With a track listing that's roughly half rock, country, and pop songs and half Randy Newman's score, the Cars soundtrack is probably the least inspired collection of music to support a Pixar film. However, that's only in comparison to the brilliant soundtracks to their other movies -- especially Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Both the pop music and score for Cars fit the film perfectly, and neither is totally predictable. Indeed, the biggest surprise may be the soundtrack's opening salvo, Sheryl Crow's "Real Gone." With a stomping beat and driving (no pun intended) riff that echoes the Who's "I'm Free," this is the most fun her music has been in years. As good as she is at the thoughtful, mellow ballads that made up Wildflower, she's truly incandescent as a smart but happy-go-lucky rock chick. There's also a '50s undercurrent to the soundtrack, nodding to the fact that many of the characters in the film are cars designed during that decade, including a 1959 Impala and a 1959 Fiat 500. The Chords' "Sh-Boom" and Chuck Berry's "Route 66" add a sweetly nostalgic feel to the album (later on, John Mayer contributes a blandly slick version of "Route 66" that could appear on virtually any soundtrack). The soundtrack also ties in the film's NASCAR motif with country songs like Rascal Flatts' version of "Life Is a Highway," which sounds like a slightly twangier take on Tom Cochrane's smash hit, and Brad Paisley's "Behind the Clouds," a sweet, affable, traditional country song that is one of Cars' highlights. Newman's score, meanwhile, follows in the tradition of his Toy Story and A Bug's Life work, translating his witty musical style into orchestral pieces that are rooted in traditional film music but never sound stuffy. "Opening Race" alternates between brass fanfares and revved-up guitar riffs, while the thrilling strings on "McQueen's Lost" and "Dirt Is Different" suggest curving roads and wide-open landscapes. And as always, the whimsical love theme "McQueen and Sally" and self-explanatory "Goodbye" show that Newman is still capable of being sentimental without being schmaltzy. Even though a soundtrack that consisted entirely of Newman's pieces and songs would be more in keeping with Pixar tradition, Cars does a good job of balancing its pop and score elements.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares