Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hannah Montana: The Movie Soundtrack

It's a given that the legions of tween girls who have been devoted Hannah Montana fans for the past several years are going to love the soundtrack to the upcoming movie. Luckily, it's also an album that most parents can listen to with their tweens without cringing, and there are quite a few tracks that are more sophisticated than your standard kid-friendly fare.

The seven songs credited to Hannah Montana are high-energy tween pop tracks in the same vein as the two multi-platinum Hannah Montana TV soundtracks. The songs credited to Miley Cyrus are generally slower tempo songs with a slightly more mature sound. "Hoedown Throwdown" is one of the exceptions to this rule of thumb. Oddly enough, the song mixes bubblegum pop, country and a touch of hip hop, which should be a train wreck waiting to happen, but instead the result is cute, catchy and playful.

"The Climb" is part of the more mature, less tween-pop middle of the album that reflects the characters' return to Tennessee in the movie. It's Miley's strongest performance on the soundtrack by far. "The Climb" is also her most mainstream, radio-friendly single yet and further shows what the 16-year-old can do as a singer without the Hannah Montana persona. Sure enough, the track entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #6 (her highest-charting single to date) and is holding at #8 after 4 weeks on the chart.

Watch the music video for "The Climb":

"Butterfly Fly Away" is a lullaby duet between Miley and her real-life and onscreen dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. This well-known connection gives the track a wistful sweetness, even though the lyrics are specific to their characters' backstories. Billy Ray Cyrus also contributes the title track of his new country album (which was released today) to the movie soundtrack. Unfortunately, "Back to Tennessee" isn't a very strong or memorable song. It lacks the fun of his most famous single or the emotional resonance of "I Learned From You," his last duet with Miley. The "I"s at the end of many of the lines sound more like the growls of a papa bear than the end of a musical lyric.

Country music superstars Rascal Flatts recorded new, acoustic versions of a couple of their hits for the Hannah Montana movie soundtrack. "Backwards" was originally released on their Me and My Gang (2006) album and is a hilarious novelty song that plays off of the old joke question, "what happens when you play a country song backwards?" The soundtrack version has been rewritten to eliminate less "kid-friendly" references to bars and beer, and a friend named Jack has been renamed Jackson, Hannah Montana's older brother in the show and movie. References to heart attacks were also changed (with a wink and a nudge) to "achy breaky hearts."

"Bless the Broken Road," the second re-recorded Rascal Flatts' hit on the soundtrack, was originally included on their Feels Like Today (2004) album. The acoustic version of this gentle ballad soars with a simple guitar accompaniment to the harmonies for which Rascal Flatts is known.

The album also includes two tracks from Steve Rushton -- an artist from the UK who recently signed with another Disney music label, Hollywood Records -- but no family-oriented album about a girl returning to her Tennessee roots would be complete without an original song from country music ingénue Taylor Swift. While not a standout track, "Crazier" is appealing to both tween girls and their parents and is a solid addition to an album whose country/pop mix will likely introduce a whole new audience to the current generation of country music.

Walt Disney Records usually releases a two-disc special edition set for high-profile soundtracks such as this, so fans who want possible bonus materials like additional or alternate version tracks, music videos and/or behind-the-scenes video features may want to hold out until around the time of the Hannah Montana: The Movie DVD release . . . although it's doubtful that many tween fans would be able to wait that long.

Hannah Montana: The Movie opens this Friday, April 10; soundtrack is available now.

Listen to audio clips from all 18 Hannah Montana: The Movie tracks and watch the "Hoedown Throwdown" music video here.

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