Think of Burlesque – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack as a Christina Aguilera EP augmented by the A and B sides a Cher single. The entire ten song affair clocks in at a brisk, but luckily mostly entertaining, thirty-two minutes. It’s a grab bag of tracks that don’t really add up to cohesive album. The main draw is a trio of brassy, bluesy retro numbers sung with convincing authority by Aguilera.
Two of these are Etta James covers, the album opener “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” as well as “Tough Lover.” Aguilera really digs in and makes them show stoppers. This type of old school R&B suits her voice perfectly. The third tune, “A Guy What Takes His Time,” dates all the way back to 1933. It was written by Ralph Rainger and sung by Mae West. Aguilera sings it with such playful style, I wish she would do an entire album of songs from this era. These tracks are reminiscent of the best moments from her 2006 album, Back to Basics.
Another three tunes were co-written by Aguilera. Best among them is the power ballad “Bound To You,” written with two of her Bionic collaborators, Samuel Dixon and Sia Furler. Though not boasting an especially strong melody, the vocal performance makes it soar. “Express” and “Show Me How You Burlesque” are more modern sounding dance productions. Both work better in the context of the movie, where the elaborate visuals help distract from their lack of melody and strong hooks. They are passable album filler tracks, written with more Bionic cohorts Christopher “Tricky” Stewart and Claude Kelly.
Cher fans may be disappointed by her supporting turn, both in the movie and on the soundtrack. It’s actually very surprising that she and Aguilera were not given a duet. “Welcome To Burlesque” is sort of a theme song for the movie, and not a very memorable one at that. The Diane Warren-penned “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” is better, with an impassioned vocal turn from Cher. Although this generic adult contemporary ballad is rather out of place, it does give Cher one shining moment.
The album concludes with a strange cover of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” The lyrics have been completely rewritten to fit the movie. A small army of songwriters are credited in addition to Manson and Twiggy Ramirez. With all the existing songs that would’ve sounded great over the closing credits of Burlesque, this was an unfathomable choice. When it sticks to the sassy swing of a bygone musical era (including the coy “I Am a Good Girl”), Burlesque – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack satisfies.