From one end of the internet to the other, review upon review of this collection of Les Miserables songs is cluttered with well-informed opinion. Passionate fans of Schonberg's musical have debated, with fervour, whether or not the omission of songs such as 'Do You Hear The People Sing' has rendered the soundtrack lbum a no-go area, or a forgivable oversight. The well-informed fans, they are cooing over Anne Hathaway. They are open minded about Russell Crowe, though it irks them that other actors could have performed the songs so much better. Many of the reviewers, from one end of the internet to the other, have even performed in this world-famous musical themselves, so they know it inside out, they understand the physical and emotional demands on an actor when it comes to performing these much-loved numbers.
Here at Contactmusic.com, we're doing things a little differently; you can get all the well-informed opinions you like from elsewhere. Our reviewer, it seems, has been holding the fort in some kind of cultural no-man's land for the last few decades and is approaching the Les Miserables soundtrack as a complete 'Les Mis' virgin. Above all else, they are hoping that they will be able to glean all that they need to know about Les Miserables from listening to the soundtrack, so that they can speak confidently about the Oscar-winning movie, come awards day, without actually having to go to the movie theatre.
So, Les Miserables virgin, what have you learned from listening to the soundtrack CD? Do you have a grasp on the basics of the plot, at least?
Frankly, no. I am aware that someone dies, partly because the music got VERY emotional and partly because I had already assumed that that was why they were all so miserable in the first place. Someone steals some silver at some point, there's a confrontation (I know this because there's a song called 'The Confrontation' - handy!) and there's a hearty amount of disagreement going on. You probably could just about follow the story, from the songs, but it's all too easy to get a little bit emotionally caught up in all of the warbling they do. It's no audiobook, I'll tell you that for nothing. It sounds very much like I would expect a hammy musical to sound, but sung by famous people from Hollywood, some of whom are talented vocalists.
OK, well, how about the whole Adam Lambert debate - are these actors worthy of the roles? Can they sing? Was Adam Lambert right when he said "there were times when the vocals weren't able to convey the power, beauty and grace that the score ALSO calls for"?
Excuse me. sorry, I'm still chuckling. No, in all seriousness, there are some fine performances in here. Anne Hathaway is quite, quite deserving not only of all the praise that's been heaped upon her, but in fact, once I realised it wasn't Susan Boyle singing it, I really got quite emotionally involved in it and almost started crying, as I understand many people have done in the movie theatres when she appears briefly, but powerfully, to an Oscar-nomination-worthy standard.
So you understand what's happening in that part of the musical then?
No, sorry, not a clue.
What about Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, then? How are their performances?
Hugh Jackman has a nice line in impassioned warbling, he has excellent vocal control and he delivers the lines with verve. When he sings 'I might have known the b*tch could bite,' I even thought 'hey, maybe I could get into this after all!' As for Russell Crowe, I'm sorry, but he sounds like a reluctant last-minute stand-in at a kids' school musical. Perhaps he's supposed to sound disinterested and confused, like he's trying to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible, who knows?
Can you envision anyone buying this soundtrack, for the music alone? Without actually being a fan of the movie, or the big-name Hollywood actors in it?
Is that a serious question? Are you trying to trick me? No, don't be daft. It's an unutterably bewildering experience. It's like being in a room full of people all screaming at you that something is terribly wrong, but you don't know what it is, so you can't help them. I was hoping that I would walk away from this soundtrack-listening session feeling compelled to watch the movie. Frankly, my nerves are shattered; there are a lot of very emotional people involved in the making of the soundtrack and some of them have a wonderful set of lungs and a decent vibrato but I'm not sure that I have the nerve to sit through all the drama again. It has made me want to buy Susan Boyle's new album, though.