Original TV Soundtrack

MTV's Hip Hopera: Carmen

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Matthew Knowles, father of Beyoncé Knowles and manager of her group, Destiny's Child, through his Music World Management company, clearly has ambitions for his daughter that extend beyond making Destiny's Child the most popular group of the early 21st century. His plan became apparent only a week after the release of Destiny's Child's Survivor album, when his daughter starred in an MTV production of Carmen, with the 1875 Bizet opera stripped of all but its storyline and turned into a contemporary rap musical. Oscar Hammerstein II was the first one to imagine Carmen in a modern context with African-Americans, but his 1943 Broadway musical Carmen Jones retained Bizet's music with English lyrics. The new Carmen is the brainchild of Kip Collins and Sekani Williams, who have employed a few synthesized string elements, but otherwise dropped any sense of the original. It is certainly an ambitious idea to try to use rap for a sustained musical story, but Collins and Williams show that the form doesn't quite support such a concept, at least in their hands. The music is at its best in tracks like "The Last Great Seduction," when Knowles and co-star Mekhi Phifer are trading insults, but elsewhere, such as in "What We Gonna Do," performed by Rah Digga, the clipped-out obscenities render this "clean" version largely incomprehensible. (You'd have thought that, knowing the film was going to be broadcast on TV, the writers would have curbed their language beforehand.) Actually, there isn't all that much music here. The album runs less than 35 minutes, and that includes remixes of the Destiny's Child hits "Survivor" and "Bootylicious." Maybe rap will turn out to be a vehicle for sustained storytelling someday, but this attempt is barely a vehicle for Beyoncé Knowles' and her father's ambitions.

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