In recent years, some of music’s biggest and brightest stars have gifted us with excellent soundtracks and albums inspired by movies. Pharrell (“Happy,” Despicable Me 2), Justin Timberlake (“CAN’T STOP THE FEELING,” Trolls), Post Malone & Swae Lee (“Sunflower,” Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse), and Idina Menzel (“Let It Go,” Frozen) all scored some of the biggest hits of the decade, and of their careers, with soundtrack songs. Kendrick Lamar’s Afrofuturistic Black Panther soundtrack spawned multiple hits including the Oscar-nominated “All the Stars.” Lady Gaga revived her mainstream musical career with the instant-classic A Star Is Born Soundtrack which featured such hits as the Oscar-winning Shallow. In fact, A Star Is Born is tipped to receive a slew of nominations for the 2020 Grammys, including Album of the Year. Finally, Beyoncé continued to push the boundaries of her artistry and creativity with the sublime The Lion King: The Gift. The afrobeats and hip-hop record tells the story of The Lion King through the lens of modern artists and musicians. Arguments can even be made that albums like When I Get Home (Solange), Dirty Computer (Janelle Monáe), Lemonade (Beyoncé) are all soundtracks for their accompanying films. This is all to say that Ariana did not executive produce this Charlie’s Angels soundtrack in a vacuum. There is a rich history of pop stars excelling with soundtrack curation. As the “7 rings” singer closes out the 2010s at the top of her game, the expectations were high for this soundtrack.
Unfortunately, Ariana comes off as very uninspired on this soundtrack. Charlie’s Angels is bland and dry, and much of the album lacks the punch that is necessary for an action film. The Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey-featuring lead single, “Don’t Call Me Angel,” was promising. “Angel” brought together three distinct and powerful female voices on a track that nodded to the premise and past controversies of the film while still retaining the sensuality that ties it all together. The all-female album features an impressive roster (Chaka Khan, Nicki Minaj, Normani, Anitta, Victoria Monét, Kash Doll, Kim Petras, Stefflon Don, Danielle Bradbery, and more) that somehow still feels incredibly lackluster. “Bad To You,” the highly-anticipated collaboration between Normani, Nicki, and Ariana, is perhaps the most disappointing moment of the soundtrack. “Bad To You” sounds like a sloppy mix between “Bed” and “Side to Side” with a bit more bite. Normani usually shines on collaborations like these (“Love Lies“; “Dancing with a Stranger“), but the understated nature of the track prevents her from making an impression like she normally does. Ariana sounds fine on this track (her opening run is particularly impressive), but it sounds like she’s holding back and the stylistic vocal choices she’s made for the past year are quickly getting tired. Finally, Nicki delivers a pretty awful verse over pretty cool beat switch. “Bad to You” had potential, but, like most of the songs on this soundtrack, it just sounds like a leftovers from the recording sessions of another album.
The most troubling thing about this soundtrack is that nearly all of the songs that do not feature Ariana Grande are forgettable. An executive producer should be able to compile the most interesting and arresting songs to tell the story of the film. “How It’s Done” (Kash Doll, Stefflon Don, ALMA, and Kim Petras) is a noisy and obnoxious disaster that sounds like someone threw a song from the Bratz soundtrack into a blender. Moreover, neither “Eyes Off You” (M-22, Arlissa, and Kiana Ledé) nor “Pantera” (Anitta) are particularly memorable. This is especially frustrating because Kiana Ledé and Anitta consistently deliver quality music. The discrepancy between the quality of each of these artists’ own music and what they delivered for the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack is stark. This record clearly wasn’t a priority for anyone involved; it feels very rushed and haphazard. Curating and executive producing a soundtrack is something that require a lot of care and attention. Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé essentially put their own musical careers on hold to properly dedicate their time to creating Black Panther: The Album and The Lion King: The Gift. Ariana definitely has the ability to produce an amazing soundtrack, but she needs to give it all of her attention.
Nevertheless, there are some bright spots on this album. Danielle Bradbery’s “Blackout” is a showstopping ballad that is complete with an impassioned vocal performance and cinematic production. “Nobody,” a duet between the legendary Chaka Khan and Ariana is a funky and soulful R&B-influenced track on which the two show off their incredible vocal ranges and add a bit of diversity to the trap-heavy sound of the album. Ariana also reunites with longtime friend and collaborator Victoria Monét on “Got Her Own.” Ariana fans have heard snippets of this song years ago, and Ariana and Victoria performed the track on the Sweetener World Tour before it was confirmed to be on the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. In all honesty, this track could have been placed right around “7 rings” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” on thank u, next. The two stars sing-rap about their success and riches over a sparkly electro-trap beat. It’s nothing remarkable, but it is enjoyable unlike quite a few of these songs. Lastly, “How I Look On You,” another solo song from Ariana, could have fit on thank u, next right around “in my head.” On (another) trap-influenced bass-driven beat, Ariana slyly takes down an ex-lover and questions his motives. Lyrically, this is easily one of the stronger track on the album; the audience is finally granted something more than cliché female empowerment tropes and sexy one-liners.
Charlie’s Angels doesn’t really tell any story at all. It’s an aimless collection of songs rejected from other albums that blend into one tiresome and disappointing record. There was a lot of potential wasted on this soundtrack, but if the previews of the Charlie’s Angels remake are anything to go by, maybe the cheapness of this soundtrack will match that of the movie.
Key Tracks: “Blackout”; “Nobody”; “How I Look On You”; “Got Her Own”