I went into Idlewild hoping to hear the songs on the soundtrack to the movie of the same name in a different light. Really, I wanted to love it. So putting aside any film crit and social commentary, I doubt I’m alone when I say “WTF?” Four or five songs from a twenty-five song record were featured in the whole movie, including credits, while the rest are mediocre arrangements of 2003’s Speakerboxxx songs and brief snippets from its counterpart, The Love Below. The best I can say is that I have a newfound appreciation for “She Lives in My Lap.” So Idlewild the record can’t be excused as contextually fragmented, and Andre and Big Boi must have had some reason to create an awkward, uneven record that comes over like something they made in a week instead of something that was continually pushed back for more than a year.


    Actually, there’s more of the movie in the soundtrack than vice versa. Mostly in the second half, brief snippets of dialogue are peppered into loose tracks that only somewhat resemble songs. The first half is much stronger, and even if first listens don’t captivate, this is a record that grows on (unsurprisingly, considering how many times the duo must have tweaked it over its long delay). “Morris Brown,” Big Boi’s first single and still probably the strongest track, sounded like a mess the first time through. But eventually the swing of it gets under the skin, and it really becomes a joyous little number. “The Train” would have made a great closer to a much better album. Melancholic guitar plucking pours over the track before horns make it all right and a couple strong verses from Big Boi continue to prove his consistency.


    But like his erratic performance on The Love Below, Andre switches between the talented rapper/visionary he can be and the offbeat character/star he tries so hard to emulate. Eventually his routine grows tired, and sifting through the overwrought to get to the brilliant doesn’t seem as appealing. For every “Hollywood Divorce” there’s a “Chronomentrophobia.” “PJ and Rooster” is actually a pretty successful barn burner, but I’m not sure it’s worth having to deal with “When I Look in Your Eyes.”


    Idlewild the album really isn’t that bad, and neither was The Love Below. What makes most people frustrated about both of these records is that they seem like they were made by the kid in high school who was pretty smart but not nearly as smart as he thought he was. It’s the reputation of the group, the members’ constant ability to evolve and still succeed, that was on the line here. In that regard, Idlewild the soundtrack, like Idlewild the movie, can’t be viewed in any other way than as a major disappointment.


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