Crazy Rich Asians- Movie soundtrack review

If you’ve read my previous post, you’re well aware that I’ve recently finished listening to the audiobook version of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ by Kevin Kwan; so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise for you to learn that I’ve now pivoted over to listening to the Crazy Rich Asians Original Movie Soundtrack. But did I like it?

Back in the day before streaming services became the norm, people actually went to music stores like HMV or Sanity after watching a film in cinema, as they were so mesmerised by the pairing of the music to the visuals that they wanted to own the movie soundtrack to re-live an aspect of the film (until the eventual release of the film in VHS). But fast-forward 15 years with music streaming apps on most people’s phones, the day after a movie is released in the States, over here in Australia we can already listen to the entire movie soundtrack and experience a part of the film even before it’s out in Australian cinemas. Pretty crazy hey? And this is what I’d done when the movie was first released, I asked my Smart assistant to play “Crazy Rich Asians Movie Soundtrack on Spotify”, and at first listen I wasn’t much into the album. My initial thoughts were, “All the songs are in Chinese! And they sounded like songs from the yester-year, stuff that my parents or perhaps my grandparents might listen to.” Not exactly what I had expected from a modern film which was to show a different side of Asia to the rest of the world?

But as I got further into the book and allowed the album to play more and more times around our home, it started to grow on me and I now really appreciate it for its uniqueness.

In the majority of movie soundtracks (if the movie isn’t a musical) the music which accompanies the film is often the straight re-use of copyrighted music. The most difficult task for the Director/Producers was to obtain the permission from the original Artists/copyright holder, then write out a few loyalty checks and they have the movie soundtrack all locked up! However this isn’t the case for the music used in Crazy Rich Asians, the entire album was newly recorded for the film! Director of the film Jon M Chu and Music Supervisor Gabe Hilfer, actually sat down and compiled a list of eclectic songs that they thought would go well with the film. And using resources like Youtube or footage from reality singing competitions like the Voice, they were able to identify and then recruit a bunch of relatively unknown Asian artists to perform these songs for the album.

The songs range from old Chinese classics from the 50s and 60s, to more contemporary Western songs which were re-recorded in Mandarin or Cantonese. The notable western songs which were given the Asian make-over were: Motown hit Money (That’s What I Want) (Cheryl K- sung in Mandarin); Madonna’s Material Girl (Sally Yeah- sung in Cantonese); Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love (Kina Grannis- sung in English); and Coldplay’s Yellow (Katherine Ho- sung in Mandarin). And to bring the album to a crescendo, Money (That’s All I Want) is sung for a second time, this time in English with Awkwafina (Peik Lin) doing her thang. 

If you haven’t heard or taken a close listen to the Crazy Rich Asians movie soundtrack yet, check it out! It’s a fun and unique listen, you won’t regret the 45 mins it takes the virtual record needle to traverse its way from the start to the final groove in the album. Just ask your Smart assistant to “Play Crazy Rich Asians, Movie Soundtrack, on Spotify”.

………Oh hey sorry! I’m back now. I had the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack playing in the background as I was writing this post, and I couldn’t help but drop-tools and crank the Google Home up to 60% and just devote myself to listening to the music. It’s a really superb album! It has this ability to transport you to another time and place, I can almost imagine opening my eyes and seeing my parents as teenagers in the 1960s!

And it got me thinking……. Can you enjoy music that is sung in a language which you’re unfamiliar with? Ethnically I’m from a Chinese Cantonese background, but growing up in the West, my Cantonese is  rudimentary at best. If I’m being optimistic, I’d say perhaps I can understand 50% of the lyrics to a Cantonese song? If Mandarin, I’m probably down to 20% comprehension. But what if you, reader don’t understand either of these dialects/languages? Would you still enjoy these songs as much as I did? Hit us up in the comments section below, let me know if you enjoyed the songs if you’re previously unfamiliar with Chinese tones. And yeah, I’m an eclectic listener of music so please feel free to recommend some artists who sing other languages than English or Chinese. I’m keen to wrap my ears around music which is completely foreign to me!

P.S.

If you liked your first foray into Asian music, give these artists a go (they’re some of my all-time-favourite Chinese artists):

>Aaron Kwok (I’d best describe him as Asia’s Michael Jackson! He was absolutely huge in the 90s! King of Asian Pop!) Just ask your Smart assistant to “Play Aaron Kwok on Spotify”).

>Edison Chen (He’s the bad-boy of Asia, I’d describe him as Hong Kong’s response to Eminem. He’s an Asian who kinda raps, and has an Asian rap crew. Just ask your Smart assistant to “Play Edison Chen on Spotify”).

>Daniel Chan (I’m going to describe him as Asia’s Justin Timberlake! Because he sings and he acts, and is a bit of a heartthrob with the gals! Just ask your Smart assistant to “Shuffle play Daniel Chan on Spotify”).

>Nicholas Tse (Justin Bieber’s brother-from-another-mother! They were both young when they entered the entertainment scene and Nick is even more of a bad-boy than the Beebs! Yeah, they both love their fast cars, but Nicholas has spent time in jail with his escapades with his Ferrari. Haaha. That’s one for Asia, 0 for the United States. Um, if his bad-boy reputation doesn’t put you off, just ask your Smart assistant to “Play Nicholas T S E on Spotify” (spell out his surname as Google has difficulty in understanding his surname).

>Jay Chou (Probably the most talented from this bunch of guys, I’d describe him as Asia’s Ed Sheeran! As he writes and performs most of his own music! Just ask your Smart assistant to “Play Jay Chou on Spotify”).

P.P.S.

And my go-to band when I want some non-English music like what you’d expect on the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), is Pink Martini! A mini-orchestra who covers cultural songs from Europe, Japan and the Middle East! Again just ask your Smart assistant to “Play Pink Martini on Spotify”.

Now, that should leave you with at least 6 hours worth of body-groovin’ tracks. Hehehe.  

Album Review- The Greatest Showman: Reimagined

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!