For a film that glorifies music as an art form, Begin Again surely delivers a soundtrack that fulfils the film’s premise. The hotly anticipated feature, set to be released this month, includes a star-studded cast with the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld and Adam Levine, in his acting debut. The soundtrack features many of the actors showcasing their musical capabilities, with a majority of the 16-track album performed by Levine, Knightley, Cee Lo Green and Cessyl Orchestra.
What’s fantastic about this soundtrack is that it uses live instruments; there’s barely any manufactured studio beats, which are heard so often in pop music nowadays. The album’s lead single Lost Stars, performed by Levine, is a great example of this. Levine’s vocal technique is on point here: his falsetto is executed perfectly and gives the track that extra special something. What’s beautiful and chilling about this track is that it communicates the message of the film: who are we, really? Or as Levine puts it, “just a speck of dust within the galaxy”? Levine’s vocal talent also shines through in No One Else Like You and A Higher Place, both groovy tracks that are reminiscent of Maroon 5’s earlier hits.
Cee Lo Green also contributes to this album, bringing soul and swing with his track Horny. From the get go, the electric guitar and shakers give off a cheeky, fun vibe. Green sings with a deep soulful voice that is never overshadowed by the instrumental. Though the instrumental is definitely a notable point of creativity here; the track blends the sounds of guitars, brass, keyboard, studio beats and even a kazoo. A track highlight would also be Green’s Women of the World (Go On Strike), where he sings about women as a respected, united power, over a groovy backing track.
Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that the Begin Again soundtrack features Keira Knightley in her singing debut. Her voice is just like how you would expect it to be; sweet, tentative and somewhat childish. In Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home, Knightley’s voice is perfectly accompanied with soft drums and a gentle strumming of the guitar. The nature of her voice suits slow, chilled out songs which don’t require fancy vocal technique. Her take of Lost Stars is not like Levine’s upbeat number; rather, her version is breathy and more romantic. She sings with a hint of her British accent, accompanied by sweeping strings that sends the listener into a dream-like haze. She can’t falsetto like Levine can, and it’s disappointing when we reach that part. Levine’s falsetto gives the song a bit more of a kick, whereas Knightley’s rendition stays bland in its mediocre vocal range. She doesn’t have a big voice; to be frank, her vocal range is very limited and her voice is a little shaky at times. But the beauty of it is that it’s genuine. This definitely shines through in Like a Fool, an angry and sarcastic ode to her onscreen ex-boyfriend, played by Levine. When Knightley sings she is able to capture the hurt and anger that her character feels, especially when she breaks midway from the melody and sarcastically mutters, “I have loved you…like a fool.” A Step You Can’t Take Back follows a similar structure, where Knightley again sings about her ex with a small but powerful voice, quivering with rage.
Overall, it’s a great soundtrack that depicts the mood and premise of the film completely. Most of the songs on the album are easy listening, chiller tracks. The input of Cessyl Orchestra is a welcome change, as they bring a fuse of alternative rock with their electric guitar solos and dreamy harmonies. The soundtrack shows variety without straying too far from the heart of the films’ message. Each song is performed with soul, proving that music isn’t just about feeding a market; but really, it’s an art form that can truly express one’s emotions.