Tom Cruise Helped OneRepublic Score Its Latest Hit (Yes, For Real)

Two years ago, Tom Cruise asked Ryan Tedder a simple question over Zoom: “What do you hear?” Having been connected through a mutual collaborator at Paramount, the actor was showing the veteran producer and OneRepublic frontman a rough cut of the dogfight football scene from Top Gun: Maverick, and Tedder could imagine quite the sonic blend. “I said, ‘I hear a little Beach Boys… Gorillaz… and this kind of whistle thing,’ ” Tedder recalls.

Taking cues from those references, as well as other acts like Foster the People, Tedder and his bandmate Brent Kutzle turned the whistling melody in his head into OneRepublic’s latest single, “I Ain’t Worried.” The shuffling groove — which appears halfway through the blockbuster sequel that was 36 years in the making and premiered in May — has since scored the band its biggest hit in nearly a decade.

With the track gaining traction on TikTok following its May release, “I Ain’t Worried” has climbed to No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 (chart dated July 30), partially thanks to fans creating and sharing their own edits of Miles Teller’s shirtless — and now-viral — “Rooster wiggle” from the scene during which the song plays. While the “Rooster wiggle” tag has been viewed over 1.5 billion times on TikTok, “I Ain’t Worried” has garnered over 65.5 million on-demand official U.S. streams, according to Luminate.

Much like Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With the Boys” did during the classic beach-volleyball scene in the 1986 original film, “I Ain’t Worried” offers viewers a much-needed exhale amid the life-or-death stakes and high-flying action central to the plot. “The beauty of it was that I wasn’t trying to write some huge global record — it’s not following any pop math,” says Tedder. “It wasn’t written to sound obvious.” To Cruise, however, the song’s potential was always clear. His one piece of feedback when Tedder turned it in: “I think it’s a bull’s-eye.”

This story will appear in the Aug. 6, 2022, issue of Billboard.