If you can say one thing about Pritam, it’s that his soundtracks this year have contained a lot of variety. From “Race”, to “Jannat”, to “Kismat Konnection” to the "DoggHouse"..what’s that you say? This isn’t a review of the "DoggHouse"?!!? I meant, “Singh is Kinng”. What happens when you put India’s biggest hit maker music director Pritam together with India’s biggest superstar Akshay Kumar and godfather of the U.S. rap scene Snoop Doggy Dogg? Well, you get mentioned in media all over the world, lots of free publicity, great club/radio play, and a soundtrack that wants badly to be the biggest baddest hit of the summer. Producer Vipul Shah and director Anees Bazmee probably have a monster hit on their hands regardless of whether or not the actual film is any good.
The soundtrack rights were reportedly sold for around Rs. 135 million, which would make that the highest amount paid by a music company. But does this make it a good soundtrack?
Before I get to that, I thought it best to invite all the people I know whose last name is Singh over for a “Singh is Kinng” pizza party. Lo and behold the raucous and crazy crowd all jumped at the chance, the catch being that I would subject them to each track of the soundtrack at very high volumes, if they want some pizza. So the “Team Singh” should decide whether or not Pritam (along with lyricist Mayur Puri) has another mega hit on his hands.
One final warning, if you don’t like hip hop and Bhangra music, or the urban city sound, then you should skip this album as it probably won’t be your cup of chai.
Ah here they are…welcome my friends. Bring your baggy pants that defy gravity, and hunger for new Bhanga-hip-hop music with you. Have a slice of pizza; while we pump up the volume with the first self-titled track, “Singh is Kinng”. It’s down and dirty, it’s hot doggity…. it’s Snoop Dogg in all his glory singing Bolly rap style in the opening intro of the soundtrack which starts off musically as many rap songs do, with a few synth bars repeating over and over. Snoop represents that “Poonjabi”, RDB, Akshay and Snoop double g….because well, “Singh is Kinng” (I have a feeling Snoop had a lot of input into the rap lyrics while lyricist Mayur Puri handles the rest). From there Labh Jan Jua (lead singer of British Group RDB) takes over the singing, while the chorus interrupts regularly with “Singh is Kinng”. Finally Akshay Kumar makes his entrance, doing something between singing and talking. The music builds to a slow crescendo and then the maniac Dhols kick in to throw this song into overdrive. At first listen, the song seems to have potential to be catchy and then before you know it, you’ll be grooving to it, but expect it to pull a fast fade from public consciousness. What does the “Singh Team” think? Hoots, hollers and grooving all around, a great big “Balle Balle” is heard throughout the town! Two pagdis up for this one.
Well the Singh crowd sure enjoyed that first track, so when it ended there was a bit of hushed silence in anticipation of the second track, “Jee Karda” which is off to an explosive start with Suzie Q providing the Latino influenced English vocals (in that semi nasal kind of voice, “Chu know what I’m saying?”) There are certain types of dance songs that just flow melodically and this one flows beautifully. Well done Pritam on a dance track that really musically gels as a cohesive whole. Musically the arrangement follows the standard Punjabi influenced dance fusion pattern, but the melodic vocals really make a different, particularly when Labh Jan Jua is singing. The hypnotic repetition of the title lyrics, “Jee Karda” gets the room full of Singhs moving to the smooth rhythm. What’s that I see? It’s not just pizza anymore, but I see whiskey being passed around! Hey guys this song isn’t “Ek Glassy…” by Hard Kaur…calm down! Before you calm down though, dance the night away ‘cause this song gets two pagdis up!
Whew, so far the “Singh is Kinng” soundtrack is big on setting the mood for a party, with the first two tracks being up-tempo and perfect to bust some moves to, but can Pritam continue on this pop-culture odyssey? Let’s find out with track three, “Bas Ek King” which again dips into the “Singh is King” motif of the soundtrack. This one has a slow tempo with vocals by Mika, Neeraj Shridhar (lead singer of the now defunct group Bombay Vikings), Ashish Pandit, and Hard Kaur (who seems to be on every soundtrack these days). I think this track suffers from a severe case of “Bhool Bhulaiya” syndrome wherein a set of words is repeated over and over with some catchy synth playing. Neeraj Shridhar’s vocals stand out above the others, as his voice suits Akshay Kumar really well. Unfortunately, the song really is a let down compared to the first two tracks, as it’s just not that catchy or creative. I won’t mention the lyrics, since they are pretty simple, but Mayur Puri does the best he can with what he has to work with. Still, “Team Singh” seems to enjoy it simply for the repetition of “Singh is Kinng” over and over again. Sorry guys, even though you may like it, this one only gets one pagdi up!
