As we start off the New Year, I cannot put the SING Soundtrack out of my mind. Probably because, as Sing’s Executive Music Producer Harvey Mason Jr.’(Dreamgirls, The Pitch Perfect Series,) puts it, “This is not just an ordinary soundtrack or film.
For people who love music, Sing is something special. With the wide range of real music and the special vocal performances, there are so many things to love about this project. As a producer, it was a dream come true. I put all my experience making pop and R&B hit records to use producing these songs and singers. I’m extremely proud of the final result.”
Featuring more than 65 hit songs, Sing is produced by Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy. Together, they have produced all of Illumination’s films since the studio’s inception. Illumination Entertainment was founded by Chris Meledandri in 2007 and is one of the entertainment industry’s leading producers of event animated films. Illumination has exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures, is the creator of the hugely successful Despicable Me franchise, which includes Minions—the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time—as well as Despicable Me 2, an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature of 2013. In all, Illumination’s films, which also include 2016’s record-breaking The Secret Life of Pets, 2011’s Hop and 2012’s Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, have grossed more than $4 billion in worldwide box-office revenues and feature some of the world’s most renowned talent: John Legend, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Tori Kelly, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, Rhea Perlman, Bill Farmer (you may most recognize him from you beloved Disney character, “Goofy”) and Laraine Newman (SNL).
Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Sing stars Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.
Five lead contestants emerge: Mike (MacFarlane), a mouse who croons as smoothly as he cons; Meena (Kelly), a timid teenage elephant with an enormous case of stage fright; Rosita (Witherspoon), an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets; Johnny (Egerton), a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies; and Ash (Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo.
Each arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life. And as Buster coaches each of his contestants closer and closer to the grand finale, he starts to learn that maybe the theater isn’t the only thing that is in need of saving.
STAND OUT VOCALS:
A glow in the dark squid emerges in the upstage backdrop and swims off stage right and an electric guitarist Porcupine takes its place.
Stevie Wonder, behind a polished piano, emerges from the darkness, and signifies the start of a duo performance between himself (Academy Award and Grammy Award-winner) and Ariana Grande, multi-platinum Grammy Award nominee and first artists to debut in the top 10 with a lead single from each of her first three albums.
This performance on The Voice (Season 11) seriously showcases Ariana Grande’s vocal consistency and this song re-affirms her title as a powerhouse vocalist.
In Faith, she demonstrates unforgettable upper belts (which range from F5 to B5) with consistent comfort. It is well known in the industry that Grande has extensive ease in this part of her voice, and this quality has contributed to her success with her hit song PROBLEM (reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014) as well as FOCUS (which debuted at No. 7 on the Hot 100).
Also notable are the classic vocals of Tori Kelly, who sings “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and “Hallelujah” on the SING album. The duo performance for the premiere of the album’s release was unforgettable. Tori Kelly and Jennifer Hudson create a blended performance presence of past and present soul with each of their distinctive voices.
Jennifer Hudson possesses the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of soul. The elastically powerful and dynamically gifted Hudson brings a darker, deeper tone to “Hallelujah’s” message, which really causes the listener to stop in their tracks when listening to her rendition. Jennifer Hudson’s rounded and vibratory lower register is utilized in her interpretation and it gave the song a color that brings out the song’s posture of empathetic disappointment.
Tori Kelly, a light coloratura soprano, focuses on the brightness in her voice here, that gently caresses the listener to prepare them for the heavy message of the “Hallelujah” song. The message that is the biblical reference of super-humanly strong Sampson and his fall from power, when the secret behind his strength, his blessed, long, hair, is cut off by the treacherous seductress Delilah. Now, you don’t have to be super strong or a seductress to relate to this performance, but true essence that Hudson and Kelly showcased on the stage is something we can all go home with: the moments of complete distress and tragedy and within that, a vulnerability, which is calmer than it appears.
I also really enjoyed the jive tempo feel-good track “I’m Still Standing”, sung by the unique likes of Taron Egerton. In the film, Egerton plays a soulful gorilla, that has the resilience of a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, but also a soft-side that makes us fall in love with this adorable animated animal who, born into a family of gorilla gangsters, secretly aspires to sing his heart out for the rest of his life. Also a danceable track is Tori Kelly’s “Dontcha Worry About Thing”. Her agile voice and and smooth riffs make anyone want to get up and cha-cha.
I never expected to see Seth Mcfarlane as a Frank Sinatra Crooning mouse, but with Universal, there is always a first time for everything. Seth Mcfarlane smoothly entices his audience with his rendition of “My Way”; Mcfarlane transports his listener’s via the time machine of his voice, to give us a tour of sound during the 1950’s. Vocally elegant, and a known comic, there is nothing Mcfarlane cannot do.
I highly encourage everyone everyday to listen to the SING album. It is uplifting, entertaining, and most importantly it makes your remember the joy in life. It looks like I got my 2017 off to the right start, with SING the OFFICIAL MOTION SOUNDTRACK.
The Spencer Davis Group – “Gimme Some Lovin’”
Taron Egerton – “The Way I Feel Inside”
Seth MacFarlane – “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”
Scarlett Johansson – “I Don’t Wanna”
Reese Witherspoon – “Venus” *first voice over
SING Cast – “Auditions”
Senor Coconut & His Orchestra – “Around The World”
Gypsy Kings – “Bamboleo”
Cat Stevens – “The Wind”
Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
Nick Kroll & Reese Witherspoon – “Shake It Off”
Taron Egerton – “I’m Still Standing”
Scarlett Johansson – “Set It All Free”
Seth MacFarlane – “My Way”
Alexa Christina Politis is a Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Alumna.