In order for something creative to be successful, I believe all it needs is intention. And I know that "success" is a loose and subjective term, so I guess what I mean is that if something is created with intention then it will resonate with people. Success can just mean that it gets to matter to someone.
Someone who I think has had the most success in creating with purpose and intention is Ryan Tedder. In a nutshell, he's the frontman of the record-breaking band OneRepublic. He's won three Grammys and has been nominated for 6 others. A genius songwriter, producer, singer, and instrumentalist. And he's got great hair, a smart sense of humor, consistently hilarious Instagram stories, and one of the greatest personalities of anyone in entertainment.
I adore OneRepublic and the way they change up their sound so much. There doesn't seem to be a pattern or formula they follow and that's always kept me on my toes as a listener. I consume music in a way that is so random and continuous, but it's still completely conscious. And that's exactly how I would describe Ryan Tedder's songwriting. And I guess that's why I love it.
As a writer--not of songs but of words--I've really looked up to him. For years, I've been blown away by his ability to always write songs that have so much beauty and meaning. If I could walk through one person's mind, undoubtedly, I'd choose his.
I had the idea for a while to write about why I love his work so much. But I knew it wasn't something I could half-ass. I listened to every song he's contributed anything to creatively--writing, producing, singing. I watched interviews and documentaries, listened to podcasts, read articles, and took the time to really dig deep into the meaning and intention behind all the magic he's made over the years. I wanted to narrow it down to my top 20 songs he's worked on, but that wasn't enough, so I shot for 25. And I guess I could've done it but it still wouldn't cover all the songs that blew me away. When it's someone who's worked with legends from literally every genre, it's hard to pick just a few. Considering there's stuff by Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Kelly Clarkson, Adele, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, and so many others. So after much deliberation, I finally narrowed it down to 30 songs of pure greatness:
1. "Say (All I Need)" by OneRepublic
OneRepublic is 100% my favorite band and I'm sure I could list 35 of their songs alone that I love. But when I decided to make a list of Ryan Tedder's best music, I wanted to only allow myself one song from each album (with one exception), one of their latest singles, and one collaboration. This is my favorite from "Dreaming Out Loud," and making that decision wasn't easy considering that album also includes "Apologize," which they may not be a band without. But when I think about OneRepublic, "Apologize" isn't the song that I think defines them as a band. They rarely sing about relationships and heartbreak; it's more about life and feelings. I think "Say" is our first taste of that because the lyrics are so beautifully intense.
2. "All The Right Moves" by OneRepublic
From OneRepublic's sophomore album, "Waking Up," I chose "All The Right Moves" as my favorite. I think it's timeless, like most of their music is. The strings give it a classic feel that pair well with the boldness of the lyrics. Ryan Tedder wrote "All The Right Moves" by himself and it seems like it's his perspective of the band and its place in the industry. They had a rough start and that was bound to make him cynical about the moves that have to be made, which is what I attribute to the sarcastic attitude of the track that I found intriguing.
3. "If I Lose Myself" by OneRepublic
"Native" is my favorite OneRepublic album, so there was no way I could pick just one favorite track. I already had the task of picking this version over the remix with Alesso, which is also spectacular. Regardless, it's one of the smartest songs on this entire list. The juxtaposition of lyrics as serious as a literal plane crash on top of an EDM melody is ridiculous in the best possible way. It's deep and fierce, but it still makes you want to get up and dance, even if the world is ending. And I guess that's the whole point. When you've got the right person beside you on the plane it doesn't matter that you're crashing down 40,000 miles.
4. "I Lived" by OneRepublic
Songs like this are why I can never pick just one favorite. The message is so simple yet the most important. Experiencing every bit of life is the only way to live it. It's meant to include joy and pain and loss and wonder. It reminds me of all the things my parents would tell me growing up, and I think it's the kind of message that should be instilled in everyone. And even the melody is uplifting. The climax of the song feels the same way it does when you make it to the top of a mountain: fulfilling and powerful.
5. "Let's Hurt Tonight" by OneRepublic
There's one line in this song that resonated with me more than any set of lyrics in any song on this list. I think it's been engraved in my brain since I first heard it. "Don't walk away, don't roll your eyes. They say love is pain, well darling, let's hurt tonight." it's such pure thing to say to someone you care about. Not to mention, "darling" is absolutely the sweetest way to refer to someone. The lyrics are so careful and meticulous, which means the world.
