Friday, September 30, 2011

Rockstar Music Review




That, one can never predict how an A.R.Rahman melody would flow in a song is common knowledge, but even by Rahman’s standards, the flow of the melody in “Phir Se Udd Chalaa” is stunning. Not a single phrase falls in line with your expectation. There is no groove to groove to. There is no hook to hook to. There is no comfort for a listener here, only twists and turns, surprises and more surprises. Rahman does give you a hook – “Tu too du”, but by the time you catch hold of it and prepare to settle down with the song, the song ends. But, of course, to give us some comfort, there is that Mandolin hook that Rahman introduces right in the beginning of the song and allows it loop throughout the song. That is how A.R.Rahman, even when he is at his lunatic self in experimenting with melody structures and song patterns, manages not to alienate the listeners. Also, all these thrills, chills and surprises in the melody are never employed in a song at the cost of the mood and emotion.

Who else, but A.R.Rahman could have the audacity to use those zany, delicately stacked “Ya Ya Ya” phrases as the sing-along phrase of a rock song in Jo Bhi Mein. I can not yet hum that phrase while I am not listening to the song. Rahman does not leave even the format of qawwali “Kun Faya Kun” untouched. Yet, the deviations in the structure of the song and not in the melody pattern happen not at Rahman’s whim in this song; it seems to have emerged from the demands of the situation in the film. Can Rahman ever settle for just some generic goodness with Qawwali? Rahman whips up an immersive divine fervor in every Sufi-qawwali composition, in the way only he can. Rahman sound, here, is in the melody. In my opinion, ever since Minsara Kanavu, the meaning of “Rahman sound” has changed. Rahman sound, now, is not characterized by dense layers of Synth loops. Even when he decides to build a soundscape with sounds and Synth loops, he does it in a way no other composer in the world could do – sample Aaj Dil from Blue.

These forever revealing layers in Rahman’s soundscape are now constructed from real instruments. Like, he does, so brilliantly in the groovy Hawa Hawa with multiple layers of all that is Tango and a middle-eastern tinge. Can Rahman ever go wrong with Middle-eastern stuff? The contour of the main melody in Hawa Hawa song has not yet revealed itself entirely to me, but I am instantly hooked and it is not just because of the Hawa Hawa hook. The melody, with its short phrases and sudden pauses, has an infectious charm despite the zig-zag sharp cuts it takes on its course. And that “Tango for Taj” is a Jaw dropping amalgamation of Tango and Mughal Music. The other instrumental track “The Dichotomy of Fame” with the Jugalbandhi of Balesh’s Shehnai and Kabuli’s Guitar has a familiar template (Yeh Jho Desh Instrumental from Swades) and yet the rooted flavor of the Shehnai melody makes it a refreshing soother.

With just a single Guitar refrain, Rahman Rahmanizes even an utterly traditional Punjabi melody in "Katiya Karoon". When that guitar refrain looms large in volume, in the final act of the song, the comforting feel it gives to a listener is inexpressible. It spreads a sense of positivity in the aura like no song did in the recent past. Nothing could explain this Rahman’s process of Rahmanizing a song better than incredibly funny and funky Seher Mein. A composer (Is it Anu Malik?) is teaching a song to the singer, and what the singer does with the basic melody that is given to him is what Rahman does to turn even the most conventional melody into his own.

Have you been longing for a song like that of vintage 90s A.R.Rahman? Then, "Tum Ko" (or Tum Ho) is for you. The haunting main motif (Aaaaaaaaaah Aaha Haaha), pristine Piano pieces, flute, tinkle bells, breezy strings, soft Synth pads come together to take us to a lonely, romantic wonderland. Want more? There is another version of the song that uses the dulcet registers of Kavitha Subramanian’s voice to its advantage, and with even more enchanting layers of Saarangi and Tabla.

Rahman’s soundtracks have always been eclectic. I thought Imtiaz Ali would finally make Rahman stick to one genre for the entire soundtrack. But he didn't. Rockstar is amazingly eclectic. Even within Rock, all the rock songs in Rockstar are entirely different from each other. There is the soothing soft rock in the intoxicating Jo Bhi Mein, psychedelic Sufi rock in Aur Ho, generically mixed forms of rock in exuberant Naadaan Parindey and grunge rock in anthemic Sadda Haq. Mohit Chauhan. The spitting anger in Sadda Haq, submission to the supreme in Kun Faya Kun, flamboyance in Phir Se Udd Chala, exuberance in Hawa Hawa, the longing in Tum Ho, the suffocation in Aur Ho – Mohit Chauhan nails every emotion to perfection is all the songs.

A.R.Rahman has always maintained that his music is a collective effort, and that his job is to musically realize a director’s vision. Imtiaz Ali’s vision has been triumphantly realized by Rahman in Rockstar soundtrack. The music, though enjoyable on its own, is deeply connected to the film which is why you hear a soprano whispering “Tum Ko” melody down underneath Orianthi Panagaris’s Guitar interludes in Sadda Haq. A.R.Rahman has come a long way as a “movie” music composer, and that is why he is the darling of all great Indian Filmmakers, and he would remain so. Is there any other Indian Composer, who remained the most sought after by most of the Indian filmmakers (whose films matter), even in his 20th year in business?

29 comments:

விநோத் வைத்யநாதன் said...

Good review, was waiting for your review :)
Do you think this is Rahman's best in the recent years?

Suresh Kumar said...

Most definitely it is.

RI said...

Feared AR would opt for an À la carte ost like Rock-on and play it safe but boy I was wrong ..how does he continues to push the envelope every single time.
With another 6 tracks in the movie we can only pray that the folks at Tseries would release a CD compilation.

P.S. Relieved to read a music review of an AR album without the phrase 'He is back with bang'. It makes me cringe whenever I read the above phrase since in the last three years he has churned out
Delhi 6,Vtv,Raavan/an,127 hours.

