I have no idea what to do with this. I haven’t seen the movie. (“Then why are you reviewing the soundtrack?!?!”) And so all I have to go on is the music.
The music is a mix of covers and post-modern pastiches of famous songs. The version I listened to was missing Beck’s Bowie cover and the remix of the first track, a Bowie cover of a Nat King Cole song. (How meta is it to have Beck covering a Bowie song with Bowie covering an older song on the same album?) Like so many soundtracks (most?) I’m not sure how the title track, for example, fits with most of the rest of the music here. But it’s not for me. I have a similar thought about the Fat Boy slim track and the “Rhythm of the Night” cover. It does feel like two different albums at times. (Compare these to the bombastic cover of “Your Song” for example. These are on the same album.)
I’m extremely impressed by Kidman and McGregor. I knew McGregor could sing from the Long Way series (and the fact that he has musicals in his filmography) but he can really sing. As can Kidman though I’m not sure she gets anything on this record quite as bombastic as what McGregor gets.
I am not opposed to artistic post modernism. I like it when it is well done, particularly in literature and film. I do like it in music too, but I have some requirements in order to enjoy it. I want there to be intelligence behind it, I generally want it to be fun or funny, and I want it to be weird (which is should be by default). For the people who this movie and soundtrack for, I suspect that they feel like the pastiches are assembled intelligently and I’m not sure I can do anything to prove them wrong. And they definitely believe they are fun. (Why else did this sell millions of copies?) But I’d submit to you that “Elephant Love Medley” is everything that’s wrong with post modernism in art: it’s as obvious as it can get (it’s just the hooks of many songs), it doesn’t feel like there’s been much thought to it (someone heard the word “love” in each of these songs and absolutely didn’t go looking outside of the most familiar songs they could think of) and the deliberate de-contextualization doesn’t strike me as fun, it strikes me as cringey. (What is “Pride” about, anyway? But Bono’s singing another song here so he’s cool with it.)
I don’t watch jukebox musicals. I kind of hate the idea. (If there are jukebox musicals out there that de-contextualize far less famous songs like this one does to famous songs, then I might be interested in that, maybe.) So this is not for me. But I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything like it. (Again, because I have zero interest in jukebox musicals.) I wish I could mean that as a complement but I really, really dislike “Elephant Love Medley” and the other interpolations.