BizAsia’s Top 5 Soundtracks of 2016

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2016 has seen some good music! The trend changed strongly from single music directors to a mix of composers coming together to create a compilation. Film producers want to save money and possibly thus don’t have the budget to afford music directors like Vishal-Shekhar or Pritam or Sajid-Wajid who can deliver hits in every genre. Instead they chose to go to newer talent who have had hits in only particular genres to create a compilation mix of songs. Although this works well in some cases in others it sounds rather patchy with the underlying theme or film score lost in so many hands.

Mostly the standard of music has been high in 2016 with all the new talent that has hit the industry in the last two years finally finding their foothold and progressing to do much better music this year. Right from singers to music directors to lyricists, 2016 has seen a higher standard of music with lots of maturity. Commercial success has come in all forms with standard party music and romantic ballads delivering chart success but also other genres have received the attention of the composers to deliver a fully rounded music score. International influences and world music inspiration is quite obvious in a lot of musical work. Lyrics have seen a very high standard in 2016 with some very powerful songs written. On the music front there is no defining sound of 2016 as such or particular months of good music, there has been something good and something exciting consistently throughout the year.

Considering the chart success, variety in the album and innovative approaches to musical expression here are our top five Bollywood music albums of the year.

'Dear Zindagi' SRK & Alia Bhatt
‘Dear Zindagi’ SRK & Alia Bhatt

5 – ‘Dear Zindagi’ (2016) – Amit Trivedi shows once again with the soundtrack of ‘Dear Zindagi’ that his calibre and musical talent has no boundaries and he can do a brilliant job every time with so many different genres. This album had a really good range going from romance to club to jazz to grime to inspirational to revival of a Bollywood classic. Most music directors would find it difficult to fit that many styles in a single album with 8 songs but Trivedi makes it sound natural. The variety of instrumentation is elaborate and each song had a unique personality to it. His collaboration with Kausar Munir brought the best out of both. Lyrics were consistently great throughout the album with some being absolutely brilliant to listen to. Vocal talent was exceptional too with Arijit Singh’s mesmerising performance on 3 songs, hugely talented Jasleen Kaur, Vishal Dadlani, Sunidhi Chauhan and even Alia Bhatt contributing with a great vocal. Taarefon Se, Tu Hi Hai, Love You Zindagi were the best songs to hear. Just Go To Hell was a little disappointing while Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le was a good remake of a classic. This album will surely stay on the musical playlists for a couple of years ahead.

'Kapoor & Sons'
‘Kapoor & Sons’

We have a tie at number 4.

=4 – ‘Kapoor & Sons’ (2016) – This soundtrack was a short and sweet one with just 5 songs on the album but surely packed a punch with songs carefully selected from the production houses of various producers and lyricists to deliver on two main genres relevant to the young theme of the film viz. love and party. The romantic songs were clearly the best ones on the album with Bolna and Saathi Re being deep and meaningful and classy to say the least but were not superhits. But the party songs were the ones that too the world by storm. Although they lacked innovation with Amaal Mallik recreating Kar Gaye Chul which became the biggest party number of the year. Let’s Nacho tread on the South meets North India in its composition but its cheesy sound is what worked for the masses making it the second big dance hit on the album. A lot of great talent including Arko, Asees Kaur, Neha Kakkar and Arijit delivered some really good vocal performances while Manoj Muntashir and Dr. Devendra Kair had written some great pieces of poetry on Bolna & Saathi Re. The soundtrack does not waste time at all and delivers only good songs that contributed to making this soundtrack and the film a super success on the box office.

Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma - Sultan

=4 – ‘Sultan’ (2016) – The soundtrack of ‘Sultan’ was exactly what was expected for a big Salman Khan Eid release. It had variety, depth in its genres, great music composition, fabulous vocal deliveries and great lyrics all through song after song. With over 10 songs it had enough meat and material to it to make is a wholesome album as collector’s piece. The music sticks to the situations in the film and the Geographic’s of the setting of the film in its words and vocal styles. Vishal – Shekhar had clearly spent a considerable amount of time perfecting each song making them all stand out from each other and anything out there and they succeed at it mostly. Their choice of singers was to the point and they each delivered very well (expect the Salman Khan versions of course). Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Mohit Chauhan, Papon, Mika, Nooran Sisters, Harshdeep Kaur, Sukhwinder Singh, Neha Bhasin were all brilliant. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics were a class as one would expect from him where he delivers a mix of songs going from simple and catchy lyrics to emotional and complex pieces as well. Tuk Tuk & Jag Ghoomeya were the best two songs on the album while Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai was clearly the biggest hit. Sachi Muchi & 440 Volt were good fun love songs as well and recommended to listen to. Overall ‘Sultan’ OST was a fine piece of team work with each song making it to the charts or impressing with their innovation.

'Baar Baar Dekho'
‘Baar Baar Dekho’

3 – ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ (2016) – ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ had a soundtrack that one could hear baar baar. With a good range of songs and strong commercial characteristics the album was designed for the masses. Commercial hits have been recreated to use these big hits for amplifying the success of the album. Be it the recreated Kala Chashma or Teri Khair Mangdi, the choice of songs was very good and so is the execution making these songs easy on the ears for 2016 listening. Jasleen Royal was the clear star of the album with two iconic songs Nachde ne Saare and Kho Gaye Hum Kahan. Party songs were the biggest highlight of this album working perfectly for a young romantic drama with top two glamorous stars in Bollywood. Sau Aasmaan, Kala Chashma and Nachde Ne Saare were all superhits on the album with Kala Chashma leading on charts by a mile. The soundtrack takes a slightly offbeat take on romantic numbers with Dariya and Kho Gaye Hum Kahan and thus not the strongest feature of the album although both songs were enjoyable to listen too. On the whole, ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ was one of the best albums of the year.

