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OutKast: Idlewild

LaFace, 2006

Rating: 2.8


Posted: August 21, 2006

By Laurence Station

Is Idlewild a soundtrack supporting a movie or is the film little more than cross-media product promoting the latest OutKast album? More importantly, does it really matter? While earning points for audacious diversity, moving from Parliament-inspired funk to Cab Calloway-style skat, this quasi-soundtrack is a wildly unfocused work that lacks a transcendent set of tunes to trump its shortcomings. Simply put, Idlewild is more idle than it is wild, an expression of tank-empty creativity from a duo and production team that, a mere half-decade ago, couldn’t make a false musical step.

Not that OutKast’s inevitable demise wasn’t presaged by 2001’s Greatest Hits release. Principals Big Boi and Andre 3000 revealed just how far their creative and personal directions were heading with the separate-but-equal solo releases Speakerboxxx /The Love Below, which proved to be far more successful commercially than artistically. Idlewild probably won’t move anywhere near the units that double-shot produced (though it will hardly languish in the cutout bins), primarily because there are no tracks on par with “The Way You Move” or “Hey Ya!”

The most frustrating aspect of Idlewild is its lack of energy, especially in contrast with back-to-back brash, inventive masterpieces Aquemini and Stankonia, which brimmed over with an infectious kineticism. Though Idlewild is but a few minutes longer than either of those efforts, it feels twice as long, especially given its nearly nine-minute closer, the too-aptly named grating noise drone “A Bad Note.”

Not that there aren’t inspired moments. The carefree rap of “Morris Brown,” and a pair of tracks (“Call the Law” and “In Your Dreams”) featuring the gorgeous pipes of Janelle Monáe, salvage something from the wreckage of a work bloated with too many guest stars and ideas careening in diametrically unrelated directions. And you’d think, for a piece tied to a movie, there’d be more direct references to and about the actual film, set in the South during the Great Depression.

But aside from “You're Beautiful,” a snippet from the film, and the period-flavored “When I Look in Your Eyes,” Idlewild barely touches on its ostensible raison d'etre. It’s noteworthy that most of the tracks dealing with the film (like the aforementioned pair) are Andre 3000 efforts, whereas Big Boi’s pieces seem completely disinterested in the plot or themes of the flick. Exhibit A: “Peaches,” a solid track with electronic flourishes, easy flow and modern braggadocio. If Speakerboxxx / The Love Below echoed the initial crack in the Big Boi/Andre partnership, Idlewild tolls like the San Andreas Fault. It’s just a shame an album and film had to be made after the two had reached their creative peak together.

On “Chronomentrophobia,” Andre says “It’s beginning to look a lot like an ending.” Not the beginning, Andre -- just the end.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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