If you listen to the songs of Jab Tak, you realize that ARR had this sense of occasion front and center. His songs are lovingly crafted and are full of the longing you expect in a Yash Raj movie. His melodies are tight, he doesn't afford most songs his trademark linger. He reigns in the surprises. He plays it safe. It all sounds appropriately good. On Jab Tak, ARR makes himself sounds like an up and coming director about to hit his peak.
(Click the link on any song name and you'll get to YouTube for a listen)
Jab Tak opens with Challa, the only song that sounds like it was composed by ARR, Rabbi Shergill warbles about living in a daze. Its a straightforward folk rock arrangement - there is a nifty guitar lick, the drums are much like a 2 step percussion. By keeping its structure loose and its drums jittery, Challa pulls off the considerable feat of making you feel like you are on a journey through a place that feels disorienting.
The sweeping Saans begins with a pulsing cello, rising violins and a flute. ARR is going for the soulful jugular here. Because the song is most closely reminiscent of Yash Raj sentimentalia, this is the most maligned song on the CD. I have a different view. Saans is a gorgeous composition. Mohit Chauhan's worn-denim voice is a really good compliment to Shreya Ghoshal's crystal singing. This type of song is so overdone in Bollywood, that its just tough to make it sound fresh. Why not, then, make it an all out YRF tribute? ARR pulls out a combo with the bass drum and timpani (a combination that Bollywood music fans refer to as 'dafli') and throws in a solemn humming chorus. Still, he has Shreya do an interesting falsetto that comes in an unexpected place.
On the most "itemy" of songs, Ishq Shava, ARR allows a Middle Eastern beat to build up frenetically before he launches into the melody. ARR takes a chance here and gives SRK's vocals to Raghav Mathur who is a Canadian-Indian R&B singer. It turns out to be a stroke of genius because Raghav is a revelation. Shilpa Rao sings Katrina's piece in low smoky notes and sounds drop dead sexy. Catchy as all hell, Ishq Shava is still a by-the-numbers tune. Momentarily when ARR allows the percussion to cut loose in the end, you feel that he could have omitted the mandolins and let the vocals drive the tune to create something truly unique. (Good example: on One More Night, Maroon 5 drove the melody with vocals over a reggae and two-step beat and made it sound fresh)
Ok, we won't talk about all the songs here - you can explore them on your own and form your own opinions. One song worth discussing is Jiya Re, which is a funk jam. ARR, always one to encourage new talent, gives this to Neeti Mohan to sing. I really like Neeti - she's an exciting talent. (She recently did vocal duties on Ishqwala Love from Student of the Year, a song that allowed her to really shine). It breaks my heart to say that she wasn't a great choice for Jiya Re. You need some serious lungs to pull off something like this. Neeti has a ringing voice - much like Shreya Ghoshal's when she was starting her career. Maybe ARR felt that Neeti's voice just suits Anushka Sharma. (Yep, but so does Shilpa Rao's - remember this song?)
Sometimes you can do vocal casting against type and pull it off. On the CD for Heroine, Salim-Sulaiman surprisingly picked Shreya to sing the rousing Khwahishein which was structured as a rock opera. But so gilded is Shreya's voice that she made it sound terrific. Jiya Re has neither Shreya nor Shilpa. So it becomes the song that could.
Just like Jab Tak Hai Jaan is the CD that could.