Wednesday, 22 July 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: World premier cast recording of The Bodyguard the Musical, starring Alexandra Burke

I have not seen The Bodyguard film, however, my understanding of it is that it’s fundamentally a love story between international superstar Rachel Marron (played by Whitney Houston), and her bodyguard (Kevin Costner).

It almost goes without saying that Whitney Houston is one of the strongest female vocalists in her genre, but I must preface this review with a warning to anyone who chooses to purchase this soundtrack. Do NOT compare The Bodyguard’s leading lady Alexandra Burke to Whitney Houston, or the entire soundtrack will do nothing but underwhelm and disappoint you…

I have not seen the stage show of The Bodyguard, so I was hoping I’d learn something about the story within the tracks; an instrumental pause in the bridge with a dialogue exchange to offer some sort of context for the song, for example, but no. The Bodyguard is made up of pre-existing tracks from a variety of Whitney Houston albums (with the exception of Chakka Kahn’s “I’m Every Woman” and the a-capella hymn “Jesus Loves Me”)

Now, maybe I’m being unreasonable here, but from the soundtrack of a musical, I expect a basic variety of songs including a decent selection of the following; ballads, upbeats, duets, solos, ensemble numbers, males vocals, female vocals etc. The Bodyguard soundtrack may as well have been titled “Alexandra Burke does Whitney Houston” as there is such a poor variety of songs, I was massively disappointed.

Furthermore, every ballad in this show has exactly the same format. A slow, low start with a gentle piano instrumental, a gradual build with the introduction of the horn section, and then a painful minute or two of the same belting and vocal gymnastics. Repetitive doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Rachel Marron is played by Alexandra Burke, and her lower register is flawless.

Super easy to listen to, and really enjoyable in its most delicate portions, but the wow factor comes from her high-head voice and vocal runs. Her belt is on point, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I find it quite raspy and breathy, and it makes me a little uncomfortable… I was really hoping for Burke to make this stellar role her own, and with a voice as beautiful as hers, she could have done so much, but she doesn’t. It was an admirable attempt as copying Whitney Houston, but it didn’t quite work for me.

There are two stand-out tracks on the album. The Mayan Medley of “Million Dollar Bill/I Wanna Dance With Somebody/So Emotional” was great. I welcomed this upbeat track with open arms and even had a little boogie in my seat.

Burke’s best solo is “One Moment In Time” hands down! It’s emotionally driven, and deeply heartfelt. You can hear the emotion tearing through her performance. It’s a fantastic example of what happens when an artist is less bothered about being vocally perfect and more interested in delivering a real performance. I loved it.

However, the best ballad on the album is Melissa James’s rendition of “All at Once”. Simply put, it’s outstanding.

There are however some considerably weaker tracks on this album. “I Have Nothing” concludes Act 1 and is one of my all-time favourite power ballads when sung by Whitney Houston. The track started… My heart dropped. It had been transposed to a lower key to suit Miss Burke’s voice, and in turn lost so much of its “X factor”. Oh the irony…

I must, however, praise the orchestra throughout this album as it is not particularly large, but they do deliver some great music, particularly the saxophones who inject some serious soul into the tracks.

Overall, I was disappointed with this soundtrack. I was left feeling severely underwhelmed and disappointed. I’ve heard this show is really quite good, however, the album alone has no ‘X Factor’.

Review by Harriet Langdown


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