The novelty with the soundtrack to one of this summer’s blockbuster hopefuls Rock of Ages is hearing big name actors singing the hits of the ‘80s. Ever wonder what Tom Cruise would sound like when tackling the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, or Def Leppard? Here’s your chance to find out, as Cruise wrestles with “Paradise City,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” How does he sound? Kind of like a fourth-rate Geddy Lee impersonator, at best. If that sounds intriguing, be aware that he pops up on numerous other tracks, including a duet with Julianne Hough on the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”
Speaking of Hough, she’s great to watch but I’ve always felt her speaking voice was a bit of hindrance. Her singing is another matter entirely, the timbre of which makes her sound like the lost fourth Chipette. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to have her duet with the great Mary J. Blige? They do so not only on one, but two tracks, Quarterflash’s “Harden My Heart” and Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night.” It may work in the context of the movie, but it sure doesn’t pass muster as a pure listening experience.
That brings up the main problem with an album full of covers, all meticulously recreating the original productions, sung by mostly non-singers. It’s just a bunch of well-recorded karaoke. Diego Boneta, who co-stars in the film, is already an established singer in his native Mexico as well as in South America. He is easily the best vocalist of the assembled performers, mostly sharing the spotlight with others but stepping out front for an okay take on Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock.” By the way, the album concludes with Boneta and most of the others (including Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand) joining together for Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Didn’t Glee kind of corner the market on this song? With all the other hits of the ‘80s, you’d think they could’ve picked a less-covered song for the big all-cast conclusion.
My advice, if you’re curious about Rock of Ages: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, is to listen to the free samples in iTunes. Then spend your money on the original recordings of the songs you like most. You should be able to get more than half of the 20 tracks collected here in their original—and far superior—form for the price you’d pay for the soundtrack.