Across the Universe

The concept of 33 reworked Beatles songs with new emerging singers may be enough to give any die-hard Beatles fan a heart attack. However, the new “Across the Universe” soundtrack may discount these fears. The movie’s six young leads, with the aid of four celebrity performances, create a fuller, and arguably more modern, sound for the classic Beatles tunes. Bono, Joe Cocker, comedian Eddie Izzard and Salma Hayek all lend their voices and fame to the soundtrack in songs ranging from “Come Together” to “I Am The Walrus.” The soundtrack holds together even without knowledge of the movie plot, making it a good compilation of covers on its own. Although some of the covers are drastically different from their originals, the interesting twists make for good listening. For example, in “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” Izzard fuses the song with his distinct humor, adding more wit and intellect to the song. Izzard is a comedian, and he speaks the words that the Beatles once sang with an interesting mix of circus-inspired instrumentals. On the other hand, Bono’s version of the classic “I Am the Walrus” is reminiscent of the original version of the song. However, in the cover, the instrumentals seem to be a richer translation of the original tune. Bono’s vocals provide a lyrical clarity that was lacking in the original. One of the most radical covers on the album is Carol Woods’ and Timothy T. Mitchum’s version of “Let It Be.” While Mitchum stays true to the song’s more subdued and melancholy roots, Woods makes the song her own by turning it into a gospel piece. While this track is one of the more radical covers on the soundtrack, it also proves to be one of the more successful ones. Woods’ voice lends a powerful, emotional element to the song, making it as heartfelt as the original. While the musical cameos add star power to the album, it is the movie’s three leads that make the album so unforgettable. Leading the pack is the relatively unknown Jim Sturgess, whose vocals most closely resemble those of the Beatles. In the song “Revolution,” Sturgess adds an element of emotion when he makes his feelings as audible as his vocals. This new version also has a stronger instrumental backing, along with a clearer sound. “Revolution” captures the listener’s attention immediately with a cacophony of various instruments and keeps it with a catchy tune. On “With A Little Help from My Friends,” Jim Sturgess trades in the limelight and sings backup vocals for Joe Anderson, another unknown British actor. Once again, the song was updated with more modern instrumentals and a rock and roll sensibility. With more energy and attitude, this song is as addicting as ever. Making a surprise appearance on one of the tracks, Salma Hayek adds an unexpected flair to the song “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” While cooing “Bang, Bang, Shoot, Shoot” in the background, Joe Anderson takes control of the song and exudes confidence in his vocals. In contrast to the rest of the album, Evan Rachel Wood falls short of expectations. In “Blackbird,” she lacks the emotion and the energy that has helped to make the soundtrack memorable. Furthermore, her version of the song is one of the few that has less power than the original. The musical arrangements on the song are sparse, leaving Evan Rachel Wood’s voice carrying the song, a task she doesn’t seem able to fulfill well. Although you can never top the Beatles, Across the Universe is a satisfying tribute to the band. With a blend of celebrity cameos and fresh new voices, this soundtrack provides a compelling mix of old and new that is sure to accommodate the generation gap. If you weren’t a Beatles fan before, this soundtrack might have what it takes to convert you.