There is something with AR Rahman and the word million۪. Apart from the fact that he is a millionaire, after his mega success with Slumdog Millionaire۪ (2008) he is now leading the music of yet another Hollywood production called Million Dollar Arm۪. A biographical sports drama directed by Craig Gillespie of Mr. Woodstock۪ (2007) fame, it is the story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who found fame after winning a reality show in India called the Million Dollar Arm organised by agent JB Bernstein mixing cricket and baseball and then getting the opportunity to play professional baseball league in America. With an interesting mix of a sports theme with a cross country setup for the film there is a lot of room for Rahman to create yet another milestone in the history of music. With a soundtrack of 7 songs featuring KT Tunstall, Iggy Azalea, Raghav Mathur, Lamar, Wale and Sukhwinder Singh; Rahman has brought all the talent together to create a good soundtrack for this film.
Sukhwinder Singh leads the album with Makhna in the typical style that has worked well for Rahman in the past for his Hollywood projects with a deeply Indian vibe to a partly westernised deep bass beat laid with a layer of Dhol on top of it for a Indi-urban feel delivering a right balance of Indian and western music. Sukhwinder۪s vocals are beautifully mastered with a nice warmth to it with thanks to the layered reverbs. The Punjabi feel with the shouts and soulful female choruses work really well for the song. The lyrics are about aspirations and winning over the world together. With songs working in the background score, the focus on lyrics is never too much in a Hollywood OST. But overall the lyrics are written nicely and work well for radio play.
Million Dollar Dream is just a really good composition lead by current Australian superstar Iggy Azalea with Sukhwinder Singh. Iggy۪s rap laid on top of a urban Punjabi beat is just exciting to say the least and a big step for the artist to break into the massive Indian market, and who better than Rahman to facilitate that for her! She is a really talented singer with a well written rap about reaching for the moon with a million dollar dream and the journey to get that dream. Sukhwinder۪s vocals are really well matched to her vocals to create good fusion as he talks about the happiness reaching out for the dreams as long as the almighty looks after you Rab Rakha۪. Great job by Rahman on the composition and production fronts. The focus is entirely on the vocals and so the instrumentation is not that awesome as you would expect from the Rahman camp.
A Tamil song Unborn Children in the voice of the amazing Chithra of Roja۪ (1992) and Koi Mil Gaya۪ (2003) fame is next in the perfect Rahman style from the south. Unni Krishnan supports Chithra and their voices are just magical together! Even though the lyrics don۪t work for the Hindi & English speaking audiences, the song is simply so melodious that is gives a lot of listening pleasure. With a very simple composition, the song is expressive vocally and brings a strong South Indian touch to the soundtrack. The song is worth listening just for the fantastic vocal performances and sweeter than honey voices of Krishnan and Chithra.
We Could Be Kings featuring the amazing Scottish singer KT Tunstall of Suddenly I See fame is a great collaboration between Tunstall and Rahman and sounds like a dream project come true for Rahman. Sitting nicely in the world music genre, the song is an inspiring song with lyrics well penned by Tunstall and Rahman together. Rahman himself supports vocally with Hidustani classical vocal pieces and strong harmonies to give it a strong Indian touch. The music goes from a single beat to a double beat to give good pace to the song for the chorus parts giving it good rhythm for an inspiring song that sounds grand in every possible way. The use of Tabla۪s is really interesting and worth listening to. This is a great composition by Rahman and perhaps the best song on the album.
An instrumental piece called Taa Taa Tai takes centre-stage next which is a classical urban fusion that has good pace and great instrumentation work on the arrangement front. With a super deep bass this song piece is a brilliant listen for any music enthusiast. The use of Sitar and the overall performance on this instrument and surrounding percussions is just extraordinary. Arranging them well with vocal harmonies, Rahman creates a really interesting piece with big highs and low acoustic parts. Designed to sit nicely through the pacey moments in the film this would work really well in the background creating suspense and excitement.
Keep The Hustle featuring Rapper Wale, Raghav Mathur and Rahman himself this song is a pure Hip Hop composition from the Rahman studios. Breaking into the American Hip-Hop market Rahman keeps this one purely western with no Indian bits to this song. Lyrics are about never giving up and keep the hustle going all the way to the top, have a good flow to them keeping in sync with the composition and theme of the film. This is a good listen but does not have the capability to go against the true Hip-Hop songs that really work in the American market.
Recorded and composed mainly for the London 2012 Olympics, Nimma Nimma in the voice of Jaspreet Jasz has been re-tweaked and brought back for the Million Dollar Arm۪ soundtrack. With a very strong Punjabi vibe thanks to the strong folkish vocals by Jaspreet the vocals sit on top of urban raps and a duff break-beat to create that western urban style. A soft Dhol beat in the background merges well with the verses until the bridge parts with a brilliant Sitar solo take the song to high pitch levels. The composition is really interesting and works well visually as one can picturise the song in the background of a Hollywood film. The Punjabi lyrics are fun for a wedding love story but interestingly the composition is a contrast of it and does not have any romantic feel to it.
Rahman works in his true spirit as a Hollywood Producer to create a great soundtrack for a mainstream world audience. As many Indian۪s would comment and be of the opinion like they were at the time of Slumdog Millionaire۪ that this is not his best work as such, but what one needs to understand that what works for a world audience (that does not understand the language and the context in which some of his best musical works has been done) is different and needs to have a different balance of melodies and harmonies within the context of a Hollywood project. Rahman understands that really well and delivers it accordingly which has led to his global success so far. He is a musical genius, there is no denying that and it is clearly seen in his arrangements, artist collaborations and instrument conduction. He does a great job of taking Indian instruments to the big main commercial stage through this album mixing them beautifully on the technical front with a perfect mix and mastering of every song. Nimma Nimma, Makhna, We Could Be Kinds and Million Dollar Dream are some of the songs to check out his work on with some great singers. Overall this might not be some of his best work we have heard but for this film project it works and is a perfect fit.
BizAsia Showbiz Rating 7.5/10