OneRepublic was a relatively unknown band back when they started in 2007 until a little single called “Apologize” came along. It ended up being a smash hit and catapulted them into the mainstream. What’s unique about the song is that it’s a mashup of several different genres. There’s pop, of course, but also a twinge of classical music. That’s because the through-line of the song is cello and piano, not a drum machines or autotune like a lot of other pop songs from that decade. “Apologize” also leans into R&B, and not just because Timbaland later remixed it for his album Shock Value. (We’ll get to that in a moment.) The beat has a smoothness that calls to mind Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman or even early Rihanna.
I think what I love most about the song, though, is how awesomely melodramatic it is: singer Ryan Tedder declares that his love says “”Sorry,” like the angel heaven let me think was you.” Or what about the line, “I’m holdin’ on your rope, got me ten feet off the ground”? Tedder does a great job of carrying those lines without yelling. He just sings with feeling, and you can tell he means it.
Let’s also take a look at the Timbaland remix. It’s much slower, and Tedder’s voice echoes more. The piano stands out, whereas the cello has faded, and the overall beat has a new snappiness. There’s even what sounds like a synthesizer in the background. As Tedder sings that “it’s too late to apologize,” Timbaland sings ay, ay, and there’s something about Timbaland’s vocals that adds a new loneliness to the song.
I’m inclined to like the Timbaland version better as a result, but you can compare the two below. Let me know which one you prefer!