Well, the third track became a good one for a bit of a bathroom break, but get back really quick for the next high energy track, the raunchily titled, “Bhootni Ke” which features the return of the badshah of Bhangra, Daler Mehndi! “Team Singh” goes wild! This one’s a straightforward Bhangra track with the requisite chorus singers chanting in the back, the central soundpoint being the aggressive Dhol percussion track, and shouts of “chak de” every now and then. The title is dirty, and I am sure the naughty nature of the track will give it the “tee hee” factor that club goers will really love (at least when they are drunk). A really good track, but one that is strictly for the Bhangra ballroom crowd, and the guys go wild with glee, dancing madly like a big Punjabi mosh pit. Two pagdis up for this one!
So far, it’s easy to tell that this soundtrack has been tailor made to be a sure fire hit. You won’t find anything avante garde, but you will find music that is immensely likable. The next and final track, “Talli Hua” will bring “da” house down! Don’t let the dirty title fool you; this is one killer dance track that is tailor made for the club. From the repetition of the dirty title in a crazed hypnotic way, to the perfect vocals by Neeraj Shridhar (particularly the way he repeats, “Dhoom Tana” as a sort of vocal percussive beat), this track’s baseline just drives into your brain. Pay careful attention to the drum programming, which is more layered than the average dance song. “Team Singh” goes crazzzy as they do the whiskey sharabi Bhangra groove! Two pagdis up…way…way…up…for this track!
Thus ends the original songs on the album and begins act II: The Revenge of the Remixes. There are six remixes and they vary in quality (as most remixes on Bollywood soundtracks do). First up is, “Bas Ek King (Tiger Style Remix)”, which really simply adds a stronger percussion beat and puts rapper Hard Kaur front and center with more rapping. It’s not bad, just not that great. Next up is the remix of, “Bhootni Ke (Tiger Style Remix)”, which strangely replaces the vocals of Daler Mehndi with his brother Mika. It’s probably not such a wise decision, as Mika’s voice doesn’t carry the same tonal weight as his older brother (somehow I kept thinking of Sonu Nigam while listening to this remix). On top of that the DJ stripped the track of the strong aggressive Dhol percussion that was a highlight of the original song. What we are left with is the shell of a Bhangra song in the guise of a much weaker club track. It’s best to skip this one and listen to the original. After that we have the (drum roll please), return of 90’s Indi-Pop icon Stylebhai, who returns to take part in the “Talli Hua (Jay Dhabi Mix)” remix. Maybe, I’m wrong here, but I thought remixes should improve on the original and make it even more powerful for the dance floor, but as we saw in the previous mix, the remix turns out to be a weaker version of the original. Sorry guys, not even Stylebhai can save the track. Skip to the next and you get an eighties retro version of “Jee Karda” which is probably one of the better mixes on the album as it’s funky in a retro kind of way. After that our next stop is a lounge mix of “Teri Ore” which takes away the romance and replaces it with “club-mance” (you know…that kind of buzzed glazed alcoholic induced love that is found in dance clubs all around the world). It’s not bad, and works for the most part. Finally we end up with another mix of “Bhootni Ke” (because “Team Singh” demanded it)! Gone is the Dhol percussion, replaced with Euro dance synths and a driving drum machine beat. Daler Mehndi’s vocal track is kept for this one. I still think the original version will get you into dance frenzy more than this one.
“Singh is Kinng” is a party album, no doubt about it. It’s been carefully designed to hit the club (and music channel crowds) and will probably do really well for a few months before it drops off the charts. It’s not a classic, and it doesn’t strive to be. What Pritam and lyricist Mayur Puri have done is create a very entertaining album that fits into a very specific niche: the Bhangra-hip-hop-techno-urban dance genre. If you are into that kind of music, you’ll love this album, as it will get you moving. “Team Singh” danced their way through the album, ate pizza, had lots of whiskey and shouted a big “Balle Balle” to the heavens. Now that they’ve trashed my place, I have to ask, “Who’s going to help me clean up?” Hmmm…all of sudden, they’ve all left the house. Singh may be Kinng, but just like the soundtrack, they’re only around for a good time. I wonder if any of that whiskey is left, I’m going to need it.