There is such a thing as being too clever.
The Barden Bellas and the Treblemakers, who return in the film “Pitch Perfect 2,” have found a way to cram even more songs per square airwave in their mash-ups. Although the tunes are neatly stacked and folded into each other, they don’t always work outside a visual medium. The reason is their brevity, two lines and they’re on to the next song. Thus listening turns into a race to recognize the song.
The tunes span decades and genres and are deftly mashed into new entities. Some take flight, like the pleasant “Back to Basics” sequence that includes a cappella versions of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Lady Marmalade” and “Mmmbop.” However, “Riff Off” starts with an enjoyable rendition of the “Thong Song” and cycles through a dizzying array of booty-praising tunes in a short span, losing its head to its own ingenuity.
The song that everyone keeps on coming back is Jessie J’s “Flashlight,” written by Sam Smith and Sia. The ballad, poignant and memorable, is one of the album’s highlights, while singer-songwriter Ester Dean brings a modern EDM feel to the comedy with “Crazy Youngsters.” And the unexpected Snoop Dogg rendition of “Winter Wonderland” feels like a good gamble in an otherwise predictable sound.
For fans of a cappella, this will be a treasure trove of inspiration; for fans of the film, a serviceable memento; and for the rest of us, just an OK album.
Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press