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MEGAN BUERGER: So, I know Ryan Tedder is supposedly the best songwriter of the past decade, but "Counting Stars" is a real puzzler. "Everything that kills me makes me feel alive" doesn't make sense, and neither does, “I’ve been losing sleep dreaming about the things that we could be." Am I missing something? This round goes to "The Man," which is a reach considering half of its chorus is lifted from Elton John's "Your Song,” but hey, that’s how it goes. My Vote: “The Man”
JEREMY D. LARSON: Came around to Tedder and co. mainly because of the kind vibes when he goes up the octave on the verse. Plus, it seeks to dismantle capitalism! My Vote: “Counting Stars”
JLLIAN MAPES: “Counting Stars” is nowhere near OneRepublic’s best song, and is instead a bland, just-OK pop song. Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” is big, dumb and cheesy with its Elton John “Your Song” sample, but it’s definitely not a snooze. My Vote: "The Man"
CAITLIN WHITE: It remains one of the many mysteries of the music industry that the lukewarm Aloe Blacc continues to be mildly successful. On "The Man," Blacc dares to interpolate the refrain of Elton's monumental "Your Song" in an attempt at self-aggrandizing. So, it falls to Ryan Tedder and his group of apology experts to counter Blacc's failings with "Counting Stars" — which is basically their attempt at a Mumford song. The redeeming grace of this song is the lyrical flip of "no more counting dollars / we'll be counting stars" which is nearly elegant in its earnest, anti-capitalist day-dreaming. Both of these songs feel like pots on slow simmer with the potential to flare up to a full boil at some point, but OneRepublic gets closer to actually heating up than Aloe Blacc can. My Vote: “Counting Stars”
CRAIG JENKINS: Mumford & Sons might be on indefinite hiatus, but their shaggy, earnest folk-pop spread over the rock landscape like stardust this year, showing face on records by Coldplay and Imagine Dragons, and most ubiquitously in OneRepublic’s languid stomper “Counting Stars.” Rapper-ternt-sanga Aloe Blacc’s “Your Song”-sampling “The Man” was every bit as omnipresent this year, thanks to placements in NFL and MLB ads, but the singing is patchy, and the sentiment is cloying. It’s the kind of song you play at a wedding or graduation and come back to years later, wracked with embarrassed nostalgia. I think that means it's timeless. My Vote: “The Man”OVERALL WINNER: “The Man”