Album Review: Idlewild Soundtrack

There's a fine line between brilliant and brutal. On OutKast's 2003 double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (LaFace), André 3000 ran delightfully amok, especially with the impish No. 1 single "Hey Ya!" Partner Big Boi was stellar on his half of the record, but it was Dré who stole the show. Everyone from the jazz press to Esquire's fashionistas--who named him the best-dressed man of 2004--was raving about him.

Three years later, the Idlewild soundtrack (LaFace/Zomba) makes you wish André would just shut up. He seems to have lost the ability to walk that thin line, stumbling far too often into the kitsch category. Where a take on "My Favorite Things" on The Love Below was snarkily witty, a Cab Calloway cop on disc opener "Mighty 'O'" comes across as silly and cliché. And as soon as somebody figures out the value of blues imitation "Idlewild Blue," please inform this bewildered listener. André's production hasn't lost much, although few hooks linger after the disc's finish, and his vocal appearances are grating.

Perhaps what Idlewild confirms more than anything, then, is the value of straightforward rapping in OutKast's music-instead of Dré's half-sing. The best tracks are those where Big Boi's MC skills are allowed to stand front and center. The funky Al Green '70s disco-soul of "N2U" is a welcome break following the aforementioned "Idlewild Blue." (Is there such thing as single-entendre? If so, this is it.) On "Morris Brown," his rhymes are driven by undulating marching band horns and drumline. He even manages to break through the lush production on "The Train." And it would take a stubborn ear to dislike the West-meets-South summit "Hollywood Divorce" with Lil' Wayne and Snoop Dogg.

Then again, "Mutron Angel" must be the most annoying 4:20 OutKast has ever put to wax. Idlewild will no doubt play at many a Busch Light-drenched party this semester, but this reviewer feels compelled to search elsewhere for musical satisfaction. He'll be starting with last year's Big Boi Presents: Got Purp? Vol. 2.

Stars: 2.5/5


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