Originally published in The Hindu.
Irulu neelum raave – Ezra (Malayalam – Sushin Shyam)
Sushin Shyam, the keyboardist of the band The Down Troddence, made an inspired composing debut last year with Kismath’s Kisa paathiyil, that Charukesi-loaded whopper of a melody. He follows that song with an equally haunting—this time, quite literally, given the film’s eerie theme—Irulu neelum raave. While Sachin Balu’s singing is top notch, Sushin really has an engaging and indulgent melody going for him, punctuating the melody with a fantastic orchestration, including that consistently ominous and surreal twang that rises in crescendo in an unsettling manner.
Azhagiya soodaana poove – Bairavaa (Tamil – Santhosh Narayanan)
Santhosh had a great run in 2016, scoring for a Rajinikanth film and achieving an Ilayaraja’ish feat of having 2 films for a Diwali (Kodi and Kaashmora). He adds another feather to his cap – a Vijay film! But the man who balanced his sound with Rajini-needs in Kabali so well, seems unsure in Bairavaa. The soundtrack’s best though is Azhagiya soodana poovey. It is wonderfully sung by Vijaynarain and Dharshana, and Santhosh adds an unpredictable and cool Jackson’ish—or, rather Bruno Mars’ish—retro-pop sound that is instantly likeable.
Mellaga tellarindoi – Shatamanam Bhavati (Telugu – Mickey J Meyer)
Mellaga tellarindoi is so typically Mickey! The song’s ambient prelude and the consistently pleasant lilt is brilliant, and there is that Mickey-style infusion of world music too, in that catchy, almost African chorus featuring Ramya Behara and Mohana Bhogaraju. The build-up is lovely, helping Anurag Kulkarni leading the vocals very well. Mickey has been averaging three soundtracks per year in the last 3 years and this is a good start for 2017.
Kaabil – Kaabil (Hindi – Rajesh Roshan)
It is useful to remember that Rajesh Roshan made his debut back in 1974 with Kunwara Baap. He is perhaps one of the oldest composers still in business, though it is easy to counter that with the fact that he is the in-house composer of films produced by his brother, Rakesh Roshan, mostly featuring Hrithik Roshan. What works in Rajesh’s favour is songs like Kaabil’s title song – there is something charmingly old-world in the simple, hummable melody and the familiar comfort of the dholak-based rhythm.
You Have Been Loved – Older (George Michael)
Amidst the non-stop tributes to George Michael since his untimely death on December 26, 2016, the world remembered his most famous and obvious songs like Careless Whisper, Wake Me Up and Last Christmas. Dig deeper and you’d find absolute gems like You Have Been Loved, from his 1996 album, Older. His searing lyrics question the existence of God, after the death of his lover Anselmo Feleppa, and writes on behalf of Anselmo’s mother who wonders about her crime, in the eyes of God, that he punished her with the death of her son. It’s a beautiful contrast to the recent dialogue from Westworld where a grieving father says, ‘The pain is all I have left’, after the death of his son, since the only thing worse than grieving, is forgetting.