6. "Connection" by OneRepublic
After a well-deserved hiatus, OneRepublic decided to just release music as rapidly and randomly as they wanted. That's fared their fans well because we've gotten to experience all these new styles in real time. "Connection" is so different from their other music and that will always be a good thing to me. They're the kind of band that I would never expect to stay in one lane, and maybe that's because I'm really ADD when it comes to listening to music. I can hear this alongside their lighter stuff like "Stop and Stare" and still know it's the band I love.
7. "Bones" by Galantis (feat. OneRepulbic)
I love how serious about love they are with this song. The sound is electric and captivating, but the lyrics are delicate and refined. Lines like "you're like the opposite of all of my mistakes. Tear down the biggest walls and put me in my place. I know, that kind of comfortable you cannot replicate. You feel like home" make me want to believe in all of it. It makes love feel so definite and permanent.
8. "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis
Ryan Tedder originally wrote this for and with Jesse McCartney and his label didn't think it was a hit. It made its way to Leona Lewis and from there it blew up. Expectations had been high for her and thanks to "Bleeding Love," they were all exceeded. Her voice is immaculate and the Prince-inspired song was perfect for showcasing that. It ended up being the most downloaded song of 2008 worldwide. I also feel that's it's important to note that Mr. Tedder played every instrument on the track, which is SUPER impressive.
9. "Halo" by Beyoncé
Ryan Tedder is a wizard when it comes to producing and writing, which he did simulateously with "Halo." And in under 3 hours. He makes creating hits seem easy. And that almost explains how he has time to sleep and have a family. Almost. As far as major hits go, it's wild that one of his best ones happened the fastest. And it is one of his best songs and I don't think anyone would argue on that.
10. "Already Gone" by Kelly Clarkson
There's been some controversy with this song, and before I ramble on about how it's my all-time favorite of all 30 songs here, I've given myself the responsibility of clearing it up. People speculated that Ryan Tedder gave the same song to two artists (Kelly Clarkson and Queen Bey) because this one sounds just like "Halo." And since their two albums were only a few months apart, people acted like one ripped off the other. That just seems more malicious than Ryan Tedder is capable of being. Seeing as how the two songs sprang from the same genius brain, even if they are a little similar, it should be accepted. Because they're two of the best songs of that year, and maybe even the entire decade. But anyway, Kelly Clarkson is one of the most capable female vocalists of her generation and the song was made for someone of her caliber. I'll spend the rest of my life pretending I sound half as good as her when I belt it out in the shower.
11. "Rumour Has It" by Adele
The sass. The intensity. The bitterness. The rapid clapping. So many reasons to love this one. I love that it's almost arrogant. Adele seems like the sweetest soul on the planet, but this song is so smug and I feel every bit of it on a deep level. I think what makes the production of "Rumour Has It" so phenomenal is the admiration Ryan Tedder has for Adele. In interviews, he always says the nicest things about her as an artist and as a human being. He wanted to make something incredible because she's incredible.
12. "Not Over You" by Gavin DeGraw
I blame "One Tree Hill" for my obsession with Gavin DeGraw, so when I found out he's worked with Ryan Tedder I was doubly thrilled. His voice deserves only the best records and working with someone as remarkable as Tedder ensures that. I love how focused on lyrics every one of Tedder's songs are. It doesn't matter how complete and complex the melody ever is, there's always so much more with it, and this song is no different. There are so many words to hold onto that are relatable. Even when we wish they weren't, we can accept it because the song is that good.
13. "Brighter Than The Sun" by Colbie Caillat
This song and its video are so vibrant, and that's what I would expect from Colbie Caillat. While she does have a few songs that give a sense of longing or angst, the ones she worked on with Ryan Tedder are more upbeat. It's the reggae sort of vibe that makes you want to dance or recycle or do something productive. I went through a phase in high school where I only listened to songs that made me feel like a hippie, so I played this out.
And again, Ryan Tedder played most of the instruments on this one (even the bongos!)
14. "Good in Goodbye" by Carrie Underwood
When I bought Carrie Underwood's album "Blown Away" I was twelve and I remember this song sticking out to me. I was raised on country music so my favorite songs have always been the ones I could picture in my head because they're written like stories. I definitely didn't understand the depth of the lyrics back then, but after some years and a heartbreak later, "Good In Goodbye" holds a special place in my heart. I haven't gotten to the part that is the "good," but this song and the way it feels so carefully written gives me a lot of faith that it'll come. It makes sense that a song this meaningful was co-written by Ryan Tedder because his words have always resonated with me.
