9.12.2009

"Blue" Soundtrack

I have to admit that I was not expecting much from “Blue” soundtrack. The initial teasers with ‘Blue’ theme and ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ didn’t create any curiosity. So without any expectations, I started listening “Blue”, considering it as just a soundtrack for a massy commercial entertainer. In these movies, Rahman has no limitations on the choice of instruments so to stick period in which it is set in (like a Jodha Akbar), or for which Rahman need not keep a coherent sound and feel throughout the soundtrack (like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na). It is in these kinds of movies Rahman freaks out with his anything-and-everything goes attitude, turns playful and unleashes few more experiments breaking the un-written formulas with which an Indian movie song should be composed. While Rahman has attempted all of these in the music of “Blue”, it isn’t entirely ground breaking but that isn’t a complaint – it is just a formality to say that (and probably cringe later for the same) and a big barrier that an avid A.R.Rahman fan has to break through while listening to every soundtrack of his in those initial days.

So when I broke through that barrier, even ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ sounded genuine, unpretentious, catchy and thoroughly enjoyable. ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ is no doubt an addictive phrase that gets repeated umpteen times throughout the song, but what makes the Kylie Monogue’s (except for the silky voice, there is nothing spectacular about her singing or may be the composition doesn’t demand anything more) part magical is the madly running bass (slap or synth??) lines that impose a heavy pull to keep frivolous melody lines grounded. The song suddenly makes a not so comfortable transition from Kylie’s pop to Sonu Nigam’s Bhangra, and on first listening, it sounded so plaintive, it wasn’t bang on. The tempo of the Bhangra beats should have been higher at the transition point to create a greater impact, I thought. But the realization comes later that this is actually a Bhangra without typical Punjabi dhols and that the song is meant to be in this way because Rahman wants to create a Hip-Bhangra-hop music. The euphoria of Bhangra is kept intact through chorus shouting ‘Hoi’ in rhythm, Sonu’s diction and expression and Punjabi strings but the beats is that of hip-hop. Rahman though entirely doesn’t pull this off, the song as a whole is good fun.

‘Aaj dil’ is colourful cocktail of style and substance, synth and melody. It has got one of the finest layering of synth, e-sounds and acoustic instruments we heard for a while. The best thing is that even without those infinite layers of sounds, the spirit of song is so densely stuffed in its melody itself, which has got a great momentum in it with never ending catchy phrases piling up one after the other. But what those eclectic sound layers bring to the table instantly is the aura, the ambience that the song wants to create. And Oh! Those madly done interludes without any identifiable melodies transport us directly to a dreamy water land. All these synthphonies could easily turn into a cacophony if not done with utmost care but for someone who put together something as magnificent as a ‘Potter’s Village’ this must be a child’s play. But nevertheless such attempts ceaselessly surprise the listeners. Adding to the beauty of already colourful bowl of sounds is the ‘Saayasa’ and a Piano motif sprinkled throughout the song. Shreya Ghosal is unbelievably versatile and extremely irresistible as she makes best use to the seductive range of her voice in this song. And Rahman interestingly makes Sukhwinder singh (who adds classical touches even in a song like this) sing this one and Sonu Nigam sing the ‘Chiggy Wiggy’.

I doubt if there will be a song this year that is more thumping, more addictive, more exuberant, catchier and hookier than ‘Fiqrana’. The song instantly sucks you into its groove and takes us through an exhilarating ride of rhythm and melody, right from the moment the main guitar riff starts to loop around your ears. How does a composer choose a certain sounding guitar? Rahman hits it bang on target with the choice of instrument for that guitar motif that ends each stanza and begins the interlude. The sound of the guitar and the melody played on it are ridiculously funky and hooky. The Rahmantic moment of the song arrives with the melody that swirls around on the lines ‘Jeet-te hain adh adh ka hum’. The song as a whole with it never ending rhythm, completely sweeps you off your feet and makes your heart jump with joy.

