The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) image

The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

AlbumbyVarious Artists

Released in 2017, 11 tracks, 40 min

Stage & Screen

Narratives

"The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)"

Feb 28, 2019

The Album May Be Called ‘The Greatest Showman’ But How Great Are The Musical Standards Of Today Compared To Greats Of The Past?

taylor
Written by @taylor / 9 mins read
#LorenAllred#Pop#TheGreatestShowman#ClassicPop#Vocal

Full disclosure – I have not seen the movie The Greatest Showman, but this isn’t because I’m anti-musical or anything. When it comes to the music itself though, I go for classical songwriting more than these modern takes on musicals. My prime example would be one of my favorites on stage and on screen, the songs of “Into the Woods” by songwriter Stephen Sondheim. I truly don’t hear anything even close to that level of creativity and song to song variety on The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), with the exception of two rather intriguing tracks – the classicism of “Tightrope” and the epic invention of “Come Alive.” Of the other music, including the supposedly biggest, most important main theme songs, I feel that while they are each high quality productions, they sound much more like motivational Pop songs than live action musical numbers. This is the world we live in, I understand, and little children who grew up on Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are teens now with ears set for this bombastic style sound and predictable note pattern Loren Allred pursues on “Never Enough” , but I feel that amidst all the cacophony and volume, the melodies used are highly unsophisticated. And to hell with the magic of the lyrics if the melody line is too predictable. Which I should also point out – the lyrics for most of these tracks are extremely cliched – hardly any different from regular Pop lyricism, and more often than not, the text comes off as run of the mill positive reinforcement mantras rather than poetic or storied content. The tracks are appropriately exciting enough to exist inside a big top circus, but unfortunately, this music is not memorable at all in the way that all great musicals are designed to be. For me, this album is far from the greatest.

With Pop-Pandering Main Themes, Is This The Direction Of Modern Musicals Now?

I’ve noticed that such music, from Frozen to Moana, and now, The Greatest Showman, seems to all exhibit these formulas that continue to be repeated, whether it is the epic tribal drumming on upbeat numbers, or the overly safe note and key choices on the ballads. I suppose it frustrates me when on a particularly slow tune, I know exactly where it is going to go because I’m already several moves ahead, yet have to wait patiently for the singer to get there – and when or he or she does, it is ‘supposed’ to be this real emotional moment that they are selling, but I just can’t buy it. I likewise have this exact feeling when listening to the hundreds of same-sounding piano Pop ballads out on the market, from Stan Smith to Alessia Cara to John Legend. All three of those artists are insanely talented, but its like they are all using the same writers or something. And this group of successful writers seem to be doing the musicals now, is what I’m saying – or at least, the influence is there. I actually shouldn’t be worried for the future of musicals since my entertainment world doesn’t revolve around this sub genre, but it really would be a shame if musicals go down this continued road of mundane songwriting. Former The Voice contestant Loren Allred sounds pretty darn good on her mega hit “Never Enough”, but I wish more attention was spent on finding more original notes than was spent on the lush orchestration. The hook is really weak for all the majestic build up, something I’d associate more with The Chainsmokers (whom I find to be pretty bad songwriters.) She sings about the insatiably of achieving fame but still needing more, with the chorus “towers of gold are still too little / these hands could hold the world but it'll / never be enough / never be enough.” The ‘never be enough’ notes sound ugly though - like they are the last ones I would ever want to associate with the progression of this melody. Unfamiliar with the writing duo, who go by the moniker Pasek and Paul, I read that they intended to make a catchy Pop hook on “Never Enough” from the onset, and so I rest my case there. To prove though that I am not unanimously harsh on young songwriters, these are the same guys who thrilled me with the fantastic and wholly original “City of Stars” on the musical La La Land, which won them Golden Globes and Oscars. I think the differences in tone and creativity are night and day. Their other huge theme on this album is “A Million Dreams”, which similarly does not move me much at all. It sounds pretty derivative; the profile of the progression is too reminiscent of the movie Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go”, and the big chorus borrows quite heavily from Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.”

