Music Review: "Nine: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

12/16/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Britt Sondreal

“Nine” is one of this season’s most anticipated holiday movie releases, a big-screen adaptation of the Tony award-winning 1982 musical by the same name. A semi-biographical dip into Fellini’s life, the musical and movie focus on the midlife crisis of one Guido Contini, a famous Italian film director with a penchant for beautiful women and extravagant living who finds himself creatively bankrupt. The movie is directed by Rob Marshall, the force behind 2002’s musical smash, “Chicago.”

Released on Dec. 15, 2009, the "Nine" soundtrack has, like the movie, a lot of the same ingredients as “Chicago”--big-name stars not necessarily known for their musical chops delivering terrific vocal performances. Here, we find a host of Hollywood’s finest, including Daniel Day Lewis, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Dame Judy Dench and Sophia Lauren, all belting it out with, for the most part, successful dialect and accent work to boot. The only members of the cast with prior musical prowess are Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard (who won an Oscar for her turn as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”) and rock star Fergie.  Everyone here showcases genuine vocal strength and agility (listen to Cruz’s seductive gymnastics on “Call From the Vatican” or Cotillard’s angry desperation in the slinky cabaret-act “Take It All”).

Despite the wow factor in the casting and the extravagant production promised in the movie's trailer (see below), the soundtrack falls short of what it could be and ultimately fails to deliver substantial power. Where the “Chicago” album sets fire to your pulse, “Nine” is politely risque and leaves behind the potential for edgier interpretation and creative risk.

And so, the soundtrack is a mix.  It offers solid, well-produced music that features the sort of safe orchestration that will please most musical theater fans, but this listener heard a lost opportunity to give the material new life for an audience of the digital age. The salsa rhythm-driven Hudson solo “Cinema Italiano,” for instance, is a prime example--one could easily imagine a heavy beat with ambient reverb vocal effects, thus allowing the piece to live up to its frenetic music video-inspired visuals. Even in its “Ron Fair Remix” version, which appears at the end of the album, the additional beat that's dropped in is the only real difference here--and it's a disappointingly bland one. With the wide array of sonic tools at their disposal and no live-performance production constraints, it’s a shame that this soundtrack decided to play it safe.

View the movie trailer for "Nine" below. Thoughts?

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