Release Date: 05.08.01
Record label: interscope
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
The Rebirth of the Movie Musical
by: bill aicher
Whether you ove him or hate him, there is no denying Baz Luhrmann has an uncanny ability to make the extravagant... intriguing. His modern imagining of Romeo and Juliet changed the classic tale's status from "old" to "hip," and Moulin Rouge just may bring about the rebirth of the movie musical - a genre sorely missed in the past few decades.
The soundtrack, released weeks before the film's opening, showcases a variety of genres and talent, hoping to build anticipation for the film. And it attempts to accomplish this by appealing to the eclectic edge of pop culture. And, for the most part, it succeeds.
The soundtrack's biggest single, a remake of LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" by pop superstars Christina Aguilera, Li'l Kim, Mya, and Pink, has taken care of the MTV crowd. And to be fair, it is a strong remake - any other collection of femme fatales would have been an insult to the song, and Missy Misdemeanor Elliot's production expertise is put to amazing work. Say what you will about the track - it couldn't have been redone better.
The rest of the album basically consists of other remade, reworked, and reborn songs. David Bowie lends his vocals on fitting closing and opening versions of Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy" - the latter of which a trip-hopped take with Massive Attack. Yet, Valeria's version of "Rhythm of the Night" not only feels uninspired, but begs the question of "why?"
The film's protagonists Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor lend vocals on about half of the album, mostly consisting of remakes and montages of songs from pop culture of past (yet future, as Moulin Rouge is set in 1890s Paris). Both are amazingly strong in their vocal abilities, most notably McGregor's version of Elton John's "Your Song" (think "Robbie Williams ballad") and Kidman's "Sparkling Diamonds" - a brilliant intertwining of Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and Madonna's "Material Girl."
Still the album seems to lack a cohesive feel, due mostly to sub-par tracks stuck between the soundtrack's gems. Fatboy Slim's "Because We Can" might work in the film, but on disc it gets old and repetitive much before the song's end, and Beck's "Diamond Dogs" is just as easily forgettable.
The question still remains, however - the question as to whether these songs will work in the film. I'm putting my bet on the "they will" camp. The songs all seem perfectly fit for a film - not only the gems, but even possibly the throwaways. And, while the album won't be on any of the "Best Albums of 2001" lists, it still outdoes what most soundtracks attempt to accomplish - it accompanies a film.