Taron Egerton is almost indistinguishible from the great Elton John throughout the soundtrack to the recent film.
The story of Elton John is not one with which I am well acquainted, except for the fact he is an icon in gay culture. I decided to listen to the soundtrack before I see the film, to see how well it stands on it’s own, and this is a review of that.
The album opens on the ‘Bitch is Back’, an iconic Elton song that few young fans will know. With its building bass and anthem feel, combined with the layers of Taron Egerton’s voice and a young Elton’s (Sebastian Rich), it is beautiful. Ending on dialogue from his mother, it brings the story to the soundtrack, from the film. This is a stark contrast to ‘I Want Love’, the next song on the soundtrack, which is a collection of voices and characters all expressing the same desperate desire for love and acceptance. It has the essence of youth and naivety surrounding it and conveys a genuinely yearning sensation. This then transitions into a far more adolescent, music theatre sounding track, ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’. A far more ’60s rock-and-roll vibe is integral to this song and it really does have that musical sound track feel to it – you know the kind of song that plays as the boys are getting ready to go to the school dance? Like that. However, it does feel a little cheap and like it has kind of been shoehorned in, which may be different if you see it in the film. It is not dissimilar musically to the next track, ‘Thank you for All of your Loving’, and it is an exhibition of Egerton’s tonality and ability to imitate Elton John while still maintaining cracking vocals. The vocalising on this track in particular, and backing harmonies, are particularly slick and it sounds true to the time the song was written, and authentically Elton. Once these first few songs have eased you into the soundtrack you kind of know where you stand with the music.
A particular highlight of the soundtrack for me was ‘Rock and Roll Madonna’. This is a completely iconic Elton John song, and Egerton did well to keep up with the trying vocals and rhythms, completely nailing Elton’s tonality. Similar skill was showed in the absolute anthem that is ‘Crocodile Rock’, which has such a cracking melody and just makes you want to get up and dance (I’m writing this in The Bridge so I won’t!). Pulled off flawlessly, Egerton really is a master of vocal impersonation and his voice beautifully compliments that of the angelic chorus. This is at the direct antithesis of ‘Your Song’, which is the slow, romantic and emotive song we all associate most with Elton John. Admittedly, this is my least favourite Elton John song, mainly because it was ruined by Ellie Goulding. But Egerton does his best with what I believe is an albatross of a song.
I think it is worth expressing what an incredible job the band do in this entire soundtrack. They give it an epic feel and make every song feel slightly fresher or different to the original, and I cannot fault the musical direction of this soundtrack at all. Classics like ‘Rocketman’, ‘Sorry seems to Be the Hardest Word’ and ‘I’m Still Standing’ continue the record of incredible vocal skill and tonality, and the band play exquisitely.
However, of course everyone wants to know what the low down is on the original song Elton released with this soundtrack. ‘I’m Gonna Love Me Again’, a duet between Egerton and John, is a funky, upbeat jam that exudes positivity and good vibes. An acknowledgement of achievement and self love, it is as much Elton John as all of the decades old songs that come before it in this film, and his and Egerton’s voices compliment each other excellently.
I suppose my next stop is sitting down and watching the film and seeing how it all comes together. Exclusively as a soundtrack, this is an absolutely brilliant exhibition of Elton John’s life and musical career.
Rocketman (Music from the Motion Picture) is available now via Virgin EMI.