A.R. Rahman

Slumdog Millionaire [Music from the Motion Picture]

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It's ironic that the most recognized album of A.R. Rahman is not his best work. For many Rahman fans, Slumdog Millionaire is not exactly the sound that they attribute to him. His Bollywood successes are designed as playback songs rather than as background scores. Thus, with the additional element of vocal melodies, his past accomplishments weigh heavily in public perception of his incredible music. While it very well deserved the enthusiastic applause at the Academy Award and Golden Globe ceremonies, Slumdog Millionaire will ignite lesser fervor in someone who has followed Rahman's music closely over the past two decades. It still has the all-pervading signature sound of Rahman with its brilliant percussion, ominous electronica, and somber crooning, yet it displays a more hurried pace in contrast to his more subtle offerings, in which music serves as a colorful canvas behind beautiful vocal portraits. What's more interesting with this album is the flash of experimentation that wouldn't have been possible in a Bollywood album -- minimalist electronica with "Riots," acid jazz with "Millionaire," and big beat with "Liquid Dance." Rahman packs this album with his usual well-credited crew, including Blaaze for the hip-hop-styled "Gangsta Blues," Sukhwinder Singh for album highlight "Jai Ho," and Suzanne for the lighthearted "Latika's Theme" and "Dreams on Fire." The most talked-about addition in the list of singers here is M.I.A. She delivers exciting vocals on the opening theme "O... Saya." The album also includes an original song from M.I.A.'s Kala album, the hit "Paper Planes" (also here in a special remix), as well as the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composition "Aaj Ki Raat" from the film Don. The success of Slumdog Millionaire's music can be traced back to the success of the film, and while the world was late in noticing Rahman until Slumdog Millionaire remedied that situation, listeners should explore his other offerings -- both past and, one assumes, future -- that could be considered more highly deserving of accolades.

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