When the ‘Blue Theme’ was heard first in the teaser, I thought that Rap bit would instantly bounce off from the very beginning but interestingly there is a prelude to the RAP which is more interesting than the actual theme. The song takes lots of twists and turns with varied rhythms of folk, rap, pop, hip-hop and rock parading one after the other with all of thump. Amidst all the shouting, rapping, Rahman has stuffed a genuine melody (sung by a female vocal) which borders on Sufi. Though it has a pivotal theme (which could be used umpteen times in the background score of the movie whenever heroes complete an action sequence triumphantly), it doesn’t meander by orchestrating the same theme on different ways, it keeps moving on from one portion to another of varied rhythms, tempos and melodies. We will have to wait and see what the piece as a whole add to the visuals on screen.

‘Bhoola Tujhe’ is relatively an underwhelming song of the soundtrack. The main melody in Mukhda is really nice and soulful; it is a melody that I would definitely hum even after having stopped listening to the soundtrack, but it begins to meander in the middle with stretch-the-last-word-of-the-line technique used to make the melody fit into a preset rhythm. The song’s melody and orchestration seems to be derived from the intersection of ‘Do Kadam aur sahi’ and ‘Kahin toh’ but it isn’t as effective as either. Rahman tries too hard to add more soul and feel to the song with a soft bed of symphonic strings running throughout the song, while string section sounds heavily, it can’t help much when the melody playing over is weak.

The moment I heard those shrill hit-hat hits and deep bass in the beginning of ‘Rehnuma’, I thought this is going to be Rahman’s yet another true-to-genre Jazz songs in the lineage of ‘Jaane Tu’ title song and ‘Jillunu oru kaadhal’ title song, but soon as Shreya exquisitely begins to scream ‘Qaatil Ada’, Rahman takes a stunning route to a Rahmanish John Barry Stuff with that yet another additive and funky guitar motif of the soundtrack. Also to move far away from his other Jazz numbers, Rahman goes in for synth pads instead of syncopated acoustic drums that mostly accompanies Jazz songs and there is a delightful dense string section backing throughout. The flashy orchestration adds more attitude, style to the substance that is truly western. Shreya Ghosal and Sonu Nigam sing the lines incredibly without ever sounding like an Indian voice soaked and trained in Indian classical music, they have poured sweat, heart and soul into this song. The crescendos with multi overlapping layers of ‘Rehnuma’ chants, guitar motif and the string section are perfectly placed and are just out of the world (though you wish sound mixing could have been much better – rarest of complaints on a Rahman’s song).

‘Yaar mila tha’ is a song for which we cannot easily attach a genre to, it sounds like one of those early 90’s saccharine melodies with a touch of Rahman’s trademark cuts in flow of the melody, and with a new age rhythm that is part folksy and part hoppy. Adding further to that feel is Udit Narayan’s and Madhusree’s voice and singing. The melody in the Mukhda that perfectly sits on an unusual rhythm makes it an instantly catchy song but it faces the same problems as that of ‘Bhoola Tujhe’. In the antara, Udit starts to sing the lines with a melody that takes a random path with unpredictable pauses, which leaves us wondering where all of this is leading to (I immensely liked the maddening flow that the melody takes in the middle of ‘Behka’ or ‘Vaan nila tharum oli’ songs). Usually when such issues come up Rahman use to give a walking stick to the listeners like say that guitar motif in ‘Rehna Tu’ which was so helpful in initial listening to go through the middle portions where Rahman bothers little about fitting the melody to beats and sings passionately straight from the heart. But here, the rhythm though catchy is repeated endlessly and turns monotonous, so it doesn’t serve the job of a walking stick convincingly. This problem often comes up when Rahman composes melody for already written lines. Why do lyricists write such prose without any setting a definite meter so a composer can fit them easily into a rhythm and melody? Or if the music was composed first, how on earth a composer can come up with a melody that is as zig-zag and random as one in this song’s antara?

