his most controlled vocals on the album, Tedder uses this song to talk as eloquently as possible about the ups and downs of life: “We cut ties; we tell lies; we hate change / And we wanna claim how you feel / We take tolls; we rake yours / Yeah, we dig holes, and we’re digging right in your fears.” The entire track surpasses six minutes, but the latter half is reserved for one of the most heavenly instrumentals, composed of strings from the London Studio Orchestra, to ever grace the earth. The track is unblemished, and it’s the best on Waking Up.