Release Date: November 16th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- The Greatest Show [Panic! At the Disco]
- A Million Dreams [P!nk]
- A Million Dreams (Reprise) [Willow Sage Hart]
- Come Alive [Years & Years and Jess Glynne]
- The Other Side [MAX & Ty Dolla $ign]
- Never Enough [Kelly Clarkson]
- This is Me (The Reimagined Mix) [Keala Settle, Kesha & Missy Elliot]
- Rewrite the Stars [James Arthur & Anne-Marie]
- Tightrope [Sara Bareilles]
- From Now On [Zac Brown Band]
- The Greatest Show [Pentatonix] BONUS
- Come Alive [Craig David] BONUS
- This is Me [Kesha]
If you were to pick a movie that snuck up on us and bypassed all the assumed markers we had for it in terms of box office sales as well as the emotional effect it has had on moviegoers ever since its release in the cinemas, you’d have to say The Greatest Showman. And by now, in 2018, I’m sure a lot of people have seen the movie, if not all who call themselves movie-lovers and avid followers of anything on screen that moves…myself included. Even though I was a little later to the party than the rest (I saw the movie in November of this year, almost a year after it debuted in cinemas in December 2017); when I did get around to watching the movie, I could definitely tell why such a movie like this has been receiving a lot of awards and accolades over the last year. Hugh, Zac, Zendaya, Michelle and Rebecca all delivered stellar and powerful performances to create the story and life and the impact of PT Barnum, all the while presenting a musical that can be one for the history books, standing tall amongst others like The Phantom of the Opera, Grease: The Musical, Wicked: The Musical, and even movie projects like Annie and The Sound of Music.
The Greatest Showman by far is one of the most relevant movies I’ve seen in a while, and you can see my review of the movie here. We as a site also delved into the soundtrack of the movie, as much of this 100 minute film embodied 9 songs in full, each running around 4 minutes long, each. So in a movie lasting 100 minutes, around 35-40 of them was singing, and thus, to have a good soundtrack would be paramount to make the movie equally as moving and impactful. And so, the soundtrack is just that- impactful, emotive, encouraging, and even at some moments spiritual, as these 9 (11 on the original soundtrack, if you include reprises from ‘A Million Dreams’ and ‘Never Enough’) songs tug at the heart of the listener. They are great songs individually and I’m sure are impactful just the same, even if you haven’t watched the movie. But: my advice is- watch the movie then hear the music. But, as I’ve said, these songs are impactful and encouraging that even if you bypass watching the movie and just listen to the soundtrack- both the original version and this reimagined 13 track version. With a myriad of artists like Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Sara Bareilles, Pentatonix, Panic at the Disco, James Arthur, Anne-Marie and Jess Glynne (to name a few) contributing to this compilation project, this is a must-have if you enjoy motivational inspirational pop, soundtrack music, musicals, anthems, or just music in general!
So by now in this review, you’ve probably seen the reviews of The Greatest Showman, the soundtrack as well as the cover album by Peter Hollens, here on this website, and so, for me to go terribly in depth on this review as well can seem a little redundant. All in all, let’s just say that some reimagined songs work better than others. Standing at 13 songs (12 if you don’t include the reprise of ‘A Million Dreams’ that stands at a mere 49 seconds), the album starts off with rock outfit Panic at the Disco offering up their own take of ‘The Greatest Show’. As I’ve only heard the band once (this song!), I was impressed at how they undertook the rearrangement, delivering what I reckon is something that Christian rock band FF5 (formally Family Force 5) would be proud of. The song itself was a tad too short, with Panic! omitting the bridge (it’s everything you ever want, it’s everything you ever need, and it’s here right in front of you, this is where you wanna be) for whatever reason, nevertheless, the atmosphere and the musical undertone of big percussions and synths makes this song and arrangement a perfect start to the album. For the message- it’s simple, that there’s a show that is going on, much bigger than the individual stories we can see for ourselves. That our greatest satisfaction and fulfilment can come when we abandon our own little stories and enter into a bigger grander story that as far bigger reach and impact than we can ever do or even accomplish on our own.