Ashwin said...

Hi Suresh, i have always been a great fan of your articles :):) All these days i was just a silent reader to be honest.. But today i decided to leave a comment since i couldn't resist.. Fabulous review :)This is one mind blowing album from ARR.. Beautiful experimentation,Lot of varieties and most importantly the songs are soulful. Hats off ARR for an amazing album and hats off Suresh for an amazing articulation of your thoughts...

NMA said...

And the maestro does it again, and again, and again... Have'nt yet got my hands on the CD and feverishly hunting all over the place for it!

kannan said...

Haven't listened to the songs yet, but just noticed something. Have you officially abandoned ursmusically now? First time I'm seeing an album review here (:

Suresh Kumar said...

Kannan - I was expecting that someone would ask. My answer is "Yes".

avinash said...

Whatte album! I hv listened only 9 of them. That too online. Stil to recieve CD. And nw your post on music. M super excited nw to listen to fullfledged soundtrack!

Rivjot said...

Really enjoyed reading. One of the best reviews of this album. Well done Suresh!

Aakarsh said...

Nice review! I loved the album! but few songs like the two versions of Tumho and even Sadda Haq didnt click with me! Sadda Haq is catchy for sure but it doesnt give me anything beyond that! Contrary to that, I loved Jo Bhi - a fantastic Pink Floydian execution I must say!

Expected this review on your other blog.

And yes, Thanks for Happi teaser. Looking forward to it now.

Suresh Kumar said...

In Tum Ko/Ho, on first listen, I also did find the middle portions with stretched phrases aimlessly meandering, but it has sunk in now, for me. If not for nothing, that motif (Aaaaaah haa) gives me goosebumps everytime.

third eye said...

u put exactly what my heart, mind soul watever is feeling into the most beautiful words.. i look up to Rahman and his work inspires me.. his work talks to me in a secret encoded language i think only true rahman's conssiuers can understand.. thank u :)

faz said...

Good review! Many reviews said tum ko is odd one in the album. But for me it is one among the favorite in it... I keep on looping it. The saarangi n tabla was awesome... went back to arr's old compositions.. Aur ho was next level of behene de. Good to hear arr in rock version, naadaan parindey.. both sadda haq n naadaan parindey has damn good guitars. Sadda haq is pure anthem!! Bold lyrics by irshad kamil!!!

It is very clear that both a.r.rahman n mohit chauhan would steal all the awards this year.
Rockstar is easily one among the best of a.r.rahman...
Even working for 20 years as musician, his achievements are still unbroken. He still remains as the competition n inspires everyone...
Salute for A.R.Rahman :)

Sriram Sridharan said...

Suresh,

Upon listening to this album, i think you should be writing a detailed review on every song in the album for i guess its worth its salt.

To me, a detailed review of every song by you would be an icing on the cake.

-Sriram

Ak_amazing said...

MANN!!..WHAT A REVIEW!!U KNOW EXACTLY WHAT LISTENERS FEEL . MY FAV. ARE TUM KO AND TUM HO..

Blogeswari said...

Haven't even listened to Tum ho, Tum ko yet.Whattodo? End up playing "Phir se" , "ya ya ya" ," Sheher main" ( esp the dialogue bit) "Koon faya" and "Sadda Haq" again n again and again - most of the times same song in a loop for 2 hours .

Rockstar is just superawesome! Takes me to a different world only.

Hiran said...

its amazing Rahman..!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good review...
Rockstar is awesome. Can't stop listening. I am eating and sleeping with Rockstar's music.

harishsram said...

for an album full of experimental yet highly appealing numbers - i wonder why they went for 'nadaan parindey' - yes there is some wonderful rock in it - but otherwise it sounds redundant & flat - i didnt find much about that song here - so any opinion?

btw check out my article on arrahman with specific reference to Rockstar : http://bit.ly/q0zx4O

Suresh Kumar said...

harishsram - Yes. Naadaan parindey is quite a straight-forward melody. Why?I guess, probably we will come to know when watching the film. But, I wouldn't call it "flat". I suspect that A.R.Rahman himself may feature in the song. It is actually the concert song in the climax of the film.

Btw, you have got a nice post there.

Limbo said...

You got it All Right Sir!! Good so addicted like me are still out there..

Sanjay said...

Hi Suresh ,
Great review , am a hard core fan of ARR , ll read all arr music review in ur site, u always write wts i my mind which am unable to express to my friends, so i steal few lines from u. Kun faya kun is my fav song ,though am a non muslim ,tis song givs me goosebumps everytime,,

@harishram , nandan parindey is my 2nd fav ,

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Shiyaz said...

an awesome analysis buddy !! Of course its one of the beautiful album I've heard recently. A R R Rocks truely.

breeze said...

I love rockstar music but I do have complaints :-). I expected some music to be repeated which normally happens in most of the movie songs but in rockstar it doesn't repeat. e.g. tum ko (female version), music starts at 00:57 is wonderful but it doesn't repeat. similarly in Haawa Haawa song, starting 01:05 is electrifying and I expected this would repeat but it didn't. since I have fav short phareses like this in most of the rockstar songs, I am rewinding to listen again and again :-).

Govasool said...

Hi Suresh, sounds you have very good knowledge of music. Its really a nice review. Sada haq in my favo

Praneel Shah said...

Hi suresh, i am from A R Rahman Fan club.

Your review is Dil se but still i would love reading what people dont know like behind the scenes.
I loved that Orianthi Panagris one and would love to read more like those.
I dont know whether you are hardcore fan of A R Rahman Sir or not, i want you to connect with our huge group and have s sip of A R Rahman's brilliance.

Anonymous said...

Very insightful!! Great article!