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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

OneRepublic's original cut of "Apologize" remains a sentimental favorite

My 210th Senior Year Soundtrack selection is a staple of 2000s pop... sort of.

The proliferation and increasingly electronic nature of music production in the 21st century has led to more versions of the same track being released than ever before. From full-on remixes to extra features, these new versions can extend the life of a track, transform it into something entirely new, or both.

I've mentioned a number of remixes in this space thus far (here's all my posts with the "remix" tag), but today's post takes a different angle with respect to mixing. The chief impetus for this slant is my own musical tastes, but the intricacy of this particular track's life results from both the remixing producer and its release schedule.

At the turn of the century and into the late 2000s, hip hop producer Timbaland was a leading force of popular music. His portfolio of work for and with the likes of Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, and Justin Timberlake led to a littany of chart-toppers and awards, and it entrenched his "stuttering" rhythms into our cultural memory. On his own second album, 2007's Shock Value, Timbaland expanded the genre breadth of his production through the variety of featured artists he employed. One of those features was up-and-coming pop rock band OneRepublic, who were featured on the international hit "Apologize." Its piano-driven rhythm and Ryan Tedder's mournful vocals, combined with Timbaland signature kick drum sounds and rhythms, made for a simultaneously emotional and danceable pop and hip hop classic.

Except... that isn't the full story of "Apologize." Timbaland's version everyone knows isn't the original, even though it was released first. Rather, he remixed OneRepublic's original recording, which the band released a few months later on their debut album, Dreaming Out Loud. Especially within the past few years, I've found myself to prefer this original cello-based version, with the cello played by band member Brent Kutzle.

There's a physicality and more of a rawness to this cello version that draws me in. Unlike the delicate nature high strings can often bring, the deeper-set tones heard here seem to have an additional weight to them furthered by their lower range. Additionally, the repeated eighth notes of the chordal accompaniment makes the backing feel more intense than the Timbaland remix in a manner that accents the pain of heartbreak about which Ryan Tedder sings. The climbing figure in back of the second verse, beginning around the lyrics "I loved you with a fire red / Now it's turning blue," is a detail I've come to appreciate more and more with recent listens. Its entrance is perfectly timed, accompanying an underrated lyric that symbolizes both the pain and increased intensity of the narrator's love even after heartbreak.

Other personal intrigue in OneRepublic's version comes from additional instrumental elements. Interestingly, the original kick drum is more active than the one heard in Timbaland's remix, and its rhythm adds to the propulsive nature of the eighth notes on the cello. There's also an extra focus on Zach Filkins' guitar, which enters in the second chorus, then delivers a solo that helps keep the final sections feel fresh and less repetitive, especially compared to the more popular remix.

I completely understand why Timbaland's version of "Apologize" carries the cultural weight it does — the remixing producer's stature and credit as the main artist, combined with the song's emotional weight, made it prime radio and singalong material then as it still does to this day. However, OneRepublic's original take demonstrates more of their own artistry while also increasing the track's emotional payoff. I remain partial to the band's own version while understanding and respecting how the remix has done more to embed the song into the cultural memory.


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