15. "Love Somebody" by Maroon 5
Maroon 5 is a band that doesn't just have a massive number of hits, but they have more career-making, forever memorable chart-toppers than I think I could list off the top of my head. Ryan Tedder has worked with Adam Levine on a few of their hits, but this one is my favorite. It gets so much air time and I've never gotten tired of it. There's something about Maroon 5 that makes DJs really want to put their music on the radio and I think that'll make it timeless. With how fast music gets consumed now, it's hard for things to stick, but there are a few songs every once in a while that manage to cut through and remain memorable. Ryan Tedder has written or co-written a bunch of those and "Love Somebody" is one of the best examples.
16. "Burn" by Ellie Goulding
"Burn" is so full of passion and it's infectious. I feel like I can usually tell when an artist believes in the words they're singing, and I feel it really deep with Ellie Goulding in all of her stuff. Her sound is unique and I think that's really necessary in a time where people accept that so much of what's created is just standard. But on top of the passion and depth of the lyrics, the production of it is mind-blowingly great, and Ryan Tedder is responsible for that as well.
17. "XO" by Beyoncé
Here's yet another hit Ryan Tedder wrote with Beyoncé. There are so many layers to it. It starts with a twinkly, magical vibe, then one of the most legendary voices sings dainty lyrics, then it gains intensity at its climax. I think the only appropriate setting for the video is an amusement park because the buildup of the song itself feels like a rollercoaster ride. We have Ryan Tedder to thank for two of her biggest pop-driven hits. And John Mayer's stripped back version with the guitar and harmonica really highlights the immaculate lyricism that makes it so unforgettable.
18. "Ghost" by Ella Henderson
I just remember 2014 being such an incredible year for music. So much of what was on the radio was almost spiritual. Lyrics were powerful, melodies were fierce, and the voices that dominated the charts were as good as it gets. I give Ryan Tedder credit for a lot of what was great about that entire year. "Ghost" is a great first example. It's immediately enchanting lyrically and musically. The instrumentation (most of which were played by Tedder) is immense. And it has one of the most gorgeous bridges of any song, not just on this list, but of all time. Something about Ella Henderson's tone is so piercingly perfect and she should be a much bigger deal than she is.
19. "Words As Weapons" by Birdy
Birdy has a voice that captivated me the moment I heard it. It's indescribably delicate but equally as powerful. It can cut through any noise and make you stop what you're doing to take all of it in. "Words As Weapons" is the second song she wrote with Ryan Tedder that he produced. And while I don't think she needs the help with being great, he definitely amplifies the greatness because this record and "Wings" are my favorites. And like I said about the music of 2014, this song has the feeling of being spiritual as well. Lyrics like "my windows cracked, they can be replaced. But your arm will tire throwing stones my way" are emphatic. I have such an attachment to words that are pieced together so meticulously, and this was one of the times I remember being so awestruck.
20. "I Know Places" by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is one of the best songwriters of all time. She wrote all of "Speak Now" by herself and it's still one of few albums where I won't skip a single song. So it can't be easy to enhance what's already so close to perfection. But Ryan Tedder did when he co-wrote and produced two songs off of "1989." It was Taylor Swift's first album where she fully immersed herself in pop music and I remember not being very welcoming of the transition. But "I Know Places" is one of the many reasons it just worked. The lyrics are as clever as hers have always been, there's that buildup to something prominent, and it's complex like I would expect from two musical geniuses.
21. "Remedy" by Adele
Of the three songs song Ryan Tedder wrote with Adele, this one is my favorite. From the first notes Ryan Tedder plays on the piano, my chest fills up and I shiver. Every single time. All the feeling latches onto me immediately, but it still builds to a commanding chorus. There's an immeasurable passion that I'm completely sold on. Adele is such a convincing artist and even when she's just humming, it feels magical and inspiring somehow. I'm totally confident that she would do anything for the people she loves.
