Sorry if the post title is going to be misleading, as there is a larger theme I’d like to explore here, which goes beyond the Reimagined album. What I’d like to explore is this, did we know that Michelle Williams could sing like this?? Did we also know that Bradley Cooper could also belt out a few country music tunes? And I guess it’s been enough time since the Les Misérables movie, that we have all come to acceptance that Anne Hathaway has a pretty good set of pipes on her. But Damn! (Said in a very good way), who knew that M & B had this level of talent within them!?
With a shift in the world going on, e.g. conventional industries being challenged by disruptive start-ups; the seasons feeling like their shifting back by a month; I also think the movie industry and actors are also going through a period of shift. Recently it’s been pretty easy to make an epic blockbuster looking film with CGI (that amazing visuals no longer wow us like they used to); the ease of which post-production can make actors look hotter than ever, or make them look less and less like themselves. So with this shift in movie making, are actors taking on new challenges to push their craft further? So they can stand-out among their peers? And is this latest boundary they’re trying to push themselves through, is the cordon where there are Musicians and there are Actors but can a singer act? And can an actor sing?
I remember the early attempt of this by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 90s, I think we can all agree that that was a bit of a bomb in Duets. Just thinking about it now, sends shivers down my spine and when re-confirming that I had all the details correct, Google returned an MP3 recording of ‘Cruisin’. I honestly couldn’t click on it, as I was certain that if I heard it again it would most certainly traumatize me for another decade. So the attempt to achieve cross-over stardom isn’t a new thing, but it has taken until the mid-2010s to achieve success! **Okay, I take that back, as Moulin Rouge was pretty successful? Or is that sentiment only held by Aussies because the film was filmed in Sydney?
But regardless of that, was it as successful as this? According to the Aria Album Charts on the first day of 2019, A Star Is Born is still the No. 1 Album in the land, already spending 12 weeks in the charts. And I can attest that it’s a solid album (I have to admit the first time I heard it, I didn’t realise that it was a movie soundtrack and I was telling my wife that the album was unusual as it was like telling a story. Then she paused and asked ‘Um, you do know it’s a movie? Right?’ And I felt a little foolish then. Haaha). BTW I also thought Bradley Cooper was just another singer who happened to have the same name as the actor, as I had just assumed it was just a collaboration album by Lady Gaga with some other dude. But I was blown away to learn that it was *that* Bradley Cooper, like that guy from the Hangover? He completely nailed the singing parts and he sounded like a guy 20 years his senior (and not to mention, a couple of thousand packs of ciggies later). And big ups have to be served out to Lady Gaga, in the track when she’s singing in French, it doesn’t sound like her at all! As I’ve associated over-the-top pop-songs with Gaga, but she demonstrates a real vocal diversity in this album. So I’ve played ‘A Star Is Born’ quite a few times on our Google Home recently.
And it’s time now to make an embarrassing confession…… I’ve been listening to the original (and the BEST) Greatest Showman movie soundtrack throughout 2018; and when we flew to the US in October and I noticed that ‘The Greatest Showman’ was available as an inflight movie, I almost hyperventilated in excitement! As to this point after only listening to the album for almost 10 months, I still hadn’t watched the film (like who has a working DVD player anymore?), and in my opinion the film was just as good as the soundtrack. And now at the time of writing this post, on paper it has been 2 years since the film was first released (2017-2019) and I’m blown away to learn that after 53 weeks on the ARIA charts, the original album is still the No. 4 Album in the land! This has to be some sort of record? Yes/No? Every track on this album is good, from the opening track ‘The Greatest Show’ to the fading voices of ‘From Now On’. The album starts and finishes with Hugh, but in the middle it is filled with talent galore! Honestly every member of the cast can sing, like really really well. And Michelle Williams has to be highlighted here, who knew! Like was this public knowledge that Mish could sing, or was everyone else blown away just like me to find out that the once teenage blonde (was she actually a teenager then) from Dawson’s Creek, that she had this hidden talent? And in my opinion when ‘Tight Rope’ or ‘A Million Dreams’ is played back-to-back (Michelle’s version Vs Sara Bareilles or Pink), hands down Williams’ has the better renditions. I think it’s the vulnerability in her voice (like Anne Hathaway’s) which draws in and connects with listeners. But before I ramble on, and praise the talents of each and every member of the cast, I’d better end it here.
But in closing can I say, that my favourite track from a host of favourites is ‘Other Side’, a duet between Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron which forwards the storyline of the film nicely in a succinct 3.34 mins; and I should also give a shout-out to the bearded lady….. Um, just go out and watch the film! It’ll make sense then.
So it isn’t any surprise that ‘The Greatest Showman’ has been the most played album on my Spotify account for 2018. And there is no surprise that I’ve resorted to listening to it in secret……. My wife pretty much has had enough of hearing it. Each time she walks in and she hears it’s one of ‘those songs’, I can feel her head shake and eyes roll. And only the other day when we were cooking together, I asked her what she wanted to listen to, and her response was “Anything, just as long as it’s not The Greatest Showman”…. Ouch! I’m sure this conjures up bad memories for her of 2013 and my Les Misérables album obsession. Back in those days when albums still meant CDs, I used to listen to my Les Mis album (2 disc deluxe version of course) pretty pretty often. That was until one evening when my wife came home and informed me, “Do you know that everyone can hear you whistling to Les Mis from outside our apartment?” I was mortified, and that did curb my 2013 obsession with Hugh and the crew. So I guess you can say I must have a thing for movies where dialogue is replaced by song! Why speak it, when you can sing it, I say!
And finally I’ll circle back to the title of this post, what about Reimagined? Well, my opinion is that if you get a bunch of musicians together to re-release an album, there must be a bit of arrogance in that act? It’s like “Look, the songs were good, well written, the lyrics are tight, so are the arrangements….. But this is how you do it!”…is a bit too soon? Considering the film is only a year old, and the album you’re trying to cover is still in the charts. But I think in the end, the people have spoken. The original movie soundtrack is still ahead in the ARIA charts (No 4 Vs No. 6). And the best thing of all is that if you ask Google/Spotify to play Reimagined, after it has played the entirety of the album, it will automatically play the original soundtrack from start to finish! So you can have 90 minutes of pleasure, instead of just 45. Oh! I’m quivering I’m so excited. Haaha. Okay, my wife is still asleep (big NYE), perhaps I can still fit in another playing of The Greatest Showman before she wakes-up, just as long as I keep the volume down. **In a whisper** “Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men”……Sorry, wrong Jackman film!
If you haven’t heard any of these albums yet, Google/Youtube/Spotify a Star is Born- Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper; The Greatest Showman- Original movie soundtrack; The Greatest Showman: Reimagined- Various artists; or be old-school and listen to the Les Misérables original movie soundtrack. Enjoy! Be ready to be horribly horribly addicted!