Before we talk about the music, a note about how a review will be structured on the Drift. Bollywood music gets more sophisticated with each passing CD (well, a lot of it). It's passé to review songs - its more important to see if the composer has succeeded in developing a mood, a theme. I'll point out if there is one, how it's been implemented, use some songs as an example. There'll be segues to discuss vocal performances just because I like to do that. I'll try my best keep it short. Then I'll bail. Hope that works.
So what is A. R. Rahman trying to do on the Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta starrer Blue? He creates an immersive, seductive sound. He combines elements of ambient, nu jazz and techno and overlays them over mid-tempo and DNB percussion. He uses primarily Western arrangements.
It allows him to create a sexy vibe with enough pace to indicate a propulsive movie. It's like watching eye candy, but with hooded eyes. It works quite well in my opinion (although if you dislike the songs, I won't be surprised).
Let's get that high profile Kylie Minogue song Chiggy Wiggy out of the way first, shall we? Rahman creates a standard issue low slung dance monster. Kylie's voice is a bit too thin to really kick the song into gear, but thankfully Sonu Niigaam is around to rescue the song with a bhangra bit. But in keeping with the vibe of the score, Rahman keys even this down - his choice of a softer voice like Sonu being particularly indicative of his intentions.
Aaj Dil Gustakh Hai is along the same lines, but this time Rahman gambles with Shreya Ghoshal - who surprised me by delivering in spades. Aaj Dil is a rather traipsy song in Nu Jazz clothing. Periodically Rahman shows the ability that makes him special - instead of constructing tight tunes (like he did on his overrated - by his standards - Slumdog Millionnaire soundtrack) he allows the music breathe and develop. In doing so, he creates hugely interesting changes of pace and diversions. The song feels mature and the melody feels lasting.
Where Rahman falls short is in infusing his songs with a sense of danger. It's not like he doesn't try. He uses several off-kilter chants in his songs - I suppose they are meant to provide a sense of disjointedness that might be interpreted as peril. On the Blue Theme (Blaaze, Sonu Kakkar, Neha Kakkar, Jaspreet Singh, Dilshad, Raqeeb Alam) he attempts this trick accompanied by a grinding guitar. It falls short - which isn't to say that the song still isn't fun to listen to.
In the simmering Soul of Rehnuma (Sonu Niigam, Shreya Ghoshal) he comes close to pulling a dangerous vibe off. He adds a thick guitar riff over sumptuous string arrangements. Because Rahman's ideas are bold and result in catchy music, you more than forgive this shortcoming.
Something interesting happens on the bubbly Yaar Mila Tha. Rahman starts the song with R&B stylings. He then brings in Udit Narayan and Madhushree, instructs them to sing in Hindustani notes and then surrounds them with 80s Bollywood musical arrangements. Later he tweaks the vocals - he has Udit sing a near-rap and Madhushree coo around a bit. It elevates what could have been a tiresome track.
There are two more tracks on this CD: Fikrana (Vijay Prakash, Shreya Ghoshal) and Bhoola Tujhe (Rashid Ali). You should explore those using the links I've provided.
You can listen to the Blue soundtrack on Hummaa.com