Saturday, October 27, 2012

The 'Best' of Cirque du Soleil. Again.

The artwork for 'Le Best of 2' (Source:
I was starting to become stressed at the prospect that Cirque du Soleil hadn't made enough money this week, when I luckily noticed that they'd launched a streaming for their latest CD release, Le Best of 2. It comes across as pretentious that it's called 'Le Best of' instead of 'The Best of' - because the French never call compilation albums 'Le Best'. I suppose this just means that Cirque are just as clueless as I am in that they're not sure what audience to aim this release at. But it's apparent Cirque assumes without their European mystique they are dead to the eyes of America, who enjoy a splash of French in order to claim they're a little bit fancy.

As for the content of the disk, who the fuck picks the list of songs to be compiled? Despite being self labeled as a "long-awaited collection of favorites" crafted to also appeal as "an opportunity for everyone to experience some of Cirque’s finest music", on a whole there is no way I'd recommend this to anyone for a sampler of the Cirque du Soleil music catalog. There seems to be no unifying theme or particular reason why any of the songs on this release have been picked.

This collection aims to show the best pieces from each show, but while drafting a list of potential songs to include it seems that the company forgot some shows existed. There isn't a musical selection from Delirium (a show that was advertised as a "LIVE CIRQUE MUSIC CONCERT!!!"), there's no reference to Zarkana (not even that dreadful 'Whereever' song), and somewhat more predictably there isn't anything from Viva Elvis or Love. Also, this is the first collection of songs where 'Alegría' didn't make an appearance. Scandalous.

Below is a list of the songs included, with the hilarious track listing taken from the schizophrenic article from their online boutique. I've included some thoughts on why I think the songs have/shouldn't have been picked, and then there is also a list of what would have been more appropriate for the title of 'best of'.


After all that fuss to make the title of the CD sound exotic and ethereal, I guess the marketing department ran out of steam and just had to call this one 'Magic Ceremony 1'. This one is included as a sneak-peek to the upcoming album 'Amaluna' which will launch November 19th. It's the logical choice, since if the show's website is anything to go by, apparently it's the only song in the show.

The piece itself features all three of the shows singers and is literally the same 8 chords and the same melody for 3 minutes and 28 seconds. Guaranteed to be stuck in your head, but the simplicity of the composition is pretty boring and it veers a little to being embarrassing.

What should have been included:

2 pearl 4:06 (Kooza™)

If I was asked to name some of the better tracks on Kooza, 'Pearl' would be one of my answers (by default, as most of Kooza's song suck anyway). It's a beautifully mixed and performed piece, despite the fact that most of the instruments (and lyrics) included on the track don't even feature in the live performance. Major factors that detract from the choice is that the piece in no form represents Kooza's funk, jazz or Bollywood influences, and it doesn't include any vocals from the other original Cirque singer Tara Baswani.

What should have been included:
The highlight of the Kooza album is the 'Kooza Dance'. It's a very flamboyant and flashy big-band number which features one of Cirque's sweetest jazz moments. Since it does only feature one singer, I'd also put down 'L'Innocent' as another choice as it includes both the principal singers, and is the most prevalent motif in the entire score. 'Alambre Alto' would have also been a good choice as it features both original singers and is totally the most diverse track on the album.

3 blue silk 4:37 (ZED™)

'Blue Silk' is a cute choice but it's hardly the definitive piece in Zed's score. Ironically, whenever I burnt the Zed album for friends they always commented that they loved this song, and like all songs on the album it's awesome. But . . . 

What should have been included:
. . . 'Hymn of the New World' would have been a better choice to include. It features all the musicians from the show, the singers, in addition to a 70 piece symphonic orchestra, and a choir comprised of the FACE Children's Choir and a chorus of choral singers. It's an exquisite piece that correlates to one of the most incredible theatrical scenes I've seen in my life and in terms of songs in Cirque's catalog rivals some of the company's considered 'classics', including 'Alegría'. Pity.

