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GAC Album Review: Footloose Soundtrack

Footloose Soundtrack

The 2011 soundtrack to Footloose. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Nashville.

It’s almost bred into the idea of a film soundtrack that there’s always a possibility of something fun, artistic and uniquely different around every corner. This is because most often a third party was the one picking music specifically to fit a film. Sometimes a soundtrack is like the Director’s mix tape, and other times it can be a mixture of genres and styles picked to match a film’s visual impact.

Footloose Director Craig Brewer, whose remake of the 1984 classic will hit theaters in October, has a history of making music-intensive films. Hustle & Flow (2005) focused on Memphis hip hop (winning the Oscar for Best Original Song), and Black Snake Moan (2007) was knee-deep in Mississippi blues. Brewer, originally from Virginia, told Entertainment Weekly in 2010, “I can promise Footloose fans that I will be true to the spirit of the film. But I still gotta put my own Southern grit into it and kick it into 2011.” After previously focusing on Southern hip hop and blues for his musical choices, Brewer turns his attention to country, rock and Americana to compliment Footloose.

The Footloose soundtrack features new versions of four songs used in the original film. Blake Shelton adds some serious twang to his crisp remake of the legendary title-track originally by Kenny Loggins. The excitement in Blake’s voice is contagious, sounding like he’s having a fantastic time singing, Whoa, Milo, come on-come on let’s go!, while the band rips through the song. Here’s a 30-second preview of Blake’s version:

On the power ballad “Almost Paradise,” Victoria Justice, of Nickelodeon fame, and Hunter Hayes share sweet harmonies over an acoustic/electric arrangement. Newcomer Jana Kramer, known from acting roles on shows like “Entourage,” belts out a faithful version of “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” over a funky bass line and upbeat drums. The most strikingly different take is on “Holding Out For A Hero,” originally cut as a disco/pop song. Here, 15-year-old South Carolina native Ella Mae Bowen sings well beyond her years with a touch of Tori Amos in her tender voice, accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and accordion on her slow, wishful version.

Country artists such as Zac Brown, Big & Rich and Whitney Duncan lend their talents as the collection skews heavily country. Zac Brown channels 70s Southern rock a la Allman Bros. Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on “Where The River Goes,” and Big & Rich reunite on the collection’s first single, “Fake ID,” with a little help from Gretchen Wilson. While over half the songs are provided by country artists, some of the deeper cuts have an edge and grit that fill out the album nicely.

Roots/Americana artist Lissie (named Paste magazine’s No. 1 Best New Solo Artist of 2010) displays a haunting and soulful voice on the delta blues-tinged “Little Lovin’.” Blake’s fellow coach from NBC’s The Voice, Cee Lo Green, pairs with blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd to channel the ghost of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson on a swampy version of the 1930s-era “Walkin’ Blues.” The record closes with guitarist Jason Freeman and Southern rock band A Thousand Horses emphasizing fat, bluesy riffs before Mississippi rapper David Banner adds an urban touch on “Dance The Night Away.”

Like the modernization of the film, the new Footloose soundtrack barrows from the original but takes steps to incorporate new and different sounds. Director Craig Brewer’s look at Southern country/roots and rock is fresh as he digs deep to feature both high-profile and edgy artists in the tight collection.

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