Few days before the release of this soundtrack, A.R.Rahman released a note like this

“This is my first film after the Oscars. So expectations are scary. It's important to work with a great team to create great music and we've done that with Blue. What's special about Blue is that it's an underwater adventure. So, it was very exciting to do this score as a composer. It's important that you don't get typecast. It's also important to give the kind of music the film requires and have fun with it! Drown into the music of Blue.”


It seems he was genuinely worried about the post-Oscar expectations of his fans and that was utterly unnecessary with a soundtrack like ‘Blue’. Of course there are some misfires and water is mudded here and there but that doesn’t stop me from drowning into music of Blue.

On a different note, I wondered why there is so much fuss about A.R.Rahman doing music for an action movie. In India, even in an action movie (for which if it truly is, there is no need of songs), the soundtrack is going to be a standard mix of love ballads, duets, a theme song, an item number soundtrack. Blue being an action movie and with a special mention of ‘Music and Background Score – A.R.Rahman’, one thing I eagerly expect is the background score. Let us see if A.R.Rahman could pull a John Powell or a Hans Zimmer with this.

26 comments:

mr.weirdo!! said...

very elaborate review.... so much details into the instruments used... but i beg too diff from ur opinion on aaj dil and cheegy wiggy.... n about ur ending note- its has come out as a desperate rahman fan.

i for one feel rahman has lost touch in background score n just mixes his songs to fill the places... his last best was in RDB only... after that all were mere crap...

do check out my review on blue - a more terse version of urs

mr.weirdo!! said...

i didnt give my link i guess :P

www.life-n-coda.blogspot.com

Ramesh said...

I have listened to it only once and Rehnuma was instantly likeable. I wished the song could have returned back to the Jazz mode.

Ajay said...

Dear mr.weirdo

RDB was the last best,you gotta be kidding, how can one music lover forgot Delhi 6 ,Jodha akbar,Yuvaraj....

Anonymous said...

Did you like it or not?!
Just Yes or No.

I'm asking because I don't expect much from the movie either - so I don't know if I should take the trouble to get the music.

I am btw a Rehman fan for life because of all the beautiful moments he has given me since Roja but I do wish he wouldn't spread his energies out on not-sogreat topics that are not close to his heart - that makes mediocre music.

Suresh Kumar said...

Mr.Weirdo - That was a crisp review. But I don't understand what you disagree with, in the ending note, I just said that I am expecting the backgrond score to be good.

After 'RDB', Guru, Jodha Akbar (part of it) had great background scores and you forgot 'Slumdog Millionaire'??

Suresh Kumar said...

Ramesh - Give it few more listenings, I am sure you will like few other songs too.

Anon - Yes. I Like It. I was in the same space before the release but from the music it is very clear that Rahman has taken "Blue" very seriously.

Arun said...

Brilliant review, Suresh.

I'm having a great deal of fun listening to this soundtrack, especially Fiqrana, Aaj Dil and Rehnuma.

Qalandar said...

Excellent review Suresh, truly comprehensive. I probably liked this album a little less than you, but your discussion of the technical aspects of ARR's work here is an education...

mr.weirdo!! said...

sorry i forgot the enchanting Jodha Akbhar... but Guru i feel was not a good effort in background wid rahman using the jaggubhai theme .. but Jaghe hai dher thak was like the best score... and for yuvraj except the the bgm as the title roles in and the great scene involving Anil and Salman whn the play the theme music the movie was not given good importance to bgm...

mr.weirdo!! said...

n ajay i was talking about bgm.. not the soundtrack.... n suresh aaj dil as i had mentioned in my review was very self-indulgent which was bothering a lot... and the sound decision was very noisy for me in aaj dil.... n chiggy wiggy had all that attempts that u mentioned but they form the far background layer in the song which is overshadowed by the full throttle voice of sonu nigam which didnt have any twist from a typical punjabi tune.... besides it reminds me a lot of maya maya in concept wise where Rahman excelled wid his experiment.. but here?

this again raises d ques does Sridhar's absence change the output we get to hear? as for the past 1 day whn i try to listen closely to each track am unearthing so good layers but they are so lost in the lot... Rahman's music used be crowded but if u listen properly every layer will will clear...

vishal12 said...

