For the members of OneRepublic, attending the movie premiere for The Giver amounted to something of a novel experience — and we’re not talking the book on which the film was based.
The band members found the red carpet setting for the film completely removed from what they’d encountered previously at similar music industry functions — in a manner of speaking, much more civilized.
Front man Ryan Tedder describes the movie scene as classier. Music red carpets he likens to chaos. “You’re always getting bumped,” he avers. “This is a lot more chill.”
Chill is an appropriate descriptor for certain elements of the movie, The Giver, in that the dystopian reality of an intended utopia requires participants to engage in what Lois Lowry, the author of the book, has described as acts of evil. Citizens of Sameness, where the action plays out on film, live colorless lives and begin each day with an injection intended to keep them pacified, docile, void of any hint of memory or curiosity of what came in times lived by prior generations. They in effect live existences ruled by the whim of others who know better. Choice, then, is a relic of the past.
OneRepublic was tasked with writing a theme song for the closing credits, an anthem of sorts that would capture what the story communicates both to readers of Lowry’s book as well as to audiences of the film adaptation directed by Philip Noyce. Tedder wanted the song to reflect the movie’s story in a manner that wasn’t, as he put it, “too on the nose.”
Tedder, who admits writing songs for films helped him get established early on, brought his own appreciation for The Giver to the writing of “Ordinary Human” well before the film was made. Tedder was one in 12 million or so ordinary humans who read the book — though he came to the novel’s themes not too long after Lowry’s novel appeared in print.
“I wanted a song that existed by itself autonomously from the film,” Tedder explains. “The idea was to have something good enough to exist by itself separate from the film. We just dropped this — even if (it were not) attached to a movie, inspire by a movie, any of that stuff? It would still be well-received. We would love it, and our fans would love it, and that’s the idea.”
“After watching the movie,” he recalls, “I was like, the lyric and the chorus — ‘Sometimes I medicate, but I’ll be picture perfect by the end of the day’ — kind of describing the dystopic society.”
“Ordinary Human” is a phrase echoed throughout the chorus, an idea carried along an oddly upbeat melody that belies the plight of characters depicted in the film adaptation from the Weinstein Company and Walden Media. Some might call the tune infectious: It’s easy to learn and sing along with after hearing it only once or twice.
In OneRepublic’s single, the ordinary quality of being human becomes celebrated in stark counterpoint to the reality gripping the world of Lowry’s cautionary tale — which is about what one might expect from OneRepublic. The band rose to prominence largely on its own efforts without the boost typically afforded to acts discovered by studio A&R types.
Not surprisingly this quite extraordinary quality has made Tedder and his mates much sought after by musicians throughout the industry looking for a collaborator who can bring something extra to the studio effort. Aside from being a singer/songwriter, Tedder produces. The roster of the artists he’s worked alongside read like proverbial who’s who in showbiz — Adele, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Maroon 5 and One Direction are only a few of the ordinary humans whose extraordinary careers have found a helping hand in Tedder’s producing skills.
As for the song he and his bandmates produce and deliver for The Giver — some reviewers have called it dark. Perhaps. But this song might just as easily be viewed as optimistic. Fans of OneRepublic’s music will need to make that determination for themselves.