...Catchy and charming in equal measure.
Tom Barlow 2007
Like the best movie musicals, Dreamgirls has a soundtrack that is catchy and charming in equal measure.
Tracing the story of how, in the 60s, Berry Gordy transformed Detroit into a hit factory, this is explosive stuff. Musically, fictional girl-group trio, The Dreamettes, mirror the rise and fall of The Supremes, with Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles, Anika Noni Rose, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy performing the vocal duties. Murphy, singing the part of James ‘Thunder’ Early surprisingly holds his own (more of which later…), but it is American Idol finalist Hudson whose gospel inspired lungs pack the killer punch.
It’s over 25 years old since the Dreamgirls debuted on Broadway. Although the material recalls the days before conveyor belt R&B, its familiar themes of love, longing and betrayal are as much influenced by Motown as by 70s dancefloor fillers ("Steppin’ To the Bad Side" even has a touch of P-Funk about it).
Not that the songs written by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen are flawless. The 20-track album contains a few duds, not least "I Want You Baby" – a slow-grinding, lyrical cliché. Nevertheless, the sheer strength and personality of Dreamgirls’ vocalists compensate in compelling fashion.
Whereas Beyoncé wraps her polished urban licks superbly around ‘Listen’, Hudson’s old school rawness and vulnerability is striking. Here is a singer who channels no-nonsense belters such as Etta James and Aretha Franklin to scary effect. Her contributions to the rollicking title track and opener "Move" are genuine showstoppers.
Most tracks on Dreamgirls are so fun that there’s hardly a dull moment: "It’s all over" – a poisonous domestic between the girls and their manager, Foxx – makes for great musical drama (Foxx is also impressive as he tips his hat to Lionel Richie on "When I First Saw You"). And although it’s impossible not to think of Shrek’s ‘donkey’ when Eddie Murphy sings lowdown and husky on "Cadillac Car", his Barry White meets James Brown style is – like the rest of this album – downright enjoyable.