Sooraj Santhosh’s singing is pretty much the best thing about Azhcha, with Gopi going through the motions of creating a functional song with all familiar sounds. Habeebi, barring the corny sounds all through and Bollywood template, has a slightly better engaging tune. Megha pakshi is where the real Gopi surfaces! Madhu Balakrishnan gets a gorgeous melody that is structured like a rock ditty. Neela shankhu pushpame is equally good, with a similar, punchy rock sound layered on top of a beautiful melody. Divya Menon’s vocals make it particularly alluring. Gopi scores pretty well in the second innings of Team 5.

Keywords: Team 5, Gopi Sundar

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Naan konjam karuppu thaan has what is now easily associated with Hiphop Tamizha’s sound – punchy percussion, and a catchy tune. The title song is essentially no different, but with more noise. Khareshma Ravichandran’s stylish rendition lifts Idhayam idhayam easily, with the composer’s funky orchestration working in sync. Ellame kaasu too has an easily foot-tapping tune and sound, voiced well by Aadhi and Mark Antony Thomas with a nice and easy twang. The Kaththi Sandai theme surprises with a really interesting strings-based backdrop with a soulful semi-classical solo violin added to the mix too! Pretty serviceable soundtrack by Hiphop Tamizha.

Keywords: Kaththi Sandai, Hiphop Tamizha

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

The title song is wonderfully sweeping, with Pritam’s spellbinding orchestration accompanying Arijit’s fantastic vocals. Bulleya‘s sound is instantly ebullient, but not very different from our neighboring country’s bands. Channa mereya is on similar lines, a sweet, almost-sappy melody, led by Arijit’s brilliant vocals. Ash King is effortless in the gospel-styled ballad Alizeh, backed by excellent chorus and almost-Coldplay’ish orchestration. Cutiepie‘s joyous Punjabi tune is perfect till the oddly placed hook appears. The Breakup Song ends the soundtrack on a wonderful high, marking the breakup into an opportunity for celebration. Pritam’s debut with Karan Johar works pretty well for most parts.

Keywords: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Pritam

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Teri fariyaad is worth just for Jagjit Singh’s voice; strips the corny backgrounds of the original, well handled by Rekha Bhardwaj. Ishq mubarak is T-series’ roster-composers stuff from 2001. Dekh lena fares mildly better, but Tulsi Kumar starts singing. The title song is more melodic (than the earlier film’s) without being mushy. Vishal and Neeti infuse life in the Hillbilly’ish Masta. Jaeger bomb is danc’y nursery rhyme for kids with a drinking license. The soundtrack’s best is Dil nawaziyaan, Ankit imagining a beautiful pop-ghazal mix, led by Arko and Payal Dev so well! A better, updated soundtrack than the original.

Keywords: Tum Bin 2, Ankit Tiwari

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

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Sunday October 23, 2016

Hitman – October 22, 2016

Originally published in The Hindu.

Andha pulla manasa – Adhagappattathu Magajanangalay (Tamil – D.Imman)
That mouthful of a title has gorgeous music by Imman, who seems to be channeling his inner Ilayaraja to fantastic effect all across the soundtrack. The raaga mix is heady – sounds of Simmendramadhyamam and Gowrimanohari seem more pronounced, even as Haricharan is stupendously good with the singing. Imman’s masterstroke is the wonderful twist after the first stanza, to gear up awesome guitars, changing the rhythm structure dramatically to a majestic new high, but retaining the soul of the tune so beautifully.

Payye veesum – Aanandam (Malayalam – Sachin Warrier)
Yet another singer turns into a composer! Sachin Warrier’s composing debut is both nuanced and accomplished. The soundtrack’s best happens to be Payye veesum, with its frothy, ebullient melody, delightfully orchestrated by Sachin, with a fantastic musical piece appearing four times, adding to the song’s overall appeal – prelude, the two interludes and the ending, where it gets a lovely veena layer too! Sachin’s choice of singers – his sister Sneha Warrier, and Ashwin Gopakumar, do a brilliant job with the vocals.

