This was released as the lead global single from OneRepublic's third studio album, Native. The song was premiered by the band during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2012. The track, which was produced by their frontman Ryan Tedder, was debuted online on January 9, 2013.
The band recruited a wide range of people from neighbors and friends to record execs to listen to Native
to help them pick what song to lead the album. This was chosen as their first single after OneRepublic's engineer, without the group knowing, had played the song for his twenty something friends who thought the song was really good. "That's kind of a good test for bands," Tedder explained to Radio.com
. "If you can get guys in their early twenties to believe in something, and to be like, 'Yeah, I'd get that or I'd go to see that'...it's not lame."
The song was recorded on the island of Santorini, Greece, which lies south of Athens in the Mediterranean Sea. During a behind-the-scenes video of the making of the track, we see at one point Tedder telling the band that they'll record part of the song using the Garage Band program. The verse Tedder is referring to is: "Take us down and we keep trying. 40,000 feet keep flying. Take us down and we keep trying. 40,000 feet keep flying."
Tedder revealed to MTV News that despite its euphoric, 'let's go crazy tonight' sentiments, the song actually has the morbid subject of going down in a plane. "Waking up on an airplane and finding our you're going down," he explained, "having that moment of sheer panic, looking out the window, seeing your life pass before you, [but] looking over to your right and seeing the person you love sitting next to you, and realizing 'It could be worse ... the next 90 seconds are going to be pretty thrilling, and this person is with me, so I'm okay.'"
The song's music video was directed by Michael Muller. It follows kids in downtown Los Angeles chasing clues on a scavenger hunt. Finally, they open up a garage door to find the band performing the song in a dark, smokey room in front of a packed crowd. "This is kind of a first for all of us, including the director," said Tedder. "The video storyline was inspired by [the films] 12 Monkeys and The Matrix, follow the white rabbit."
A dance version of the song was remixed by Swedish DJ Alesso and released in certain countries, notably in Sweden, where a version credited to Alesso vs OneRepublic peaked at #4 in the singles chart. Alesso told Billboard magazine the remix came about because "they sent a demo to me and I was like, 'whoa, I really want to do something with this.'" He added: "I worked with it in the studio every day for about a month. There was so much stuff I wanted to do with it. I wanted it to be still melodic and emotional like it is but still have energy. It was tough, but I'm pretty happy with it."