The message of the song sound familiar? Did I just describe the Christian life, in very subtle and vague terms? Maybe. What I have figured out is that much of this album, be it intentional or not, has very underlying Christian allegories. Whether it was initially intended or not, this is the final product- and ‘The Greatest Show’ (also covered by Aussie CCM band for KING AND COUNTRY) is one such song where it’s message of abandoning oneself and the plans we have, and realising that there’s a bigger ‘show’ at stake, is something we all ought to understand and realise, sooner or later. Pentatonix, the acapella group famous for creating various Christmas/holiday albums, also offer up another rendition to ‘The Greatest Show’, this time including the bridge. But versions are unique and different- Panic!’s is rock, and Pentatonix’s is…well, acapella, and thus, different versions can be great for anyone who appreciates a variety of different genres, or would love to see a song in a different genre to see how it is rearranged. Nevertheless, the song itself is great message-wise, and these two versions of the songs are equally as entertaining as they are inspirational and uplifting. Kudos to Pentatonix and Panic! At the Disco for delivering some of the highlights on The Greatest Showman: Reimagined.
Throughout the rest of the album, we see various different interpretations of the songs that have made the movie famous throughout most, if not all, of 2018 thus far. Pop veteran PINK (originally born as Alecia Moore) lends her vocals to ‘A Million Dreams’, a song originally sung by Hugh Jackman’s PT Barnum when he is longing for something more than just a dead-end desk job, when he’s dreaming about things that are far beyond what people at that time period thought was even possible. The song itself means a lot in light of the context in which the song was even sung, but even more so, the song means a lot, period. Dreaming can often be attached and surmising with having our heads in the clouds and not grounded in reality. That may be the case, but often dreaming is wanting more for reality than what it is right now, wanting and hoping, even at times praying for a better today and tomorrow. To dream is to be at odds with the current situation now…and that’s ok. To dream and to hope, to aspire, and have goals, is a good thing. Yet while this song encourages us to chase all our dreams with fervent passion and reckless abandon, we must remember, that dreams and aspiring after them ought not to come at a cost- the humanity and the empathy that can sometimes be lost when we’re climbing the social and career ladder to the top. PINK does a great job in conveying the vulnerability in the lyrics of the song, and her daughter Willow Sage Heart is a nice and emotive addition as she sings the reprise (that was originally sung by the girl actresses who portrayed PT Barnum’s children). For me, this song by far is one of my favourites on this reimagined album, and is a well deserved addition for radio play across the country and the world at the moment!
Another song to be given the 2-song-rendition treatment (aside from ‘The Greatest Show’), ‘Come Alive’ is perhaps one of the most underrated (and maybe even underplayed) songs on the album. Sure there are the songs that are popular like ‘This is Me’, ‘Rewrite the Stars’ and ‘Never Enough’, but a song like ‘Come Alive’ can seem like a song that can slip under the radar, and no one would even notice. And maybe that is correct. For me personally, when the movie was over, ‘Come Alive’ was the song that I remembered the least, not because the song wasn’t good, far from that. But rather, the song itself wasn’t really that much enhancing the storyline in the movie in any way, and that was probably why I myself couldn’t really remember it when the movie finished. Nevertheless, the song itself is good, with the message being that of us coming alive and awakening from our everyday mundane life, understanding full well that to hide ourselves and be afraid about what the world could think of us and what we stand for and believe is just what I believe the devil wants and sometimes gets. ‘Come Alive’ is much more spiritual than we all think, and the lyrics prove that to be the case. We are all meant to shine our lights and to come alive as we present what is unique about us to the world, and both renditions give us unique renditions of an already powerful melody. British sensation Years and Years team up with arguably one of Britain’s (and in fact the world’s) most relevant and underrated artists of today- Jess Glynne (think of songs like ‘Rather Be’, ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’, ‘These Days’), to create an 1980s dance-vibe atmosphere, while Craig David (who once beared a resemblance to Aussie singer-songwriter Guy Sebastian) stamps his own 2000s pop blueprint onto the song. Each rearrangement is unique, reminding us all that arrangements and styles can’t take away from the emotive and important lyrics that many of these songs on the album possess.
