BBC – Music – Review of Vishal-Shekhar

There was a time when the arrival of a Karan Johar film generated a ripple of excitement amongst Bollywood music fans. A new release meant a fresh soundtrack with songs guaranteed to brighten up any Indian wedding, party or family celebration.

Sadly, those days may be coming to an end if Student of the Year is anything to go by. A predictable collection of songs devoid of creative compositions, if this album were an exam, its composers, Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani, would just scrape a pass.

As the principal of the production, it’s surprising Johar didn’t ask the music duo to go back to the drawing board and come up with something more memorable. Years after release, songs from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham remain popular today; but you’d be hard pushed to find an unforgettable number here.

The Disco Song, a high energy reboot of Nazia Hassan’s Disco Deewane, is the closest one gets to A grade. It’s catchy, but mainly for the nostalgic inclusion of samples of Hassan’s unique voice. Fortunately, Benny Dayal and Sunidhi Chauhan’s vocals blend well with the late singer’s distinctive sound.

Ishq Wala Love sees the mood switch from dance to romance, with Neeti Mohan, Salim Merchant and Ravijiani lending their talents to this soft love ballad that veers dangerously close to cheesiness. Upping the tempo, Kukkad brings a Bhangra pop flavour, while Vele stands out for its Panjabi slang popular amongst India’s new carefree, affluent generation.

Radha may begin in semi-classical mode, but a few seconds in and Ghoshal’s Hinglish vocals take you by surprise, urging you to put on your disco heels but stay desi at heart. Dancing shoes will also come in handy for Mashup of the Year, a decent mix of the best bits from each song.

Billed as Bollywood’s answer to Glee, Johar’s flash college campus romance is obviously aimed at hip, young Indians, but that doesn’t stop Student of the Year sounding like a poor prom. Vishal and Shekhar would have been better off creating an evergreen soundtrack in the mould of Grease, with songs to appeal across generations. Class dismissed.

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