Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Top Ten: Mamma Mia songs

Despite my general indifference toward the actual film, I fell in love with the soundtrack instantly. Thank god I had an iTunes gift certificate ready and waiting to be used. NOTE: This post is best read while listening to Mamma Mia. I wanted to embed the song files in the post, but I don't know how. Sorry.

Now, a note about my choices: though this list is about individual songs and is mostly in reference to their aesthetic quality as perceived by moi upon repeated listening, memories of their staging in the film still linger in my mind. I'd be lying if I said the dance numbers, visuals, etc. didn't factor into my thinking. But I think that's as it should be. For what is music anyway without elaborate dances, Meryl doing splits and shirtless men on the beach? Nothing, says I.

Now, first of all, I give an honorable mention to "SOS" for being so bad it's good. It's not even that Pierce Brosnan's singing is so bad over audio - it's not, really - it's that pained look on his face in the film each time he opens his mouth, implying that if he had to sustain a note longer than a second or two, he might die. And also, the actual song just has that wonderful 80s George Michael so-bad-its-good thing going. Bonus points for the amazing awkwardness of the obviously superior Meryl singing a duet with Pierce.

Now on to the list...

#10: "I Have a Dream"
This sweet bookending song made the cut but sits parked here at #10, by virtue of its being a little dull compared to all the tunes yet to come. I can't say I've listened to it all that many times. But it's essential to the film, and wins bonus points for the whole bookending thing, and for showing off Amanda Seyfried's surprisingly good voice. It's just very classic and soothing and worthy of a spot in the top ten (considering there are only 18 songs on the CD). So there you go.

#9: "Thank You for the Music"
I'm not sure when, or even if, this song made its appearance in the film. Maybe over the end credits? Or maybe it's just some sort of bonus track? Regardless, it's a really lovely little ditty that has nothing to do with the narrative but is immensely charming nonetheless. Alas, given that I couldn't even remember whether it was in the film, I couldn't justify I higher placement than this.

#8: "Money, Money, Money"
This plays as sort of a more disposable, more tempered, and less impressive preview of the super-fun ensemble numbers that come later, both in the film and in this list. It also feels like it might have been inserted out of some sense of misplaced obligation to have something in Mamma Mia that can pass as "important" social commentary... and following that train of thought to its natural conclusion, the song suffers badly in its inevitable comparison to the similarly titled "Money" number in Cabaret. Unlike Cabaret, this show is at its best when it's at its most breezy, fun, and silly. BUT that said, this song is actually quite fun, especially in the context of the film (enjoyable choreography, etc.). And as I said, it foreshadows the orgasmic silly-highs that come later in the film. Bonus points for that. But it's surely one of the more debatable inclusions in this list. Purely an opinion thing... plus I wanted an excuse to write about it ; )

#7: "Honey, Honey"
Honey rhymes with money! Yay. Anyway, this one earns its spot by virtue of its having officially (or at least temporarily) replaced The Devil Wears Prada's "Suddenly I See" as my preferred get-up-and-face-the-world-like-the-secretly-girly-little-gay-boy-I-am song. You know what I mean. That song you keep on your iPod and play on the bus, train, sidewalk, or whatever on your way to what is sure to be a boring day at work, to keep your spirits up. Or that you just play early in the morning to help wake you up. Coffee for those who'd rather not be addicted to caffeine. Bonus points for the way Amanda Seyfried spits out "...THING!" and "...BEAST!" She has goosebumps! And who wouldn't when singing about Dominic Cooper? Which brings me to...

#6: "Lay All Your Love On Me"
OK, you got me: the main reason this song is here (and this high) is that in the film, it features the beautiful, British, bare-chested Dominic Cooper strutting around a beach while singing it. Plus, it's actually a rather sexy song. It's like the sister song of "SOS" in terms of 80s badness, except it's actually sort of good at the same time. And it evolves into a rather elaborate dance number with lots of other hot, shirtless dancers in addition to Dominic Cooper, who by the way, gets very randy with Amanda during this song. Did I mention he's gorgeous? And British? And he sings this song? On the beach? Half naked? Cause he does. And he is. And he alone was enough to get this song almost into the top five.

Alright, now a slight pause for emphasis... because, it must be said, the disparity in quality between #6 and #5 is rather startling. The top five are all extremely fun (in some cases exceptional) songs to which I expect to listen constantly for at least the next few weeks. The cream of the crop are...

#5: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" and...
#4: "Voulez-Vous"
A double dose of dance extravaganzas! These two were extremely hard to separate, since they're so similar in general vibe and dance-club-iness. I thought of just letting them tie for 4th, but I decided "Voulez-Vous" had the edge, cause it's better integrated into the film, whereas the other was more of a separate studio thing that was never featured in the film in its entirety, as I recall. Plus, I just think "Voulez-Vous" is more exciting. And I'd never heard it before seeing the film, so it surprised me. It certainly puts most contemporary "dance music" to shame. Sounds right outta Moulin Rouge!. Rawr.

#3: "The Winner Takes It All"
Meryl's one big solo showstopper, and the only non-ensemble song in the top five. In truth, I flirted with the idea of letting it top the list, but I couldn't deny either of the two following songs their coveted spots. Ultimately, Meryl dancing around joyfully beat out Meryl belting out her heartbreak. But boy does she BELT it. This one lets Goddess Meryl bring it like she's never brought it before in the movies. Musically, I mean. My personal favorite song of hers will always be "You Don't Know Me" from Postcards, but this one gave it a run for its money. Great, great stuff. Bonus points for the way Meryl oscillates from sweet talk-singing to true belting. Did I mention BELTING? I just can't get enough of Meryl belting. It's brilliant.

#2: "Dancing Queen"
You know what else I can't get enough of Meryl doing? Dancing. She may be much better at singing than at dancing, but as I said before, there's something so magical about watching her dance with such abandon. She just continues to surprise. Bless her heart. This song did lose a few points, though, on this particular list, for being so ubiquitous beforehand. It was the song I'd always associated with ABBA (ever since Muriel's Wedding) and the only one I really new well. So there was not much new going on here, except Meryl. With that in mind, I had to give the top spot to...

#1: "Mamma Mia!"
A rather obvious choice, I know. But I really do think it's the strongest song. What I just realized is that "Mamma Mia" combines the drama queen pathos of "The Winner Takes It All" with the buoyant jubilance of "Dancing Queen" to create a "best of both worlds" musical orgasm. Meryl gets to exorcise her demons and rediscover lost love through song and dance, for us all to enjoy. Cinematic heaven. Hence its place atop this list.



Blogger Rural Juror said...

Thank You For The Music plays over the end credits, right after 'Waterloo'. I work at a movie theater so I've heard the song about 2 million times so far and I still like it a lot. Amanda Seyfried has a great voice.

10:25 PM  
Blogger elgringo said...

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) is the best Abba creation. Period. :)

2:06 AM  
Blogger Emma said...

Mamma Mia! was wonderfully sung. I also liked the (albeit not very interesting) dancing in Super Trouper.

12:30 PM  

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