Mazhai ingillaye – Ammani (Tamil – K)
The resourceful and ever-interesting K strikes again in Ammani’s short, 3-song soundtrack. He ropes in Vaikom Vijayalakshmi for a Sahana raaga based Mazhai ingillaye and gives it a very interesting faux-classical—fusion, to put it vaguely—sound, with a languorous mridangam, morsing and a thumpy drum sound doing most of the work in impressive style. There’s the occasional solo violin too, expanding on the Sahana base really well.

Ela ela ela – ISM (Telugu – Anup Rubens)
Shakthisree Gopalan is the kind of singer that composers selectively hand over their best compositions given her range and style. Anup does the smart thing by handing over the best song of ISM to her – Ela ela ela. It’s a somber, immersive melody with a tinge of the kind of indipop music made popular by the band Euphoria. Shakthisree is magnificent handling the melody’s highs and softer notes, and the highly addictive Ela ela ela hook, all the while accompanying the lovely guitar phrase Anup concocts for the song.

Ei suzhali – Kodi (Tamil – Santhosh Narayanan)
Santhosh had a big month in October, with two of his soundtracks releasing in quick succession. Between Kodi and Kaashmora, the clear winner is Ei suzhali, a lilting, quirky ballad with a distinct retro-style synth orchestration that has an instant appeal. The best part of the song, though, is the relatively new and fresh voice of Vijaynarain – it is the kind of voice (a solo song, at that) that not only stands out, but also elevates the song’s overall charm.

There is a faint echo of Anirudh’s Neeyum naanum in Nee tholaindhaayo, possibly owing to similar melancholy. The melody has an easy appeal thanks to Sid Sriram’s fantastic singing and Leon’s soulful backgrounds. Inno Genga is the star of En pulse yethitu, a funky and captivating melody with an instantly alluring musical mix, though Andrea’s fangled accent and singing hits a speed-breaker. Armaan Mallik is surprisingly adept with his Tamil in Un kadhal irundhal, a spritely melody with its soul flowing even better in the Reprise by Vandana Srinivasan. Leon is proving himself to be a consistent and nifty composer!

Keywords: Leon James, Kavalai Vendam

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Sreeraj seems to be exploring Saranga/Hamirkalyani raaga in Minni chinnum that he himself sings confidently. The orchestration has a strong Rahman-touch, particularly Love Birds’ Malargale malargale. Sreya Jayadeep’s sweet voice is barely able to rescue the corny package in Pammi pammi, but Puthiyoru sooryan, with its heady fusion chenda-sound fares considerably better. The soundtrack’s most interesting is Ororo kunjichodum with Sreeraj attempting a grand sound with very interesting shades and sounds, including a Western classical interlude, and sung competently by Vaisakh C. Madhav, Vaisakh PK and Sreeraj himself. Amrita TV Super Star 2014 winner Sreeraj Sahajan’s debut is definitely promising.

Keywords: Sreeraj K. Sahajan, Sreeraj Sahajan, Kolumittayi

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

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Anup makes a punchy use of Western (popularly known as cowboy music!) music in Kanulu navainaa, while also inserting classic Indian elements like that violin! Jubin Nautiyal and Mohana Bhagaraju are perfectly adept with the singing. Yey yey mixes Telugu folk with more elements to excellent, foot-tapping effect, topped by the catchy hook, while Podaade goes all the way into raucous Telugu kuthu, led by Spurthy’s full-throated vocals. The title song channelizes Puri Jagannadh brand of angst. Anup hands over the soundtrack’s best, Ela ela to Shakthisree Gopalan, and the lady is outstanding delivering the soulful melody. Anupism for Puri-Jagannadhism.

Keywords: Anup Rubens, ISM

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

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Saturday October 15, 2016

Hitman – October 15, 2016

Originally published in The Hindu.

