Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Suicide Squad: The Album

Various Artists - Suicide Squad: The Album (2016, USA)
Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Heathens, Standing in the Rain, Gangsta, Slippin' Into Darkness

After seeing Suicide Squad, a movie I've surprisingly haven't reviewed yet but will, I had to hear this awesome soundtrack everyone was talking about. It's not very often that I hear positive commentary about more mainstream movie soundtracks. It also helps that a certain little song I had been repeating a lot was on it and I wanted to own it. So, here we are with a soundtrack review for a movie I look forward to sharing my thoughts on...after I see that extended cut.

The first track on the album, "Purple Lamborghini" by Skrillex and Rick Ross, was a song I first heard on a Rap Critic review. Not being a big fan of either of them, I was curious what he had to say about the song, especially with a title like that. I also thought it was an interesting mash-up of talent, so that added to my curiosity. For an opening track, it definitely presents some good build up and energy to get you into the feel for the movie and the album. For the most part, I agree with Rap Critic's opinion on the content of this song. Rick Ross's lyrical content kinda doesn't understand its subject matter, but Skrillex's beat backs up Ross's cocky delivery with an intense fusion of hip-hop and almost grungy dubstep elements, especially when the beat drops and the chorus kicks in. Yeah, I totally understand that feeling of wanting to headbang to that; it's practically the best part of the song. I think without Skrillex's addicting beat, this song would've fell flat and simply be another brag rap with no connections to the movie. Of course, if you watch the music video, it does pull you into the moment of Joker in the club and being a boss for sure.

"Sucker for Pain" by Lil' Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, Logic, Ty Dolla $ign, and X Ambassadors is the next track on the album. Most of these artists I'm not that thrilled about, meaning I don't care for their music much. There are a couple I'm not familiar with, meanwhile one of them disappointed me quite a bit when I went to explore their sound beyond what was airing on the radio. Much like the first track, I was curious how all these different artists would sound like together. The song has a surprisingly smooth rock sound that doesn't overpower the rap verses from each rapper, but emphasizes the chorus sung by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds. The melody softens just enough during the verses, except a bit of the bass, but doesn't distract from the content. Paying attention a little more as I watch the music video for this review, some of the transitions in the later half of the song seem kinda off to my ears. After Lil' Wayne's verse, it goes to Wiz and it just sounds kinda off to me like something was cut to make the song shorter, then there's that last part that leads to the fade which seemed a bit random to me.

Now for the reason I really wanted to check out this album: Twenty One Pilots' "Heathens". Honestly, I think this is the first song I heard from the soundtrack and it made me really curious what this hot new-ish band had to offer and why they were so damn popular last year. All bias aside, I think this song represents a perfect balance of darkness and melancholy that the movie offers for certain characters. There's something about this song that just really knows what's appropriate for a movie. Even looking at the music video, it just matches it so perfectly. Not only is this song earwormy as hell like their other hit songs "Ride" and "Stressed Out", but for me being a new listener to the duo, it just seems like a slightly different side for them. I love the soft, uncertain vocal delivery and the nice balance between all the instruments. Clearly, a very solid song that you just can't get enough of.

Next up is "Standing in the Rain" by Action Bronson, Mark Ronson, and Dan Auerbach. I've heard of Action Bronson through best of lists by Rap Critic and commercials on Viceland, but never searched out his music, while Mark Ronson is someone who most people, including myself, have only heard of because of his collaboration with Bruno Mars. I've also haven't heard much from Dan Auerbach's group The Black Keys, but the little I've heard was alright. I must say the tone of this song kinda matches the feeling of the movie, like "Heathens". Action Bronson has a pretty confident and enjoyable flow to his words and I like the retro sound and perfectly balanced sample from Oran "Juice" Jones' "The Rain" I'm sure Ronson provided. I also enjoy the hard hitting sound of the verse transitioning to this Pulp Fiction-esque vibes I get from the vocals. It's really chill and I should probably listen to this song more often.

A surprising gem I've quickly grown to love quite easily was Kehlani's "Gangsta". Taking the role of Harley Quinn in the music video, I feel like this song is very appropriate for that point of view. I really love this music video and how it interlaces Kehlani's relationship with her mysterious gangsta with Harley and Joker. I feel like the tone of the song doesn't completely glorify this kind of relationship; it's almost like a dangerous addiction that she probably needs to get away from, but can't because it feels so right. I love the contrast of her confident vocals with the hard hitting trap beat during the verses and then it softens to this vulnerable, dream-like singing in the chorus. It's quite a treat that's definitely too short. Every time I listen to it, I keep wondering where's the rest of the song! The good thing about this song is that it made me check out more of Kehlani's work and I learned a little something about her from BlipMasta5 as well.