Dull Songs Unfortunately Outweigh A Couple Really Great Moments

I was quite disappointed with the main themes, and they are certainly not the type which would ever grow on me; on the contrary, they get worse with each listen. What does this soundtrack really have if its core tracks don’t move me? The loud as hell “This Greatest Show” showcases some great energy from star Hugh Jackman, and while Hugh is my dude, I’m sorry to say he sounds pretty corny trying to hit these big vocal parts with a limited range and a funny sounding accent. It’s like, I want him to succeed so badly because he truly loves acting, singing, and dancing, but I have to be real about the limits of his abilities unfortunately. There is so much stuff exploding on this song that it actually makes me anxious. If the notes weren’t so pedestrian, maybe I’d want to sing along, but even a bridge part in the song plays it super safe, where a bridge is supposed to be the most haunted part of any melody. Yeah, just a bunch of shouting but not much substance to sink my teeth into. “The Other Side” sounds like a straight up Florida Georgia Line song to me. I would never associate a track that sounds like this with a live action musical. Sure, there is a symphonic quality, but between the Bro Country rap style and the lame Country Rock rhythm, I can’t find one appealing aspect here. “The Other Side” sounds like it is much more concerned with connecting with a particular audience than in being a magical timeless Standard. I can tell my theory is probably correct when hearing the mixed results on “From Now On”, with its Country instrumentation and general ‘hoedown’ stylistic tone. The excitement is intact, but again, what’s up with these go nowhere choruses? It’s a bunch or repetitive nonsense, devoid of any real emotional weight or attempt at telling a story with the words. The lyrics could be about anything really when sung in such an ‘oh-wee-oh’ way. Just adding more layers upon layers of noises doesn’t change a thing about “From Now On’s” hollow core. About as melodically imaginative as “Despacito.”

Let’s At Least Hear It For A Couple Of The More Moving Moments

I have to admit that “This Is Me” is a song that at least peaks my interest. It is one fine example of motivational Pop. It just in my opinion doesn’t have a place in a musical, lacking stylistic authenticity. But, it really works as a stand alone song, finally connecting with me through a melody that truly soars, and one hell of an epic, dance worthy rhythm, reminding me of a Pop styled Gospel song. The chorus announces to the world the need in recognizing self worth and the power of the individual; “and I'm marching on to the beat I drum / I'm not scared to be seen / I make no apologies, this is me.” Sounds fantastic, but on the downside, it’s terribly cliched. And must every single one of these type of songs have a part where everyone sings “oh-oh-oh-oh”? It’s such a tired and tacked on element. As for the only songs that get it completely right, I would first point to “Tightrope”, where there is I think a pretty nice balance of modernity and storied measures. Perhaps I am most responding to the classic waltz like shuffle of the rhythm, which puts me in a more theatrical state of mind, but generally, the melody, while simple, is entirely pretty, and there are even some brief moments where the music detours a bit. The best track on The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), by far, is “Come Alive”, another Gospel flavored wonder, but this time with even more Soul. A pretty heavy dose of it. Why couldn’t all the music have been more like this? The melody, when not syncopating with it’s funky power, finds fantastic and haunting chords to explore, and rhythmically, it works as well, notably during a tribalistic bridge section where the drums take center stage while the awesome notes stab and punctuate the inspiring vocal points being made; “come alive, come alive / go and ride your light / let it burn so bright / reaching up / to the sky / and it's open wide / you're electrified.” More songs like this, with a talented singer such as Loren Allred presiding over them, would have made this a more worthwhile experience for me.

Official Music Videos

"The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)"

Live Videos

"The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)"

Featuring Remixes

"The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)"

Album Info

"The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)"

Released

  • Dec 08, 2017

Genres

  • Stage & Screen

More By

"Various Artists"

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