Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Album Review - Music is NOT Magic: Truly Outrageous - A Tribute to Starlight Records

Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I can't remember the last time that I gave anything an outright negative review.  This is a first for me and as I write this I am truly disappointed in myself for having to stoop this low.  We are living in a rebooting society; all of our childhood is being resurrected in live action, comic, and cartoon, and given a modern twist.  This is a good thing or bad thing, depending on the person that you ask.  When I first heard of the Jem and the Holograms live action movie I was one of the positive people.  Maybe positive isn't the word.  Maybe the words to use were "screaming," "dancing," "squealing," "giggling..."  you get the idea.

The trailer for the movie has left a bad taste in the mouth of many fans, but personally I am withholding judgement until the movie comes out in October.  If the speaking and singing voices for the original Jem (Samantha Newark and Britta Phillips,) signed off on this project and did cameos in the movie, that is good enough for me.  This the very reason that I jumped for hopeful joy when the album "Truly Outrageous:  A Jem Tribute" came out for pre-order.  The album was full of song titles from the show.  Holograms, Misfits, Stingers...you name it.  The songs were redone in modern pop/synth style by various current singers.  I had not heard of the singers personally (My ipod is a mix of things like Metallica, Linkin Park, Prince, Newsboys, Frank Sinatra, Three Days Grace, Johnathan Thulin, Manafest, etc.,) but it was a Jem Tribute album!  I was willing to give it a shot!

Then it came out.  Then the reviews came out.  And the sight of all the one star reviews made my sphincter clench.

As I read them I saw a recurring theme.  Everyone was complaining that the songs were not true to the originals.  Remixes of the original songs made perfect sense to me and quite frankly were what I expected and what everyone expected to see.  Much like the movie, it would be a new take on the original material.  This made perfect sense and I was looking forward to rolling with it.  Why would their be this many one star "suck points" for such a hopeful beam of light in the 80's cartoon reboot universe?  Reading them, however, revealed the lie behind this pretty pink and purple album cover, and it was enough to make me deflate where I sat.

The reviews suggested that only a couple of the songs had the original lyrics; the others had no trace of the original Jem/Misfits/Stingers song in them whatsoever.   They simply took the titles and wrote new songs entirely.  I was aghast at the thought.  That is simply a new pop album, not a tribute.  In essence a tribute album is taking the music of the original and redoing it.  You leave the lyrics, redo the music in a more modern twist, and release  the album as a tribute to the singer in question.  For any singer that has passed on, their tribute album has always been exactly that.  Singers will redo the songs with a different twist and sound, and in the case of Selena Perez for example, singers would sample her voice so she could posthumously do a duet with them.  Classy and inspirational.  To erase the original song entirely and simply redo it?  Unheard of.

I decided to listen to the songs and not listen to the naysayers.  I raised my kids to justify themselves to only two people; themselves and God.  Other people's opinions?  Screw em'.  So paying attention to those opinions without taking my own initiative?  I refused to go that route.  For the first time that I can remember, however, I found the hard way that those reviewers were so on the nose that it was scary.

"The Real Me" was originally a Jem song advising the man in her life that the horrid person she was acting like wasn't the real her and she was apologizing profusely for how rude and obnoxious she was behaving.  The Tribute album treated this song as an "oh baby please don't leave me the real me doesn't want you to go anywhere" song.  They made it a poppy love song.   "Beat This" was nothing but a point blank contest song; an in your face "I'm not going to lose to you" song.  The Tribute album turned it into a lovey-dovey, "how am I gonna fight this urge to get close to you every time you come around me" kind of song.

Excuse me...what?

Every song except for "Truly Outrageous" and "Destiny" was completely warped.  The two songs that I just listed are the only ones that have pieces of the original lyrics and any semblance of the source material.  The music itself I truly enjoyed in each song; it was exactly the synth/pop sound that a modern take on Jem would need.  The rewriting of the lyrics?  That I felt was truly insulting.  If this were a tribute album to a singer that passed away, fans would have been fuming and rightfully so.  As is it I can see already why true Jem dedicates are foaming at the mouth of the treatment of this album.  I am one of them, and while I have kept an open mind and continue to do so, this particular piece is a rather large slap in the face.

To remake something for a modern time or to pay respect to the source is one thing and exactly what one should do.  To redo everything as if the source material never existed is not a "Tribute" despite how they choose to label it.  I can understand the harsh reviews now and for the first time I can remember, I side with them.

I am still holding out hope for the movie and its official soundtrack.  They are taking a modern twist on the film from what I can see from the trailers and rightfully so; this is a post 9/11 world and you couldn't take something like the Synergy from the 80's into a modern day world and expect that story line to stick.  So I'm holding out hope that this will work well for all of us die hard "Hologramers."  I am, however, as a result of this tribute album, being cautiously optimistic at this point.  This initial experience has left me with a foul taste in my mouth and a horrid ringing in my ears that only a healthy dose of Linkin Park can shake.

Excuse me while I go crank Meteora for awhile.  I think I need it.


  1. Ugh....I was hoping the album would be good. I'm really worried about the movie based on the plotline details.

    1. So was I. As I die hard Hologram dedicate I was truly hoping it would be a remixed take on the original songs. I thought "Wow, that will be something! Think of the modern twists the songs can take!" But it was more of a let-down than every Transformer movie that came after the first one. That's saying something.