'Udta Punjab' poster
‘Udta Punjab’

2 – ‘Udta Punjab’ (2016) – Early in 2016 Amit Trivedi delivered super success while delivering innovation in music through this path-breaking album. This was truly iconic as it felt like a niche musical work but he delivered shocking commercial success out of it. Through the soundtrack of ‘Udta Punjab’ he combined his talent with a group of talented singers, lyricists and musicians to deliver yet another fresh sounding album to Bollywood unlike any heard in Bollywood history before. His balance of delivering dark and positive songs, party and romantic songs, sufi and traditional folk songs was worth noticing on this album as he gives a wide landscape to this OST to deliver variety to the listeners. A major part of the credit goes to lyricist Shellee whose work was simply amazing on this soundtrack. Each song was exceptionally well written retaining the Punjabi flavour of music that defines the popular music landscape for all of northern India and beyond. Shahid Mallya was clearly the leading voice of the album maintaining his standards all through of giving great vocals to his music director. Kanika Kapoor was back in a big way with Da Da Dasse which was the star song of the album along with Chitta Ve, Ikk Kudi and Hass Nach Le closely behind and are great songs to listen to as well. Overall there was no chart topper on the album but not one bad song either and thus a great album to have that defined the changing sound of Bollywood music with a balance of folk and traditional music retained and adapted for the modern time.

'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil'
‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’

1 – ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ (2016) – Our top album of 2016 was the music of ‘ADHM’ that lived up to the expectations from a Karan Johar film. It was commercially very strong and had the right team to deliver it with Pritam and Amitabh Bhattacharya working together to deliver a great sound. With the current trend of successful singles rather than albums, Johar had adopted a new marketing strategy of not releasing the full music album till a very late stage almost at the release date of the film itself. The strategy worked as over two months six singles had been released individually and each taken the digital world and airplays by storm gathering publicity and momentum for the big Diwali release. Surrounded by controversy around the eventual release of the film, the music album demonstrated genre variety with good singing talent throughout with Arijit Singh being the clear leader voicing for Ranbir Kapoor. The title song and Bulleya both created waves to become the most loved romantic songs of 2016 with Cutie Pie and The Breakup Song being the two huge party tunes on the album that were unique and not remade. Each song was packed with great lyrics with Channa Mereya the best of the bunch and top instrumentation beautifully executed by Pritam and his band. This was perhaps the biggest album of the year where every song was worth listening to on a repeat and a must on every Bollywood lover’s playlist.

Special Mentions

Some other albums that deserve a mention that couldn’t make it to our top five but have something brilliant to offer as well include the recent release of ‘Dangal’ to start off with. Pritam does a great job of engrossing the music into the theme and setting of the film. The Haryanvi and rural setting is very strongly representative in the music and lyrical words by Amitabh Bhattacharya. The use of folk music is stronger compared to mainstream commercial but Pritam tries hard to make each song listenable by masses across the country. Dhaakad, Dangal and Haanikaarak Bapu are the best songs on the soundtrack.

Another album worth a big mention is the recent ‘Befikre’ (2016). The film might have not impressed at the box office but the music sure did. Vishal-Shekhar do a brilliant job in developing a unique sound for each song making them memorable and iconic perfect for the French setting of the film and the Befikre theme. Jaideep Sahni’s lyrics are as always very expressive and detailed. Ude Dil Befikre, Khulke Dulke, Nashe Si Chadh Gayi are some of the best songs on the album. Overall this is a good soundtrack with no bad song on the album but each song is for a younger audience with not much for a mature audience to be able to relate to.

Rock almost gets forgotten in its purity as genre but one has to applaud Shankar Ehsaan Loy who had put a wholesome album together for ‘Rock On!! 2’ (2016) with Farhan Akhtar the clear hero of the album. SEL try and give the album a good amount of variance with not just rock music playing throughout for nine songs. Sufi, acoustic, ballad, romantic and even regional music make an appearance on the album. The lyrics by Javed Akhtar are good on some songs like Jaago, Manzar Naya and Woh Jahaan. A good effort overall to bring back rock to mainstream in 2016.

Another album that had good music earlier in the year was ‘Fitoor’ (2016). As an album it had nothing more than romantic songs on it with lot of depth that Amit Trivedi delivered in what seemed to be effortless and coming straight from the heart. His musical precision is extraordinary with beautiful compositions throughout in every song going from a range of Kashmiri musical influences to mainstream Bollywood and alternative urban beats. And it’s not just music.. the lyrics on each song are a piece of superlative poetic talent from Swanand Kirkire. Yeh Fitoor Mera, Pashmina, Tere Liye, Rangaa Re are all brilliant to listen to in their own individual right.

The music on some songs of ‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’ (2016) and ‘Sanam Re’ (2016) is worth a mention as well.

Overall, Amit Trivedi and Pritam were the real stars of 2016 delivering some excellent music bringing back the charm of single music director on an album. They show when in the right hands and a perfect team behind them, some fabulous music can be created together.

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