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Ryan Tedder's Pop Empire

by Dan Weiss

Ryan Tedder's Pop Empire

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In 2007, Timbaland called in all his favors and put all his cards on the table to release Shock Value, which might not be the last album to feature both Justin Timberlake and Fall Out Boy, but is definitely the last to feature both The Hives and Elton John. But of all the superstar collabos to give the record its name, the compilation's big breakout hit came from a who? called OneRepublic and spawned one of the most ubiquitous phrases heard on the air for a while: "It's too late to 'pologize."

The falsetto-happy songwriter behind it was Ryan Tedder, who for his second act burrowed deeply into the pop landscape and wrote or cowrote quality hits for Kelly Clarkson ("Already Gone"), Beyoncé ("Halo") and an aptly named ballad for the history-rewriting Adele: "Turning Tables." "Apologize" actually ended up breaking previous airplay records for over 10,000 spins in one week, a record Tedder would later break himself again for the cowritten "Bleeding Love," a smash for Leona Lewis.

Now, as OneRepublic release their third album, Native, this week, it's both crystal clear and somewhat surprising that Tedder isn't going anywhere -- there's nowhere to go, really, when his credentials are firmly planted in a grand chunk of best-selling numbers from the last several years. Now one of the most in-demand hitmakers of our time, he's been at the helm for two Lewises -- Leona and Blake -- from two different poles of the Simon Cowell axis, and in between gave Somalian-Canadian rapper K'Naan a wonderful ballad ("Hurt Me Tomorrow," with "Empire State of Mind"-style piano-plinking) and some album meat to Maroon 5 ("Lucky Strike"). Tedder's ordinary-guy shtick only makes his hits more infectious: His productions may not have a Timbaland or David Guetta-style sonic signature, but he sure can imitate. And as a crooner in his own right, he's been tapped by everyone from Bubba Sparxxx ("She Tried" from all the way back in 2003) to Far East Movement ("Rocketeer," the necessary melodious follow-up to the stark electro "Like a G6") for silky, plasticine hooks.

OneRepublic themselves are still making hits ("All the Right Moves," "Marchin On"), but it's all the cookie jars Tedder has a hand in as either a producer or a writer that truly reveal his ferocious work ethic and chart dominance, from Cobra Starship ("#1Nite [One Night]") to Carrie Underwood ("Good in Goodbye") to the best J.Lo single in years ("Do It Well"). You could almost credit Tedder with singlehandedly bringing back the dancefloor-friendly ballad. And maybe being able to find new melodic contours in an old theme like Maroon 5's percolating "Love Somebody" is a sonic stamp in itself. Here's all his best stuff.

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