Chil chinchilamai – Thoppil Joppan (Malayalam – Vidyasagar)
It would be massively unfair to refer to Vidyasagar as someone who apes Ilayaraja really well, more because the man is so talented without that reference, and less so because there are others like Imman who have imbibed that quality so beautifully as well. But Vidyasagar, given his limited work these days, does manage to evoke the Raja-flavour really well in songs like rain-soaked sound of Chil chinchilamai – this could have easily been a Chithra and Arunmozhi-sung song from a Tamil Nadhiya starrer; Swetha Mohan and Madhu Balakrishnan handle the song mighty well, but.

Pesu pesu – Uchathula Shiva (Tamil – Vidyasagar)
This week, as the much-parodied TV announcement goes, “Vidyasagar vaaram!”. Pesu pesu is as good as it comes, from Vidyasagar. With a whiff of what sounds like Charukesi raaga, the melody gains immensely from Balram’s (another forgotten, seriously under-rated singer) fantastic vocals, and Indulekha Warrier. The veena backdrop, the ghazal-like anupallavi (albeit with Doordarshan level impoverished strings in the background) prop the song well, while the and the super smooth anupallavi-to-charanam bridge (“idhazh pesaa kalaigalai pesu rathiye, unai marandhu…”) is particularly inventive.
Listen to Pesu pesu on DooPaaDoo.

Udja re – Rock On 2 (Hindi – Shankar Ehsaan Loy)
While Farhan Akhtar’s vocal prowess (or the lack of it) continues to be a point of debate, his co-star from Rock On 2 seems far more adept at the acting-to-singing transition. That quality comes out incredibly well in Udja re, where Shraddha Kapoor puts her voice to fantastic use. The song’s U2-style rock melody makes it a great listen, with Shraddha admirably handling the rock shenanigans.
Listen to the song on Saavn.

Aayava kanom – Kadalai (Tamil – Sam C.S.)
If Kadalai had music by Imman, one can be reasonably sure that the phrase ‘Aayava kanom’ would have been introduced with some context and backgrounder, and a making-of the song would have preceded the actual song. But the music is by the relatively less known Sam C.S – so, no such promotional tactics. In what is bound to be a new ‘mass’ catchphrase in Tamil Nadu (dependent entirely on the film’s success, of course), the lilting kuthu Aayava kanom rocks the Koyambedu tar-road dance floor. Sam’s lyrics are total thara-local level and perfect for the danc’y tune rendered admirably (with a lot of digital correction) by the film’s hero, Ma Ka Pa Anandh.

Ala baali (Singers: Nirmal Roy and Jabar Abbas. Composed by Shiraz Uppal)
The mandatory Middle Eastern/Arabic addition to Coke Studio (Season 9, Pakistan) doesn’t disappoint at all. The ‘Ala baali’ hook—which, in Arabic, means, “You’re on my mind”—is delivered with incredible sweetness by Nirmal Roy. Nirmal lingers on the words, ‘ala baali anta habibi’ and ‘ala baali anta qalbi’ so beautifully, while Jabar Abbas swoops in, Sukhwinder Singh-style, and picks up the thread perfectly. The song traverses Punjabi, Urdu and Arabic effortlessly to deliver a foot-tapping global concoction!

Neee is a superb melody that builds on the EDM sound really well. Yuvan’s singing leaves a LOT to be desired, but he makes up for it in other departments. His abysmal singing almost mauls Naan ini! It’s orchestrated brilliantly and is a tune that deserved a better singer to accompany Chinmayi. Ennulae has that inventive orchestration too, for its hymn-like tune and vocal chorus, though Tanvi sounds awkward. Vignesh ShivN and Dhanush continue their pursuit of a Literature Nobel and Grammy respectively in Solli tholaiyen, while Yuvan produces a catchy, sing-along’ish song. Short, likable soundtrack by a resurgent Yuvan.

Keywords: Yaakkai, Yuvan Shankar Raja

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

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