Nice review. Looks like I am the only who thought that Vijay Prakash is a wrong choice for the otherwise wonderful Fiqrana! (And someone told me later that ARR actually wanted Farhan Akhtar to sing this song, but that didn't happen for some reason...)

Karthik said...

Great elaborate review Suresh with so many intricate detailing. I am loving this OST and it is on a loop. Glad that you sat down to write a review for this soundtrack after AO. But you didn't mention anything about the super-talented Vijay Prakash. :-)

Suresh Kumar said...

Arun - Thanks.

Qalandar - Thank you so much. A comment like this, coming from you (one of the writers I admire), I am beaming now.

Suresh Kumar said...

mr.weirdo - I haven't seen 'Yuvaraaj', so can't comment on its bgm but Guru definitely has its moments in bgm.

there is a buzz that probably it is T-Series while reproduction have meshed up with the sound. But even when Sridhar was there, there were Rahman soundtracks without him being part of it and his assitant Sivakumar had done the mastering..

Suresh Kumar said...

Vishal - Thanks. But it doesn't matter the singer is, as Rahman has anyway decided to drown the voice into a sound machine..

Karthik - Thanks. Vijay Prakash is a brilliant singer for sure, but with his voice completely drowned into a sound machine, there is nothing much to write about

A A Gilani said...

Excellent review. i have come across very few review that give a detail understanding of intricacies that involve into producing one - rhythm, mukha antra issues, sound engineering n such. keep it up very soon u will be writing for a popular website

Muthuvel said...

I too felt the same about Vijay Prakash, why would you get such a singer and shred his vocals through a machine. Hm! anyway such things, Rahman might have 'some' explanation as usual :) some unconvincing blah.

But whatever, the album right from 'Chiggy wiggy' asks us not to analyse at all and just have some fun. Rahman should have had enough doing this album.

Am hooked to like hell to 'Aaj dil gustak hai'. Can't get out of it at all.

Suresh Kumar said...

A A Gilani - Glad you liked it. Thank you.

Muthuvel - One more voice which I want to hear more in it's natural tone is that of 'Tanvi' (though i guess 'Paravaial seyyudhae' had her original voice)..

And, yes listening this album is no-brainer and absolute fun..

EnvyRam said...

Suresh,

I too had little to expect from Blue .. still 'no problem'-ish 'chikky wiggy' got me flustered.
Your review might make me listen to it one more time and see if I get to like it

Cheers,
Vinayak

Suresh Kumar said...

Vinayak - I hope you do so, but liking also comes from the realization that I was talking about in my review. Rahman surely wanted to attempt something unique with 'Chiggy Wiggy' but he couldn't pull off completely. Yet it is a worthy attempt.

Anonymous said...

Listened to Yogi soundtrack suresh?

Can I expect your review? If not detailed, atleast a crisp review? It's been more than a year since you reviewed Yuvan's track :-(

VR said...

Listened to Yogi soundtrack suresh?

Can I expect your review? If not detailed, atleast a crisp review? It's been more than a year since you reviewed Yuvan's track :-(

Suresh Kumar said...

VR - Yes, I listened to 'Yogi'. Immensely like it. definitely worth a Review.. probably this weekend..

sFunn.com said...

yeah,
willl have to listen
to Blue soundtrack now,
looks like it is one to
watch out for.

{
watch the video of the Best Dancer in the world
http://www.sfunn.com/forums/smf/index.php?topic=31.0
}

VR said...

wow.... that sounds so cool....

awaiting your review....

sarangi theme is outstanding....

waiting for your review :) hmmm.... just cant wait... make it soon :P