4 anneaux 5:43 (Corteo™)

Most of Corteo's intimate and lively score undertook a strange transformation when being transferred to record. It lost a lot of fidelity (in addition to the entire band) when it was mixed as a studio album and the whole thing sounds kind of dead. I've always hated the song 'Anneaux' since it's so tedious and percussive, and it's not really very reflective of Corteo's charming European inspired score. It appears in a lot of promo videos, and will probably make another appearance if Cirque releases another album of remixes.

What should have been included:
'Volo Volando' seems to be the theme song of the show, but it appeared on 25, so if I was a conscious producer who didn't want to annoy fans, I wouldn't include identical songs on succeeding compilations.  'Ritonare' would have been a good choice since it's very similar to the show, goes through a bunch of different moods, and prominently features vocals of Paul Bisson (the only musician on the album who was also in the show).

5 Flying Scarlett 4:43 (Iris, A Journey Through the World of Cinema™)

I adore this piece and I'm very glad of its inclusion. From my review of Iris last year:
"The most coruscating moment on the album is the exquisite and flawless 'The Broom/Flying Scarlett' arrangement. Beginning with a reprise of the opening tune shared delicately between woodwinds and a solo violin, strings flourish softly behind to make a piece that is utterly stunning. It provokes this incredible but practically indescribable emotion that resembles something like yearning. It's an ephemeral and achingly beautiful piano waltz paired with this forlorn, angelic voice which fragments and harmonies itself, and slowly layers with chimes and glockenspiels which leads into the striking, driving and powerful orchestra accompaniment. The arrangement is sweeping. I'm listening to this right now and I am covered in goosebumps - it's just so good."
The version on this album simply starts with the piano chords, and removes the note that leads into the piece from 'The Broom'.

What should have been included:

6 qué viyéRa 4:42 (TOTEM™)

'Qué Viyéra' is a good choice as it's actually a favourite between fans. For some reason, Totem is the only show that is represented twice on this album, and to be honest it's inclusion is a bit of a waste of space considering that several shows were glazed over when this compilation was created.

What should have been included:
Anything from Delirium, a song from Zarkana, anything from Viva Elvis. Regarding the tradition of including incarnations of 'Alegría' on all their compilations - if they were smart they could have picked 'La Nova Alegría' from Delirium. Shaaaaaame.

7 flying with the birds 4:12 (CRISS ANGEL™ Believe™)

I feel like the only reason this was included was because it's the track that features Nitza's voice the most - she makes an appearance on a few tracks of the album but is totally under-utilised. 

What should have been included:
The obvious choice would have been the original piece that was synonymous with the show, 'Homage to the Rabbits'. It's an eerie instrumental piece which evolves into a powerful industrial rock symphony which is awesome. The second half of 'Kayla and the Poppies' is another symphonic piece which is incredibly forlorn and romantic, and featuring the gorgeous vocals of Inva Mula could have showcased the company's expansion into operatic styles. My favourite piece on the album 'The Magic Wedding', another awesome orchestral track, would have also been a smart pick since it combines the two major motifs of the show. But whatever, I guess having a vocalist holler like a moo-cow is more important than such trivialities. 

8 NOI 4:15 (zaia™)

A surprisingly good and logical choice. This quirky waltz, which opens the Zaia album, is the finale of the show. It features the two original singers of Zaia in addition to a mini choir which features all the vocal personell of the CD including the composer and their vocal coach. The ensemble work on this track really makes it seem like everyone who worked on the CD is represented in another form, so excellent choice.

For anyone keeping track at home, this version of the song omits the original introduction of the piece with vocals from Onofrio Colucci.

What should have been included:

9 secret samba luv 3:12 (OVO™)

God. After all the 'dodecaphonically-melodic set of 'resonance-rhythms'" that Berna Ceppas claims to have created in the bold music voyage that is Ovo, it's a laughingly stupid choice to include this elevator music. Embarassing also that the company is endorsing incorrect spelling of 'love'. 

What should have been included:
'Banquette', obviously. It may have lyrics that resemble the prowess of The Backstreet Boys, but it's an absolutely catchy piece and I still find it endearing. It was included on the 25 album, so being a conscientious music compiler who wouldn't want to piss of fans, I'd also suggest 'Ants'. 

