Monday, 13 November 2017

CD review: My Little Pony: The Movie Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Front cover of the MLP Movie soundtrack CD
"The Mane 6", apparently...
Whew, that title is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? Luckily, that subject line will be the only place I write it out in full. In line with my policy of avoiding movie spoilers until the New Year, I will be placing most of the review of this CD (for which I paid £10 in Tesco) under a cut. Spoilers ahoy! However, I will say up here that there is a manufacturing flaw in one track of the disc that should not have got to retail copies. Anyway...

Where there's a film, there's a soundtrack album, and My Little Pony: The Movie was hardly going to be an exception. The movie is full of songs, the franchise is known for its music and composer Daniel Ingram has a high reputation with MLP fans. Ingram also wrote the score for the film, and very good it is too, but that's not relevant to this review. I'd love to see that on a disc one day!

The CD contains 13 tracks, which I'll split into two parts. The first seven songs are from the film itself, running from "We Got This Together" to "Off to See the World". (As so often in the music industry, the official listings capitalise every word. I won't.) After these come six tracks which appear nowhere in the movie, but which could – a little charitably – be described as being in some way inspired by the film.

Back cover of the MLP Movie soundtrack CD
Applejack and Fluttershy are background seaponies. How apt
There's one notable absentee. Given the lack of a proper opening theme, the first song we hear in the movie is Rachel Platten's cover of The Go-Go's "We Got The Beat". According to Ingram, this was a last-minute substitution for a song of his own. Not a good swap in my view, as I'm not a big fan of the cover, but it's still annoying that it isn't on a soundtrack album that's already padded out by non-movie songs. See also: the absence of "This Strange World" from the EqG1 album.

The seven songs from the film are, unsurprisingly, the highlights of the album, and the first six are extremely enjoyable to listen to. Yes, Hasbro has put them up for free listening on its YouTube page, but the versions on the CD are immediately recognisable as of higher quality. The stereo is wider, the subtleties of the orchestration are more in evidence and the singing is clearer. This is the highest-quality Pony film music you're going to get.

What they do lose is context. "Open Up Your Eyes" may be the worst affected by this: as with "Welcome to the Show" from Rainbow Rocks, the song is closely tied to its position in the movie and the accompanying visuals. It's still a very good song as a standalone, but I'm not sure it's a great one. Conversely, "Time to Be Awesome" may actually be better divorced from the busy on-screen antics. "Rainbow" is what it is. It's grown on me a bit.

Inside cover of the MLP Movie soundtrack CD
A striking image that doesn't obscure the words? Yay!
And then there's "Off to See the World", from the film's closing credits. In almost every respect, it's as well reproduced as the other six songs – but there is a truly horrible jump at around 1:04 – obvious on this YouTube upload – which is as bad as a moderate scratch on a vinyl record. This flaw is not in evidence on the MP3 version of the track, so it's clearly a fault during production. Kids' film soundtrack or not, this is a serious failure of RCA's quality control.

Some of the other six, like "Thank You for Being a Friend" (Platten again), seem to have nothing whatever to do with My Little Pony. Others, like Jessie James Decker's "I'll Chase the Sky", have more obvious relevance. My favourite may be CL's upbeat "No Better Feeling", which in tone has echoes of "Make a Wish" from S4, though the most interesting track is the final one, Lukas Neilson's yearning country ballad, "Neighsayer".

The CD's cover design is inoffensive but uninspired, being based on that very first teaser image, and the colourful inlay booklet includes full lyrics for all 13 tracks – in large enough text to read, too. It does put some of the verse breaks in "Open Up Your Eyes" in some rather weird places, though. The disc itself is a vague explosion of colour: it's a remarkable missed opportunity not to have decorated it with a sonic rainboom. The outlined pony faces are nice, though.

MLP Movie soundtrack album -- the CD itself
There's also what seems to be a timberwolf. Don't ask me why
For the most part this soundtrack album is a reasonably solid product. There's only one obviously missing song, and while 40 minutes isn't much there's no reason for it to be longer. The production flaw in "Off to See the World" is entirely unacceptable and, in the end, is why I can only justify a conditional recommendation. If you like the thought of having a physical CD to hold, buy this. If you just want the music, get the cheaper, error-free MP3 album instead.

Track listing
1. We Got This Together (Mane Six + other ponies)
2. I'm the Friend You Need (Capper)
3. Time to be Awesome (Mane Six + Pirates)
4. One Small Thing (Skystar + Mane Five)
5. Open Up Your Eyes (Tempest)
6. Rainbow (Songbird)
7. Off to See the World (Lukas Graham)
8. Thank You for Being a Friend (Rachel Platten)
9. Can You Feel It [sic] (DNCE)
10. I'll Chase the Sky (Jessie James Decker)
11. No Better Feelin' (CL)
12. I'll Be Around (Palmer Reed)
13. Neighsayer (Lukas Neilson)

Yays
  • The best home versions of the songs available
  • Daniel Ingram's music does sound really good
  • Generally decent booklet design
  • A couple of nice surprises in the bonus tracks
Neighs
  • That awful error in track seven
  • Missing the first song from the film
  • Some of the bonus tracks have very little to do with Pony
★★★

5 comments:

  1. Nice comprehensive write-up. It does sound a real shame about that error on "Off to see the World". Also the absence of that opening track from the movie is a pity (applies to the MP3 album too).

    Still, despite having the MP3 album (which I don't *think* is a drop in audio quality from the CD, fingers crossed!), I'm still quite keen to pick this up. It'll go nicely next to my 'Pony Kind of Christmas' one, for sure.

    I did try Primark the other day, but no luck getting it for a fiver ;). I might actually ask for it for Christmas.

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    1. I've been reading up on audio formats, so ignore my comments about audio quality above; I didn't really know what I was talking about.

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    2. Hasbro does have form in not-quite-complete albums: "Pinkie the Party Planner" was also left out of the "Pinkie's Party Playlist" selection. At least in the movie's case it could be a licensing thing, though I have no idea.

      In spite of the error, I don't regret buying the CD. It's a nice thing to hold. There aren't many movie-related products that I wouldn't have wanted to be without (at least until the discs appear) but the Art of book is one and I think this CD is another.

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    3. Additional: that reminds me that I haven't actually reviewed the art book here! I'll get round to it in due course, but it's a safe bet that it will be a complimentary review!

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  2. There's no skipping on track seven. I listened to the YouTube upload and there was no skipping at all. How dare you lie to us like that.

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