"You Don't Own Me" by Grace featuring G-Eazy is another sampled track featured on this album. I think the first time I listened to this song, I passively listened to it simply thinking it was a cover and kinda is. It has a few modern musical tweaks to it, adding more bass and vocal reverberations...oh yeah and unremarkable rapping by G-Eazy. Now I know what Todd in the Shadows meant in his Worst of list for last year. The video isn't anything special, just the two of them performing in a sound studio. Listening to this song for the second time and looking up to see that this video exists on YouTube made me understand why a no rap version exists. Grace's voice is quite pleasing to the to the ears. Her vocal styling is very similar to the original singer Lesley Gore, but she does manage to try to put a little of her own personality in it as well. In short, pretty good cover sans G-Eazy.

By using Grace's cover as a gateway or divider for new and old material, the album presents an Eminem gem from 2002. "Without Me" is a good song for chaotic superheroism, if you go back to the music video. It remains an enjoyable and amusing song from Eminem and gives me flashbacks of TRL and the days when MTV played music videos in the day time. I guess this could represent the fun vibes of the movie and the video does parody comics. I'm sure not many young people will understand some of the references in the lyrics or even the pop culture mockery in the video, but for people around my age will still find amusement and even a bit of nostalgia from listening to this off beat track from our favorite white rapper Eminem.

Next up is Skylar Grey's "Wreak Havoc" with a hard hitting electro-pop track. It definitely fits the chaotic and aggressive tone of the movie and kinda goes well with our first track. I've heard of Skylar, but I don't think I've explored her music very much. Judging by this one song, her voice is quite nice during the lead up to the instrumental chorus. I kinda like the chasing feeling she has to her voice in the verses. At times she kinda reminds me of Natalia Kills. The song has a very predatory feel to it and it makes me want to start a battle or something, which I think is appropriate for the soundtrack. Another female artist I'm somewhat familiar with, Grimes follows up with "Medieval Warfare". Unlike Skylar Grey, I have listened to her music beyond her contributions to this soundtrack album. I honestly should listen to more of her stuff beyond the few music videos I've watched on YouTube. Anyway, this song is a heart pounding electronic track with some very angelic and subtly haunting vocals from Grimes. I love the hurried feeling of the instrumental, the taunting guitar sounds, and the slight bump of bass. The song kinda gently pumps you up with the contrast of soft vocals and aggressive beat. I kinda wish I could hear more of her voice on top of this hard sound, but overall it's quite an enjoyable track.

I want to say that the cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Panic! At the Disco was used in some of the movie's promotional material, but it's possible that the original by Queen could've been used instead. I must say that this was very good cover to the iconic Queen track. Yes, cover, children! Panic! At the Disco did not write this song. Anyway, they did a very good job keep the integrity of the original while subtly making it their own, especially in the vocal department. Good job, guys!

Since this album wants to bring the old with the new, we have War's "Slippin' into Darkness". This was an almost surprising track to reminiscence on while listening to this album, but I could see this fitting with Deadshot or Killer Croc's characters to some extent. Of course, this song is a classic and I remember hearing this track as a kid. The funk soul beat never fails to make me feel like a badass from the 70's while walking down the street like Jackie Brown. Another oldie, but a goodie comes from Creedence Clearwater Revival with "Fortunate Son". This classic rock track always makes me think of dusty roads, motorcycles, and bar fights. I guess I could see this as a song for our squad to band together, getting ready for their fight, or Rick Flag gathering the squad together and shouting out orders. This short track is appropriately placed toward the end with the psychedelic funk that War has given us previously.

Lastly, the soundtrack closes out with "I Started a Joke" by ConfidentialMX featuring Becky Hanson, which I think is a cover from the Bee Gees. It's definitely a softer and more orchestral oriented version with Becky's vocals softly echoing throughout the song. Her voice is almost drowned out by the gentle swelling of the music, which is kinda unfortunate because her voice is quite nice. It doesn't quite mesh too well with the previous tracks sound wise, but as far as old songs and covers go, it does belong in this section of the album.

Suicide Squad: The Album is a pretty enjoyable soundtrack. I like that they divided the new from the old and gave people familiar with the older tracks some relief if they didn't enjoy some of the newer stuff. The collaborations featured on this album were very interesting and I can't see them working together outside of anything like this, in my opinion. They did manage to produce some quality tracks that I could mostly confidently recommend to my friends and family, but I know that there are some tracks I know I won't be returning to for a while. On the negative end of the spectrum, the rappers I'm familiar with musically that I don't care for produced the quality what I expected, but their collaborators made up for their flaws. Also, the couple tracks that I enjoyed musically, I wished didn't drain out their singers (i.e. Grimes and Skylar Grey). Nonetheless, I think the album fits the tone and attitude that is Suicide Squad.

No comments: