2018, Music

Black Panther The Album (2018) by Various Artists

I do not like soundtracks, particularly. Specifically, I don’t like various artists soundtracks, specifically ones that include music “inspired by” the motion picture, music that wasn’t in or was barely in the film. I am a score person. I understand this isn’t necessarily a common view and that there are plenty of fans of soundtracks and there are even some people that would argue that certain soundtracks are good albums. But that’s never been something I’m into. So listening to something like this, for a movie I have seen once, over four years ago, is hard for me to appreciate.

The good thing for me with something like this is that I don’t know hip hop well, so the lack of musical coherence I detect in virtually all pop/rock soundtracks is so much harder for me to detect. But I can read reviews! And some of those reviews are not flattering of the flow and quality of all the work. I am just not a connoisseur so I’ll take the words of others. I will say I don’t really feel like it’s the coherent work of an artist, but it’s a “soundtrack” so that’s pretty much always the case. (Scores often feel like the work of an artist.)

I think the weirder and more interesting to talk about is how this is very much one of those 1990s “inspired by” soundtrack albums. I don’t know how many of these tracks feature in the movie, as it’s been five years since I saw it, but my understanding is that it’s few to none of them. And I find that really weird. I guess it is far less weird given the circumstances, a comic book superhero film starring and about black heroes. There’s certainly more justification for something like this for this film, than most of the ’90s films that got treated to this concept.

Why not do this for other forms of art? Maybe people do and I’m not aware of it. I know individual artists have created soundtracks to art exhibitions, for example, but I’m not sure there have been various artist versions of that.

To me, various artist albums almost always suffer from internal coherence and quality issues. At least with tribute albums, there’s a box that everyone has to stay in – recording a song performed or written by the artist the tribute is for. But with more nebulous theme albums, there is less of a box. I’m guessing Lamar was handling quality control. Did he do a good job? It’s hard for someone like me to say. But I do feel like this is just a compilation of music he likes, including music he himself made, rather than anything resembling a coherent musical statement.

Maybe this is actually good. Maybe it’s more than that – maybe it’s trailblazing given the nature of the film it is in support of and how relatively unique the idea of a themed various artists compilation seems to me in 2018. (I have no idea if it actually is.) But it’s hard for me to tell. And it’s hard for me to ignore that I’m not listening to the score of the actual film. Whether or not that score is good, I don’t know. But it’s the actual soundtrack to the film.

5/10 I guess

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