Leaping lizards, we got Annie! The little orphan girl has been close to the heart of the world for 90 years, originating from a comic strip series called Little Orphan Annie authored by Harold Gray; in 1977 it became a Tony award winning musical. In 1982, the theatre hit was honoured with its first film adaptation and soon the whole world was singing about Tomorrow, its second adaptation was the 1999 made-for-television collaboration between Disney and Columbia. We have seen many classics receive a remake over the last few years, and whether it’s for better or for worse will always be up for debate; Annie is receiving a reboot this year, it’s the first adaptation to be set in the time of release (2014). With an adaptation of a musical film comes the important piece: the soundtrack. Production duties have been fulfilled by one of today’s pop music producing masters Greg Kurstin; we can expect some recordings that stay true to the original songs, but no surprises should be had if some have a modernised reboot. Annie will be portrayed by 11 year old, who became the youngest nominee for Best Actress at the 2012 Academy Awards.
Overture sets the scene with its short and sweet energy bursts, giving us a little taste of what’s yet to come. Maybe has become a collaboration between the orphans rather than having the sole focus on Annie, Wallis leads the pack and each take it in turns to chime out a line; the 2014 version follows closely to the original with a huge spoonful of modern contemporary, but retains the innocence intended. Besides a slight lyric change (instead of ‘No one cares for you a smidge when you’re in an orphange’, it’s now ‘when you’re a foster kid’), It’s The Hard-Knock Life has evolved from a simple child-like chant rant to a rather thumpy and tight-knit web of production, the cast’s vocals don’t manage to re-imagine the tired and fed up emotions we could hear in other adaptations of the track, it sounds too ‘perfect’. Hands down the musical favourite, it would be riotous if the iconic Tomorrow was left out, this version enables the track to soar to new dynamical heights, its climax was uplifting and loud.
The one major change that will either be loved or hated is the 2014 version of I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, it has been thoroughly rewritten as well as extremely modernised through its heavier beat and mainstream pop sound; You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile follows the same route and is covered by Sia, this new adaptation of the song however really does give you the urge to smile as the singer’s youthful voice belts out the hook with joy. Sia wrote three songs with Kurstin for the soundtrack, the second being a collaboration with Beck on Moonquake Lake; the track has a tropical vibe to it, it has a bit of a quaky start, the singing pair do compliment each other vocally on the track, although Sia’s ‘na na’s’ between each line of the verses gets a tad old. Cameron Diaz has taken on the role of the mean Miss Hannigan, which means she had to handle the drunken rant Little Girls; the only thing is that the new version doesn’t portray a drunken Hannigan, rather it’s very sharply sung in the verses and has a poppy chorus, the orphans can be heard singing ‘ha ha’ in the background which grinds your gears a little.
Jamie Foxx plays Will Stacks, the new Oliver Warbucks, and duets with Wallis in The City’s Yours which is a soul meets RnB number, it doesn’t do much dynamically for the soundtrack but it’s a catchy track nonetheless. Opportunity is another Sia/Kurstin write up, it’s another intimate moment with Wallis and it’s clear her vocal strictly follows Sia’s lead right down to the vocal technique, not a bad ballad though so that’s a plus. The modernised edition of Easy Street is a little jazzier, which livens the track up a bit, Bobby Cannavale has the voice for it and Cameron Diaz doesn’t make us cringe in this one. Diaz, Foxx and Wallis team up for another original track called Who Am I?, it’s on the emotional side and is delivered wonderfully; the 2014 version of I Don’t Need Anything But You closes the storyline on an upbeat and energetic note, it isn’t a medley like the original versions. Tomorrow returns as the movie’s reprise, as predicted, and sees the cast unite for the final hurrah; finally, we are left with Sia’s original version of Opportunity, the perfect way to end the soundtrack.
Annie will always hold a special place in the hearts of the world, keeping in mind that the 2014 revamp isn’t the first and will most likely not be the last adaptation of the popular musical. Kudos to director Will Gluck and producer Jay-Z for ensuring the soundtrack consists of many of the original numbers, despite the obvious changes to lyrics and styles of a small handful of the tunes, and for also calling in guns like Greg Kurstin and Sia to oversee production and songwriting sessions; however, perhaps the soundtrack has been modernised way too far, even if the movie is based in 2014. Tracks like It’s The Hard-Knock Life, Little Girls and even Tomorrow left a mark in previous movies and the broadway production, for this soundtrack they don’t sound as magical; and yes, the point that Cameron Diaz isn’t known for her singing voice has been taken to account. It was great that original tracks were written for the film, they were catchy and they seem to fit in well. Besides the reconstruction and deconstruction of selected tracks (normal procedure for an adaptation of any kind), the soundtrack isn’t a bad offering and hopefully the movie lives up to good expectations.