22. "Faith" by Stevie Wonder (feat. Ariana Grande)
The dumbest thing I could possibly do is leave this song off the list. Writing with Stevie Wonder is a huge deal, and it deserves to be celebrated. I can't imagine how amazing Ryan Tedder must have felt working on this song. And it shows with how fun it is. I love how classic it feels with the finger snapping and the bass at the beginning. When writing a song with and for a legend like Stevie Wonder, it would have to be something timeless.
23. "Happier" by Ed Sheeran
Like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran is such a flawless songwriter and everything he touches turns to gold. So being able to enrich that in any way will always be special. The lyrics that make up "Happier" are unbelievably complex and mature. There's imagery that's so deeply bittersweet that it makes my heart ache. It's another song that I think will be as incredible 50 years from now as it was when it came out. Ryan Tedder co-wrote so many legendary tracks that I don't think could ever go out of style.
24. "Most Girls" by Hailee Steinfeld
There's so much I could say about this song because there's so much about it that I genuinely adore. It's an anthem of female empowerment that gets down to the core of what feminism is really all about, without getting preachy or condescending. It's just saying what needs to be said. And on top of all of that, men co-wrote it and produced it. And Ryan Tedder was one of them who was willing to take a walk in our shoes and was able to write lyrics that are so authentic to who we are. It doesn't take much but it means a lot.
25. "Into It" by Camila Cabello
Sexy. Steamy. Clever. Catchy. And overall just stellar. But mostly sexy. That's what comes to mind with this track. It's a little different than what I would consider a "classic Ryan Tedder creative contribution." But he's not really someone who ever stays in one lane. As far as songwriting goes, he's incredibly versatile and capable of pretty much anything. It's just such a fun song, and it sticks out on an album that I'd consider perfect.
26. "Particular Taste" by Shawn Mendes
There's a good bit of attitude on this song that we don't get enough of from Shawn Mendes. He is quite possibly one of the most humble artists right now and he carries himself in a way that leads me to believe he's 100% authentic, which is why I don't mind when he has a couple of songs where he's kind of cocky. And he's talked in interviews a lot about how much he's loved working with Ryan Tedder. Them having a great dynamic together gives them an edge creatively. "Particular Taste" is a unique and funky dance-pop track with a perfect layering of instrumentation.
27. "Fuh You" by Paul McCartney
I can't begin to imagine how insane it must feel to work without someone as talented and legendary as Sir Paul McCartney. OneRepublic must have taken inspiration from The Beatles as a real band trying to create something special, so Ryan Tedder had to have been honored to be sought out by McCartney. And to make a hit with someone who is as familiar with hits as he is, that's incredible. And I can't get over how modern it is. When it's a musician who has been putting out records since the 60s, keeping up with trends is such huge task.
28. "Sucker" by Jonas Brother
Finding out the Jonas Brothers were coming back sent me into a bigger frenzy than anything in my life ever has. Without realizing it, the six years without them were the longest, worst years of my life. So "Sucker" was obviously a pleasant surprise. But then hearing it? Damn. Allegedly, Ryan Tedder is the executive producer of their whole album, and nothing excites me more than that. I think working with Ryan Tedder was the smartest decision they could've possibly made for their comeback because he's so versatile. And the clapping and whistling throughout this song are really on-brand with Ryan Tedder's sound. It's like the sixth song on this list where clapping or snapping is the glue holding the melody together.
29. "That Old Truck" by Thomas Rhett
"That Old Truck" is a country song with a story that highlights how well-rounded of a songwriter Ryan Tedder is. It's crazy that he co-wrote songs on Thomas Rhett's new album that were about trucks and beer. It's lightyears away from what he usually does, and they're still both incredible songs. When you grow up in the south, you understand the serious connection of a boy and his first truck. This song captures that and I appreciate the sweetness of it. It took me back to the first time I was picked up for a date with a boy in his truck and I couldn't help but smile.
30. "Easier" by 5 Seconds of Summer
On the whole other end of the spectrum from "That Old Truck," is this banger by 5SOS. I've loved watching them grow into themselves as a band and as people. I haven't missed a single tour since they started headlining shows and seeing them develop has been really special. I think it's a lot like OneRepublic in that they both debuted with songs that weren't "their sound." OneRepublic got big with Timbaland's remix of "Apologize" and were put into a box. 5SOS had "She Looks So Perfect" and that wasn't what they wanted. It made a lot of sense to write with Ryan Tedder since he understands how crucial it is to be a real band that is taken seriously. And it proved to be successful because "Easier" is addictive.