A curious conglomeration of artists came together to form the questionable but well-meaning backtrack to Tim Burton’s latest cinematic creation. After watching Alice in Wonderland in theaters, moviegoers can now pick up a copy of Almost Alice, an album of songs inspired by the whimsical film.
Though the album brings together an admirable amount of artists with different styles from Plain White T’s to 3oh!3, the title’s operative word is “almost,” and the soundtrack falls short of being entertaining. Because each track attempts to take on some aspect of the movie, Almost Alice contains some of the usual awkwardness that comes from the forced effort to create a song for a particular film.
While the concept is interesting at first, after a few songs the message becomes repetitive as each artist tries to form lyrics that tell the same story in his own style. Since Disney is the company behind the movie, its followers were most likely the target audience for the soundtrack, and because of this, most of the songs are full of Radio Disney-friendly beats and sub-par talent.
To kick off this magical mess, pop-rocker Avril Lavigne uses her peppy voice to take on the voice of Alice, singing I found myself in Wonderland throughout her tune “Alice.” Though the song is the album’s most popular track according to iTunes — and probably highly favorable with pop-loving, Disney-following preteens — it makes Lavigne’s lack of vocal range painfully obvious.
Most of the song sounds as if Lavigne is simply yelling, which gives the tune a highly unpolished finish. And the lyrics add to this inadequacy, as Lavigne uses simple, thoughtless words to portray Alice’s characteristic confusion: Is this real? / Is this pretend? / I’ll take a stand until the end.
Although these probably were the thoughts of the fictional character as she stepped into Underland, Lavigne’s lyrics offer no insightful thoughts, and the higher her voice gets the more the listener begins to cringe.
The unfortunately catchy, well-produced song “Tea Party” by Kerli continues the tween-friendly musical trend. The song chorus is reminiscent of High School Musical, yet on closer inspection the lyrics of the song are far from high-school appropriate.
Kerli begins by welcoming the listener to the tea party, asking if they want to be her VIP. But later in the song, she sings, Just try and nibble on my biscuits and my rainbow cake, hardly words that parents wish to hear their kids repeat. Indeed, Kerli attempts to take on this scene in the movie with a modern point of view, but by making the subject matter sexual she also manages to distort the tea party’s innocent intentions.
In order to mix up the album’s radio-friendly pop feel, Almost Alice has a track entitled “Very Good Advice,” sung by The Cure’s Robert Smith. With strange rhythms and Smith’s note-shifting voice, the song leads the soundtrack in the extreme opposite direction from which it started.
The strangeness of the song seems fitting for a melancholy cloudy day. The song causes anxiety with its high-pitched background sounds and lyrics — Will I ever learn to do / The things I say — sung like a child exaggeratingly mimicking Frank Sinatra.
For The Cure fans, the song could perhaps offer a flashback, but for those unfamiliar with Smith the song seems strangely out of place in a sea of pop hooks.
A few more songs escape the happy grasp of Disney artists, and, instead of attempting to summarize the movie in its entirety, these songs manage to create tunes that include not only interesting rhythms but messages that can apply to situations beyond the film.
Franz Ferdinand’s “The Lobster Quadrille” takes you in a warm embrace with lead singer Alex Kapranos’ voice coming in as deep and soothing. He sounds like the ringmaster of a circus, describing in a confident voice the acts of the night.
As he sings, Would not / Could not / Join the dance, the eerie mood of Burton’s cult favorite The Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind. The song could be taken either from a comedic point of view or as the perfectly serious backdrop for a gothic-themed wedding.
Wolfmother’s song “Fell Down a Hole” starts out with a screaming guitar and then continues with even deeper riffs. The song recalls The White Stripes and is perfect for a lively, crowded mosh pit. The beat is wonderfully complex, and, unlike most of the other songs in the album, most of the focus is given to the guitar. The drum creates a complex beat and the cymbal constantly keeps the song going.
A welcome relief from Lavigne’s squealing, the tune seems to unfold easily to the listeners’ ears, ending with the lovely-but-rough sounding guitar.
One of the most interesting tracks on Almost Alice comes from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ cover of Jefferson Airplane’s 1960s hit “White Rabbit.”
The song originally drew heavily from Lewis Caroll’s books and focused on the altered reality emphasized in the story. The track keeps the original Spanish influence of the 1960s original, and Potters’ smooth and sultry voice successfully draws the listeners in and keeps the psychedelic mood nearly as well as did Grace Slick’s decades ago. At one point, she gives a shrill scream, followed by a husky laugh and soft piano notes round off the trippy, confusion-ridden song.
All in all, the quirkiness of the album reflects the quirkiness of the film. Although not enough to spend a whole $10 on, the album does contain some notable songs. If listeners take the time to pick through the Disney-infected or unimpressive songs found in the earlier parts of the soundtrack, they will find some tunes that can be the soundtrack to their life, not just that of the lost and confused fictional Alice.