10 pagean t 2:46 (KÀ™)

'Pageant' was destined to be on a 'Best of' compilation since it was first released at KÁ's press conference in 2004. The explosive ethic tune doesn't feature any of the hard working band or singers in the show, but it is one of Dupéré's shining compositions, written in a complex time signature and combining an eclectic array of instruments and cultural influences to be an iconic Cirque du Soleil piece.

This was also included as it won Cirque's Facebook fan poll of what the favourite song is. Clearly it would have been included anyway (as were 2 other options on the poll - 'Omé Yo Kanubé' and 'Pearl), it was nice that Cirque at least considered what the fans would have liked to have seen and given us hope that we were still considered in pointless releases like this CD.

What should have been included:

11 beyon d the clo uds 3:32 (Wintuk™)

I don't know why anyone even bothered to consider this show, since it became apparent that Cirque pretty much pretended this show and its music didn't exist for awhile. The singer and musicians were never featured in the show and the track was hugely different to anything in the live show. The asinine lyrics from Jim fucking Corcoran do really little to inspire anything in what is a generic mélange of mediocrity and inaneness.

What should have been included:
'Nothing's Missing' is the most competent song on the album, and while it's still a generic and innocuous ballad it's simplistic and hasn't been featured on anything unlike 'Beyond the Clouds'. 'Dolce Luce', which is Simon Carpentier's best non-plagurised song, is a beautiful small piano tune, but I guess you can't include 1 minute 30 second songs on compilations.

12 piece of heaven 4:55 (Zumanity™)

Why the fuck does this stupid song keep appearing on compilation albums? Like 'Beyond the Bullshit' above, it was also featured on the 'Poetique' CD in 25, and I didn't understand it's inclusion then either. It's just such a pedestrian piece, not particularly romantic or impressive, and certainly not representative of the Zumanity score. lol. Whatever that means.

What I am always amused at though, is the inclusion of the buzzing effect at the end of the track. Someone really fucked up in the mixing and must have left it on the master file - on the album it's used as a transition into (and repeats throughout) the piece 'Zum Astra'. It's actually a very cool Middle Eastern instrumental piece, but it's inclusion on this tacky 80's ballad track, like so many screw ups in the mixing on this CD, is so embarrassingly amateur.

What should have been included:
As with 25, the track that should have been included (and shares the closest resemblance to anthing in the score from the show) is 'Mio Bello Bello Amore'. Alternatively, including 'Bello Amore' would  have been a smarter choice as it includes the rancid vocals from Ginette Reno, who is a big name in Canada and would have just made a much smarter marketing choice.

13 omé yo kano ubé 4:41 (TOTEM) 

Well, here we are again with another Totem (Totem isn't copyrighted this time!) track. This is the song that should represent the Totem album - it's a cheerful and uplifting track which sounds as if it was lifted live from the Big Top. It's led by the show's two singers in addition to them being backed by a small choir, and features a lot of solos from the original Totem band and is a great representation of the score. Really leaves you with a smile on your face and is a delightful selection.

What should have been included:


While Cirque have done several compilations (including Collection during the company's 10th Anniversary, and 25 to celebrate the 25th (obviously)), it's probably worth noting that the first 'Le Best of Cirque du Soleil' was released in 2004, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil's founding and also as a launch product for the company's new label, Cirque Musique. I don't see any reason why Cirque have released a follow up just over 8 years later - there's only around 55 minutes of music on this album, and it's not like it's particularly commemorative of anything - except drawing attention to the fact that it took 20 years to create 12 shows, then only took them 8 years to smash out another 17.

This collection just comes across as another grab for money. The compilation isn't well thought through and many of the choices are nonsensical. I don't know how long the company had been planning this release, but considering what they came up with, I'm going to guess something like 3 months. Not a collection I would recommend, and I hope this trend of releasing compilations will soon die of its own irrelevance.

Cirque du Soleil 'Le Best of 2' is available November 9th from their online boutqiue and on Available on physical CD and digital download. Preview the entire album for free at Cirque du Soleil's promotional website.

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