Star-Studded Disco Opera Drowns in Lineup of Soundalikes

    Fatboy Slim & David Byrne
    Here Lies Love
    Todo Mundo/ Nonesuch

    Here Lies Love — a collaboration between David Byrne of the Talking Heads and big-beat ’90s icon Fatboy Slim — disproves a common musical myth: that talented artists in collaboration will create work far greater than anything they could have made alone.

    Instead of the decade’s best collab, Cyndi Lauper plus Roisin Murphy plus Sia plus Florence Welch plus Santigold plus Camille equals a misguided homogenization of overwrought aesthetics.

    The album’s 22 tracks romanticize the life of Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos, from her impoverished beginnings to last meditations. It’s pumped with star power, but — instead of pushing its artists to think outside their routines — it seems Slim and Byrne looped one disco track and ordered their rent-a-voices to improvise some bland melody on top.

    “Here Lies Love” is the first of many extravagant, upbeat pieces, with soaring vocals over strings, a syncopated rhythm and jaunty horns. As an intro, its complex strains and brash vocals demand attention, but the track soon becomes forgettable over a sea of identical songs.

    In “You’ll Be Taken Care Of” — told from the perspective of Marcos’ devoted housekeeper — Tori Amos’ signature breathy gnarls are misused to comedic effect, making her character into an evil and conniving beast.

    “Don’t You Agree” makes the hip-hop sentiments of Roisin Murphy (of electronic act Moloko) sound just like Amos, Welch and Sia, and even Cyndi Lauper’s “Eleven Days” blends into the mush. Each individual track has its few merits, but together, they become a numbingly mundane pop cacophony that leaves us yearning for golden silence. 5/10

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