In 2016, we saw some talented artists gaining new heights in their musical careers (see: Jasleen Royal), even Arijit Singh doing more work than we thought was humanly possible. However, we were a little disappointed with some of the work put forward by some of our favourite music directors for the sole reason that we only expect them to blow our minds every time because of the high standards they have set for themselves. As selfish and unreasonable as it sounds to expect an artist to create a masterpiece every time he gets creative, we could not help but sigh as we finally came across these highly anticipated music albums of 2016.
What music is to the heart, Rahman is to the soul. But, as it turns out, even legends can miss the mark sometimes. He gave us a forgettable album that will only be found on the road not taken by anybody, except probably Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Yes, Rahman delivers his best when the story is great enough for him to believe in the movie and give all his heart to it. Rang De Basanti is just one, but an excellent example of many. And Mohenjo Daro the film offered hardly any creative support to the music album. However, laying the complete blame on the story feels biased. Perhaps, the Oscar winning music director was just not feeling moved enough to go out there and produce the best Hindi album of the year just like every other year. The repetition on the album certainly implies so. Tu Hai, the only song which had the potential of turning into something big, has been reused and recycled in two other songs. Thus, three of eight tracks on the album have the same music. The rest of the songs are just bland, nothing to write about. Rahman has created classic music for historical dramas before, and this one just didn’t do it for us.
Mohenjo Daro was disappointing but nowhere near bad. One has to appreciate the outstanding sounds, a trademark of Rahman, which when heard individually do expose the talents of the maestro. The powerful drum beating on the title track and the first minute of the song Sarsariya are both splendid. Beside Arijit’s same old voice in a new tone, what is exciting is the relatively new voice of Sanah Moidutty. Moidutty, not new to Rahman’s mentorship, almost overshadows the other elements of the album and has created a pretty solid portfolio for herself, if nothing else. Yet, Mohenjo Daro will not even make it on his best 20 albums list. Maybe crawl in on the best 30. In this album’s case, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts, and that is probably where the essence got lost.
What Rahman is to the soul, Trivedi is to the ears. Like Rahman’s music gives you sad/happy tears, Trivedi’s music starts a party in your ears. This year, he released three big music albums, and one of them was a party so dull that it got over by 10 pm. Once again, expectations were high. The director, the cast, the story even, delivered. Why then, did the music lag behind? Songs like Just Go To Hell Dil sound far away from Trivedi’s style. It is disappointing that an acclaimed music director like Trivedi who has given us a Lootera on the one hand, and an Udta Punjab on the other, has delivered something like Dear Zindagi, where the problem is that it’s not good, nor bad, it’s just plainly mediocre and sits somewhere in the middle.
The biggest issue with the album seems to be the lyrics. This is surprising because the same music director-lyricist duo, Amit Trivedi and Kausar Munir gave us quite an exceptional album four years ago – Ishaqzaade. It seems like, in an attempt to make the songs sound youthful and easy-going, some compromises have been made with the songwriting which does not work well with Trivedi’s music. This is transparently apparent on Just Go To Hell Dil and the generic party and “carefree” song Let’s Break Up which take the album south. The title track and the somewhat unnecessary club mix of the same are okay, which is the worst thing music can be. They don’t sound so bad, thanks to the chorus which has Amit Trivedi written all over it in bold and caps, but they don’t invoke any feelings. Again, the lyrics are pretty predictable, and maybe he could have gone with a better choice for the female part.
The saving graces of the album are *surprise, surprise* the two Arijit Singh songs where he takes the mic to give us two unusually refreshing love songs, along with Trivedi himself. On Tu Hi Hai and Tareefon Se, everything seems to fit in place, and they easily become the top picks from the Dear Zindagi album. Although, the versions by Ali Zafar are more preferable. However, neither Arijit Singh nor Ali Zafar is able to support the weak album on their sturdy shoulders.
Trivedi is to the ears what Vishal-Shekhar are to the feet. One cannot help but move to the music of this power duo. This album is, in one word, breezy and perfectly so. It blends easily with the movie and only adds to its essence. The disappointment arises when one starts noticing little gaps which, when heard carefully, sound almost as if they have been lifted off of existing songs, sometimes the directors’ own. Nashe Si Chadh Gayi sounds top notch and gets you grooving, until you reach the part that sounds exactly like the immensely popular Ayushmann Khurana track Paani Da Rang. Ude Dil Befikre also has some French words for aesthetics(?) like it’s predecessor. But, just like its predecessor, it also sounds eerily familiar. Either they have been plagiarised, or the sounds that Vishal-Shekhar create are so similar that we cannot tell the difference. Je T’aime and You and Me make great listens, but once again sounding like their old material that they tweaked. We were disappointed to have a music director duo that we adore present to us tunes that they already know we love, such as those from Dostana.
Labon Ka Karobaar is one track that is genuinely fresh, in every sense of the word. This is where the duo excels, with a little help from singer Papon. Khulke Dulke, if not considered in the context of the album, can pass off as a decent track, like any other basic Punjabi track. However, it seems out of place on the album because they have tried awfully hard to maintain the European feel, and this sounds like a sharp turn. Even though the Befikre sounds like Top 10 album material, we just could not ignore the gaps.
Rock On 2
Vishal-Shekhar are to the feet what Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are to the energy. Their music is a colourful palette and can be used to paint the atmosphere any shade from a solemn grey to a cheerful yellow. They too, however, have had lows in their career and Rock On 2 was one of the most recent ones of them. After the magnificent first album, the expectations were quite obviously high. Just like the movie, the music album also failed us. As opposed to the enthusiasm towards rock music that was created after Rock On, Rock On 2 only managed to make us lower down the volume on our music systems. The problem was, most likely, the choice of singers. However, this choice was not in the hands of the music directors given the plot of the film and the cast chosen to play the parts of rock musicians. Farhan Akhtar is a man of many, many talents, but singing probably features the lowest on that list. Shraddha Kapoor’s soft voice does not gel well with the powerful theme of the album and the crunchy guitars. The songs are easy to ignore, which is sad considering the ideas that have been evoked in the songs like Jaago and Udja Re. You Know What I Mean is a glaring reminder of Pichle Saat Dino Mein from the more successful Rock On. In fact, similarities in the style of the songs can be easily drawn between the two albums, but it seems like, in Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s case, first time was the charm.
Like the other albums mentioned in this article, this was not a bad listen, but just disappointing and in Rock On 2’s case, the reason was the halfheartedness of the music. There are tracks like Manzar Naya and Tere Mere Dil that might be able to leave a mark, but the whole album as a whole falls flat and would pass away as if it never existed. There is a noticeable pattern when it comes to sequels; they are almost never as good as the first part of a movie. Perhaps, that is true for their respective music albums as well?