On the heels of the movie version of the Broadway rock musical Rock of Ages arriving in theaters on June 15th, comes a FREE listen at AOL music right now of the soundtrack to the film, which features updated versions of 1980s rock and pop classics.
The biggest buzz regarding this film and the soundtrack is the musical litmus test given to one Tom Cruise, who plays the in-the-film rock and roll legend Stacie Jaxx and actually sings his own songs, many of them absolute 1980s rock and roll standards. The soundtrack album was released this week in CD and MP3 formats.
Rock of Ages is a film that has divided moviegoers, music lovers, and individuals who still pine and long for the 1980s, a decade which embraced the tail end of the 1970s, but started to put a rather hard shell onto the decadence, sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle of the previous decade by way of over-produced hard rock, second generation glam, tattoos, and zeitgeist fashions, in which denim and tight leather, spandex, and big hair were the order of the day. There were many memorable hits of those genres during that era, and most of them round up the collection of songs performed in Rock of Ages.
Starring Country music and Dancing with the Stars personality Julianne Hough and Latin pop sensation Diego Boneta, and surrounded by a supporting cast made up of Hollywood veterans and current stars like Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman, and all rotating around the axis of Tom Cruise’s stratospheric rock star, Rock of Ages is surely the film enigma of the summer movie season. All the aforementioned people sing in the film, and ultimately it’s up to one’s taste and attitude towards this music in its original states in terms of how it will be perceived, acclaimed, and accepted.
The curiosity factor right from the start is the appeal here first and foremost, especially wanting to know what A-list actor Tom Cruise, who got in immense fat free shape and took massive amounts of singing and guitar lessons to play the role of Stacey Jaxx, sounds like as a rock and roll singer. He tackles songs like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” Guns and Roses’ “Paradise City,” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” among others, with full gusto, working as hard as he probably does on a stunt scene in one of his Mission: Impossible films, to get the right attitude and swagger. The results fall rather short, he gets an A for effort, but he sounds rather shrill, almost buried in the trebled up to the ceiling bombastic very 80s style production on the songs. There’s no way to rise above the stigma of that “this is Tom Cruise doing this” vibe when listening, no matter how many times you listen. Final analysis: If Cruise was in a karaoke contest, he’d probably finish seventh and get the free gift certificate to Sizzler or whatever a 7th place prize would be.
How does the rest of the cast do? Catherine Zeta-Jones does her best Pat Benatar on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Mary J. Blige takes on Journey’s “Anyway You Want It,” comedian Russell Brand does what has to be the highlight of the disc, albeit in a campy way, warbling REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” with Alec Baldwin; Brand and Zeta-Jones also do Starship’s “We Built This City” interpolated with Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and it almost sounds like an outtake from Disney’s High School Musical. In fact, all the songs play out with that energy, especially like the cast of the TV show Glee raising their musical bar to this genre, but a bar that’s raised about two inches from the ground.
The film’s main stars, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, do tracks like Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and Extreme’s “More Than Words” like they were in a grade school play produced by over-producer cum laude Bob Rock. The whole album and feel has a kind of bombast to it, guitar sounds and tones sound the same, drum tracks hit hard, it’s like a hollow empty shell, but one covered with lots of frosting and sheen on the outside of it. It all culminates with most of the cast doing the karaoke blue ribbon special, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” which although the film isn’t out in theaters yet, still leads one to believe that the song was probably used to better effect coming out of the jukebox in the diner during the last scene on the final episode of the HBO series The Sopranos.
It’s too early to say what to make of all this, or the film. There are plenty of people ready to see it and plenty of people who made the original Broadway show a success. The soundtrack is a free listen at AOL Music, so that’s not a bad thing for the curious and the zealous fans of this music and the 1980s era. And it seems that those fans of this style of movie making, singing, and attitude, (Hairspray fans, Glee fans, American Idol fans, The Voice fans) are going to possibly make Rock of Ages something more than a sleeper or a cult success when the film opens next week. Ultimately, however, Rock of Ages might not be the Hair (the long-running anti-establishment, hippie Broadway musical of the late 1960s) for the 21st century generation, but maybe Hair EXTENSIONS.