It’s been the summer of Top Gun: Maverick, a proper old-school film blockbuster that’s set all kinds of box office records and generally taken over pop culture — just like Maverick, Goose, Iceman and the rest of the original Top Gun crew did 36 years earlier.
Now, the sequel lives up to its predecessor in one more way: a top 10 hit soundtrack single. While the first new song released from the movie, Lady Gaga’s much-hyped power ballad “Hold My Hand,” topped out at No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100, ’00s and ’10s pop-rock hitmakers OneRepublic have scored a proper crossover smash with the breezy “I Ain’t Worried.” The song, which features in a beach football scene in Maverick, jumps from 14-8 on the Hot 100 this week, in its 13th week on the listing.
How surprising is OneRepublic’s return to the chart’s top tier? And how does “I Ain’t Worried” live up to the Top Gun musical legacy? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1.”I Ain’t Worried” hits the top 10 in its 13th week on the listing, a sort of throwback to the slow-building pop hits of yore. Are you surprised the song has gotten as big as it has?
Rania Aniftos: I am, just because we hear more about Ryan Tedder’s songwriting credits lately than his efforts in OneRepublic. So, it was a pleasantly surprising throwback to the mid-2010s to see that band name show up in the Hot 100 top 10. On the other hand, “I Ain’t Worried” has all the elements of a perfect summer song with the catchy hook and breezy melody, so it makes sense that this was the song to put OneRepublic back on the music map.
Katie Bain: Not really. It’s a catchy, well-produced song with as big of a launchpad as a pop jam can get in terms of its inclusion on the movie soundtrack — and it’s definitely the kind of bright, entirely palatable end of summer earworm whose shelf life would extend in tandem with the continued success of the movie.
Paul Grein: I’m amazed. And delighted. You just never know in this business (which is part of the fun). If you had told me that Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand,” the lead single from the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack, would stall at No. 49 on the Hot 100 and that a OneRepublic song, released as the album’s second single, would become a top 10 hit, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened. Gaga’s record was stately but somewhat overwrought, while OneRepublic’s is just great fun. Proof once again that what’s in the grooves matters more than name power.
Jason Lipshutz: Yes – and not just because it’s the first major OneRepublic hit in seven years, but also because it sounds like it exists in another era of pop music, divorced from all modern trends and production techniques. I guess that’s just how much of a juggernaut Top Gun: Maverick has become this year, as a sequel to a beloved ‘80s film that does not try to transform its core appeals to cater to a 2020s audience; “I Ain’t Worried” functions as a pop music translation of the movie’s frozen-in-amber throwback appeal, recalling a time (the early-to-mid 2010s, in this instance) where whistling and Ryan Tedder’s voice were top 40 staples.
Andrew Unterberger: I’d have been very surprised a few months ago — but once the song took hold on streaming, it was clear that radio would follow and the song would catapult to the top 10 shortly after. There’s nothing pop radio loves more than a winning single from a long-established hitmaker, and few groups of the 21st century were as quietly ubiquitous on top 40 as OneRepublic were from the late ’00s up to the mid ’10s.
2. OneRepublic hadn’t scored a top 40 hit since 2015 prior to “I Ain’t Worried.” Is the song’s success as simple an explanation as a three-word movie title that rhymes with Chop Fun: Gravel Lick, or do you think there’s something else at play here?
Rania Aniftos: Without a doubt, the Top Gun push definitely helps, but I think it comes down to how different this song is from other OneRepublic hits we’ve seen in the past. It feels younger, rather than their usual adult contemporary, which probably helped “I Ain’t Worried” reach a different demographic than the band usually attracts – without, of course, losing their OG fans.
Katie Bain: A rising tide lifts all ships (or the hard deck), and given the juggernaut that is Chop Fun: Gravel Lick, it seems that everything associated with this movie is getting similarly elevated. “I Ain’t Worried” is a fine song, but I think the chart success owed a large debt to the unstoppable nature of the movie.
Paul Grein: “I Ain’t Worried” is right for the time. We’ve had an awful lot to worry about in the past few years, but just maybe the dark cloud is starting to lift. Even though OneRepublic hadn’t had a hit in a long time, the group’s leader, Ryan Tedder, has remained active and successful. Since 2015, he has won two album of the year Grammys for work with Taylor Swift and Adele, and has been nominated for two more for work with Justin Bieber and Lil Nas X. OneRepublic may be a second-tier pop group, but Tedder has remained a top-tier writer/producer. Some of that golden glow has transferred to his group, keeping them viable.
Jason Lipshutz: “I Ain’t Worried” is one of OneRepublic’s most immediate pop offerings in a few years, coming from a frontman/producer/songwriter who has made an enviable career off of indelible melodies. That said, I doubt this song sniffs the upper reaches of the Hot 100 without the Top Gun: Maverick tie-in. Considering the all-time box office success of the film, divorcing “I Ain’t Worried” from Maverick would be like removing “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Would the song have been another hit for Celine Dion? Potentially! But there’s no way it conquers the world with the same velocity.
Andrew Unterberger: TikTok and its fascination with the song’s parent movie certainly helped, and OneRepublic’s hitmaking track record meant that once the song got a foothold, it would quickly feel like the group never faded from the mainstream. But this is still mostly about Maverick, and I’d be very surprised if we’d be talking about this song right now had it simply been the lead single from Tedder & Co.’s latest LP.
