‘Sparkle’ shimmers with Whitney’s swan songsBy Rito P. Asilo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There’s a lot of buzz over the big-screen incarnations of stage musicals like “Les Miserables” (starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe), “Annie” (with Willow Smith in the title role), a hip-hop “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Wicked”—all in various stages of production.
This film season, however, the movie musical to see is Salim Akil’s revival of 1976’s “Sparkle,” about three teenage sisters (Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter) from Harlem who form a girl group during the Motown era in the 1960s.
The 22-year-old “American Idol, Season 6” winner isn’t the production’s sole attraction: Portraying Sparks’ lovely mother, Emma, is pop diva Whitney Houston—who died three months after she finished shooting her scenes for her fifth and final feature film!
In “Sparkle’s” 11-song soundtrack, Houston sings two numbers, each a dazzling display of her prodigious gifts as a singer. “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” demonstrates Whitney’s impeccable skills as a vocal technician and tactician—she seamlessly integrates her complex curlicues into the gospel tune’s melody without making them sound self-indulgent and splashy.
For her part, Sparks proves she’s no pushover, especially in her remake of Irene Cara’s “Look Into Your Heart” and the silky-smooth “Love Will.” Surprisingly, the tracks in the album have an incongruous feel about them as a whole—but, as individual cuts, many of them manage to stand on their own, most notably Cee Lo Green’s show-stopping “I’m A Man” and Goapele’s “Running.”
The R. Kelly-penned “Celebrate,” Houston’s rousing duet with Sparks (and the last song she recorded before her death on Feb. 11), recalls the infectious, optimistic spirit of “I’m Every Woman.” The groove-fueled dance ditty is made more notable by the glorious fusion of sensational voices that require no technological enhancement to soar and, well, sparkle!
“Crooked Lines,” Corrinne May’s 13-track follow-up to 2007’s “Beautiful Seed,” benefits from easy-listening melodies and soulful lyrics. The 39-year-old singer-songwriter’s thematic driving force is her 3-year-old daughter, Claire Hoo. (She enthusiastically recites “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in the title track.)
Watch out for the soothing balm provided by Eric Rigler’s Celtic low whistle in “When I Close My Eyes” and the lullaby, “In My Arms.” For more radio-friendly fare, you’ll enjoy the infectious hooks of “Just What I Was Looking For” and the contemplative “24 Hours.”
May is at her most stirring when she sings about Claire, as she does in “Crooked Lines”: “My daughter tries to draw a butterfly/ With her crayons and crooked lines/ And she’s crying ’cause she just can’t get it right/ So, I wrap her tiny hand in mine/ To guide her with her heart’s design/ And she smiles as her dreams take flight!”
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