‘This is Me’ is the other remaining song that is given the 2-cover treatment, the first is just a traditional cover of the song by pop artist Kesha (of ‘Praying’ fame), and sticks fairly close to the original. Though Kesha’s voice and powerful artistry suits the song very well, I actually preferred the original version- Keala Settle’s, a little more. Nevertheless, the other ‘reimagined’ version, this time featuring Keala, Kesha and rapper Missy Elliot, is the one that took me by surprise, in a good way. While at times, the spoken word/rap sections by Missy may seem a little out of place, all in all, Missy’s introduction and verse-and-rhyme offerings enhance the song quite a bit, as this song of empowerment and standing out, takes on a whole new level. ‘This is Me (Reimagined Remix)’ is a song that you can either love or dislike (hate is a strong word…though you can hate it too), and for me, this collision between three accomplished artists have created a song that I reckon will continue to touch and impact millions more people in the upcoming weeks and months ahead!
Technically, ‘Never Enough’ is perhaps the best song on the original soundtrack album (very ironic because that was the only song that wasn’t sung by any cast member of the movie- Rebecca Ferguson, who played Jenny Lind, who’s character sings the song on the movie- doesn’t sing on the track, instead it’s X Factor finalist Loren Allred), so for anyone, to sing a cover that is just as admirable and even powerful, as the original version, is a feat in and of itself. And that is exactly what Kelly Clarkson did. Everyone knows Kelly and her music, some would follow her more than others, and so for her to sing on ‘Never Enough’…it could’ve gone very much pear-shaped, but in bsong, and one that is still as emotive and at times morbid than ever, because in essence, the song is about pining after someone else who is actually, with someone else. ‘Rewrite the Stars’ brings together two ‘in’ British stars James Arthur and Anne-Marie to deliver what I reckon is one of the most radio friendly new arrangements of the original- in fact, this new version has a fair amount of autotune that, because of the added musical effects, will do much better on radio than the original because…radio companies and executives love autotune right? On a serious note, both James and Anne-Marie undertake the song with much grace and fervent passion, but at times, I felt that James’s passion was a little lacking (and thus covered nicely by the autotune).
Sara Bareilles, famous for ‘Brave’, changed the tempo of ‘Tightrope’ to create literally, her own version of the song- it sounds very much different from what I’m sure everyone was expecting. Very subdued and often very acoustic, Sara’s vocals and their pristine quality have tried, yet for me have failed somewhat, to save this rendition- personally, ‘Tightrope’ falls way short of the original in every way, no matter how much effort and emotion Sara has invested into the song. ‘The Other Side’ however turned out to be a great surprise- I do not know MAX at all, and Ty Dollar $ign is a rapper, so I questioned the cohesiveness of the track from the word go. But, alas, my assumptions were blown out of the water, as this rendition is very well put together, considering. The album also unveils to us ‘From Now On’, arguably the albums most encouraging and vulnerable song on the album (and thus, a great song to be placed near to the end of the movie). Country band Zac Brown Band turn this almost 6-minute inspirational melody into, guess what? Yes, a country song, through and through. Though the transformation into a song that is not originally the genre in which it was sung on the original soundtrack, is kind of a mixed bag (one cannot deny Zac’s passion, but standing at 4:20 instead of 5:59 (the original recording), the song does feel a little rushed), ‘From Now On’, as a song, is great, but the rendition…not as exciting and imaginative as I would’ve hoped!
So there you have it…The Greatest Showman: Reimagined. Can you enjoy and appreciate the songs without watching the movie? Yes, of course. But, do yourselves a favour and listen to the original soundtrack first before listening to these versions. It is always good to hear interpretations from the pop artists of today, but as I’m sure we are all aware, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats original soundtracks. The raw passion that is present in original soundtracks can often be lost when reimagining songs that have a great following. Nevertheless, these artists that are jam-packed into these 13 songs have tried their heart out at a compilation that I’m sure will continue impacting listeners as the months and even years go by. The Greatest Showman– both the movie and the soundtrack, have caught us all by surprise in a good way. Here’s hoping more lives are changed by these songs that are definitely God-breathed, whether people know it or not! Well done Atlantic Records for this initiative, here’s hoping the next musical (i.e.: A Star is Born) can be as impactful as The Greatest Showman. Now…who is going to see Hugh Jackman perform on a world tour in 2019? Let us know in the comments!
3 songs to listen to: Come Alive, This is Me, A Million Dreams
RIYL: Peter Hollens, Alex G., Pentatonix, Ed Sheeran, Cimorelli