3. Top Gun soundtrack hits are nothing new, of course — dating back to the original ’86 soundtrack, which produced two top 10 hits in Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.” How does “I Ain’t Worried” hold up to those two enduring hits, in your opinion?
Rania Aniftos: It’s hard to say because it’s still too soon to tell if “I Ain’t Worried” will stand the test of time the way “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away” have. I can see it remaining relevant for the next few summers specifically, but I can’t imagine it will end up having the same nostalgia factor the other two have, unfortunately.
Katie Bain: No disrespect to One Republic, but I don’t foresee “I Ain’t Worried” entering the cultural canon with the same weight as “Danger Zone” or “Take My Breath Away,” which — at least for this ’80s baby — rank as era-defining classics. Obviously the monoculture has withered since the release of the original Top Gun in 1886, but I just don’t see this song having the legs to carry into the next era, or even the next year.
Paul Grein: I think it holds its own very well in that company. True confession: I’ve never much cared for “Take My Breath Away.” I thought “Danger Zone” was the stronger hit from the original Top Gun. Oscar voters didn’t agree with me. “Take My Breath Away” won best original song, while “Danger Zone” wasn’t even nominated. It will be very interesting to see what Oscar voters do this time around. Gaga is obviously a much bigger star than OneRepublic. But her song didn’t do nearly as well as expected, while OneRepublic’s song far exceeded expectations. Will Oscar voters go with one song over the other or find room for both this time? “I Ain’t Worried” could also bring Tedder his first Grammy nod in a songwriting category. It’s about time!
Jason Lipshutz: They function on separate planes of pop appeal and overall mood, but I’d guess “I Ain’t Worried” will persist as a radio hit and karaoke jam — considering how catchy the song is, its association with an enormous film, and OneRepublic’s top 40 bonafides. Considering the fragmentation of popular culture, “I Ain’t Worried” probably won’t become a song that every person of a certain age can hum along to, like “Take My Breath Away,” but it’s certainly not a cultural flash-in-the-pan, either.
Andrew Unterberger: I’m skeptical. “Take My Breath Away” and “Danger Zone” were as about as iconic as it gets for the mid-’80s — songs that encapsulated their era in their dreamy electro-pop power balladry and pulsing, sweaty synth-rock, respectively. Maybe we’ll be able to better appreciate the way “I Ain’t Worried” defines the early ’20s with some distance, but to my ears, the song actually sounds more like 2012 than 2022 — which is still fun, but maybe a little more ephemeral.
4. With Britney Spears and OneRepublic baking top 10 hits in back-to-back weeks, it feels like we’ve skipped right from the early ’10s to the early ’20s in pop music. Who’s another artist who was huge in pop a decade ago who you could see scoring a big comeback in the near future?
Rania Aniftos: Neon Trees! I heard “Animal” on TikTok recently and was reminded of what an absolute bop it is. They’ve always been good at making catchy songs, so why not try for a 2022 hit?
Katie Bain: I’m not holding my breath for Rihanna, but I really hope it’s Rihanna.
Paul Grein: Gotye had one of the biggest and best hits of 2012 in “Somebody That I Used to Know,” his quirky collab with Kimbra. Everybody loved it, from pop and alternative fans to Grammy voters (it won record of the year and best pop duo/group performance). But since then, we’ve gotten very little new music from Gotye – just odds and ends. It would nice to hear something new from such a talented artist. Since there’s no telling when Gotye will resurface, I’d also like to give a shout-out to Fergie. Seeing her on the VMAs with Jack Harlow reminded me how good she is and what a unique style she has. In those few minutes she proved that she still has it.
Jason Lipshutz: After two albums full of beautiful balladry and giddy experimentation, Kesha needs to drop one more all-out party anthem, that both nods to the day-one fans and brings in younger ones, too. Maybe it’s a collaboration with someone like Lizzo or Lil Nas X? That would definitely include some sort of “Tik Tok”/TikTok pun? A guy can dream!
Andrew Unterberger: Is it cheating to say David Guetta, who currently has a song (“I’m Good (Blue)” with Bebe Rexha) rapidly scaling the Billboard Hot 100?
5. Whistling songs being back on the radio: something to celebrate or something to avoid?
Rania Aniftos: I personally cannot whistle, so out of bitterness, I’ll say let’s avoid it.
Katie Bain: Reflexively I want to say avoid, but when I consider the whistle-featuring radio hits of yore — G&R’s “Patience,” Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” — I think it’s less about avoidance and more about judicious use of a sonic weapon that can become real cheesy real quick if not employed correctly.
Paul Grein: Something to celebrate. I love the way that things cycle back around in pop music. Fun fact: Two of OneRepublic’s four top 10 hits on the Hot 100 – this song and “Good Life” from 2011 – feature whistling, so Ryan Tedder is obviously a fan of this most human “instrument.” Any sub-genre that provides a common link between Bing Crosby (“White Christmas”), Guns N’ Roses (“Patience”) and Otis Redding (“(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”) will always have a place in my heart.
Jason Lipshutz: Celebrate the whistle! The other day I had Hillary Duff’s 2015 single “Sparks” stuck in my head, and went around the house gleefully whistling its hook. There’s no better feeling than a good whistle hook, and for that, OneRepublic (and Hillary Duff), you are to be saluted.
Andrew Unterberger: Celebrate — at least until they get as unavoidable as they became when OneRepublic was last huge a decade ago.