Sunday, March 30, 2008

Collectibles #20: Hairspray 2-Disc Collector's Edition Soundtrack (2007)

Hairspray is quickly becoming my favourite musical soundtrack ever, and displacing previous champ, Grease, in the process. I love both films, and the music from both films are just as enjoyable. But perhaps it's because Grease has been around for 30 years now, so it's inevitable that it sounds just a little dated compared to Hairspray.

To be fair, both Grease and Hairspray originated from stage musicals, and much of the music were brought over to the film versions. Actually, in Hairspray's case, it's slightly more complicated. The 2002 musical was based on the original 1988 film, while this 2007 film version was based on the 2002 musical.

But anyway, the point is that the films were based on the musicals and many of the songs were carried over from the musicals.

Back to Hairspray, the reason why the soundtrack works so well is largely because of the well-assembled cast, who provide as much joy to the movie as they do the soundtrack. It's hard to believe that the lead actress, Nikki Blonsky (who plays Tracy Turnblad), had no prior acting experience, let alone singing experience. She comes across totally convincing as tracy, and matches her on-screen performance with a wonderful vocal performance as well.

Indeed, the tracks that feature Blonsky are among the most enjoyable in the soundtrack. Opening with Good Morning Baltimore, the film and soundtrack starts on a great note, and the energy and optimism here sets the tone for the rest of the album. Blonksy also shines on the lovely I Can Hear The Bells and Welcome To The 60's, a duet with John Travolta.

Speaking of John Travolta, he plays Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, a gender crossing role. However, in the spirit of the film, you can simply ignore the fact that it is Travolta beneath the fat suit, and the only slightly awkward moment was when he was singing You're Timeless To Me with Christopher Walken. That said, Travolta does not alter his voice to a woman's, which is strangely fine.

James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men series) also gives a credible performance as Corny Collins and his voice is surprisingly quite good. Another surprising performance comes from Michelle Pfeiffer, whose (The Legend Of) Miss Baltimore Crabs is the most unique song from the compilation. The cha-cha beat fits her sultry vocals perfectly and you can tell she had a whale of a time recording it.

Another actress who features quite prominently in this film/soundtrack is Queen Latifah. She is of course no stranger to music, having six albums to her credit already, and she also had an Academy Award-nominating role in the 2002 musical, Chicago. She enjoys a few solo turns here, including the poignant I Know Where I've Been.

Having already established his heart-throb credentials with High School Musical movie, Zac Efron turns up the swoon factor here once again with his role as Link, who is well, the high school heart-throb. To showcase him, the film-makers specially composed a song, Ladies' Choice. It is one of only two songs that were specially composed for the 2007 film. The other track is Come So Far (Got So Far To Go), which was used in the closing credits. This track is one of my favourites from the soundtrack.

The final two key cast members are relative-unknowns Elijah Kelley and Amanda Bynes, who play the loving inter-racial couple Seaweed and Penny. Elijah Kelley is particularly impressive in his standout track, Run And Tell That.

The whole cast comes together in the finale song, You Can't Stop The Beat. It's indeed a showstopper, as the choreography for this song in the film was crazy. I watched the documentary and all the cast members were commenting that this song was a killer because it contained so many words in the chorus and they were all out of breath by the time they reached the end of it. The only person who had absolutely no problems with it was Queen Latifah, simply because she is an MC, a rapper. Her character is not called Motormouth for nothing.

You Can't Stop The Beat is an absolute joy to listen to because each of the cast members really gave it their all and you can tell by the vocal performance. Especially John Travolta. When he (she) sings "And you just can't stop my knife and fork when I see a Christmas ham. So if you don't like the way I look, well, I just don't give a damn!", you can tell that he (she) really doesn't give a damn and he's (she's) having so much fun immersing in character. It's amazing.

However, that's not my favourite track, and the honour goes to...Without Love. This tune reminds me slightly of Breaking Free from High School Musical, but it's better. It's such a joyful song (I know I used the word "joyful" a lot because that's what it is. I agree with VW that it's the most joyful film of 2007) and it marks the turning point of the film, where the cast decide that love is more important than anything else.

I'm usually not a lyrics person, but I can't help but love this certain phrase in the song: "Like a week that's only Mondays, only ice-cream never sundaes, like a circle with no centre, like a door marked "Do not enter!". Darling I'll be yours forever 'cause I never wanna be...without love..." It's just so smart to pun on the word "Sundays". And I seriously cannot imagine a week with only's a great metaphor.

This Collector's Edition contains a bonus CD of outtakes and alternate recordings, but I haven't really listened to them. Perhaps the more useful extras are the karaoke instrumental versions of five songs. But it'll be quite hard to sound as good as the cast though.

In all, this is a soundtrack that you definitely should get. The package also contains postcards of the key cast members and a sticker sheet. The booklet also contains the lyrics to all the songs and it's colourfully decorated, just like the film itself. Very nice.


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