Reinvented (sort of), Outkast returns. But in Idlewild, the soundtrack to the full-length feature film going by the same name, they sound little like old Outkast.
Idlewild is filled with songs that one might hear over the course of a weekend, around town during the bootleggin’ ’20s: a church hymn, a marching band piece at the high school football game, a blues song at the club after dark.
But these songs are not about a place. Idlewild is about relationships. The album follows the arc of the different stages of relationships a man might have: men are hustling to get laid, followed by the dysfunctional relationship, closing with the cool, comfortable, satisfying marriage. In terms of entertainment value, following the story is Idlewild’s greatest strength.
If the movie is a reflection of the soundtrack, though, feel free to leave after the first act.
The first half of the album is far more funny and interesting than the second half, as if it’s supposed to be some metaphor for how boring and lame people become once they settle down. It’s a long album – 80 minutes strong – and could easily be chopped down to about 40 minutes.
Though you’re not likely to hear anything off Idlewild at a party, “Mighty O” and “PJ and the Rooster” are album standouts; they are also the songs audiences have most likely heard already. After track two, “the Mighty O,” Idlewild hits the different sounds around town. “Idlewild Blue” is cool with a twang-y blues riff on guitar and screaming harmonica that punctuates the chorus nicely. And Andre 3000’s lyrics are quintessential, “Y’all know about the blues, dontcha,” he croons. “Everybody get the blues/even the babies get the blues.”
“N2u” is all about hustling the ladies. Cover your eyes and ears if they’re sensitive, because Andre 3000 says exactly what he’s looking for in a woman: “I want to get into you/don’t want no girlfriend/just want to get into you.” Ironically sang over a beat Boyz II Men could have written, the song is clever make-out music with a pig-headed twist.
But after Outkast’s wooing hijinks, Idlewild falls off fast. The album moves quickly through decent tracks like “Morris Brown” and “The Train,” and is almost completely forgettable until “PJ and the Rooster,” which is pretty solid. Then things go flat again until the end, which is absolutely dismal.
Literally, Idlewild ends on “A Bad Note.” That’s the name of the song. And it’s terrible. It’s more than eight minutes of non-descript guitar work that just … ends. For an album that tries to tell a story, and was described early last year by Outkast’s manager as their The Wall or Purple Rain, the finish could not be more anti-climatic or disappointing.
The idea that Outkast could make their own soundtrack to their own movie was a promising one – if anyone could pull it off, Andre 3000 and Big Boi could – but Idlewild falls short of expectations. Far from perfect, it’s definitely listenable. It’s just not great.