For those unfamiliar with Bella Thorne, she was on the Disney series Shake It Up, along with a slew of fairly forgettable movies, up to and including last year’s Netflix horror film, The Babysitter. They’ve all done well enough, and she’s ended up in some pretty high profile things, like the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore movie, Blended, along with BOO! A Madea Halloween, the third Alvin & the Chipmunks film, and the fourth season of HBO’s Big Love.
As a singer, however, it seems that she’s been unable to capitalize on her acting fame, to say nothing of her 17.6 million Instagram followers. Her first couple of releases — the Made In Japan and Jersey EPs — came out in 2012 and 2014, with a single in between, and Thorne featured on a handful of tracks during that timespan. But after 2014, it was like she’d vanished from the music industry.
So, color me surprised when it was announced that she’d recorded five new songs for the soundtrack of the film in which she starred, Midnight Sun. An adaptation of the Japanese 2006 film, the movie is about a young woman who can’t go out in the sun, or she’ll die. It’s a love story, wherein she meets a young man who she can’t share her secret with, so you obviously need some pop songs to which Thorne’s character and the young man can move about to, feeling things.
They’re fine. The production is rather thin, and Thorne’s voice stays within its range, but aside from the light acoustic guitar and voice number which ends side A, “Sweetest Feeling,” they’re all fairly interchangeable. “Walk With Me,” which kicks off the side B, has potential, utilizing the “slow build to anthemic chorus with pounding drums” popularized by the likes of Mumford & Sons.
As to the other, non-Thorne songs, White Sea’s “Warsaw” has a great electro-pop backing, with some really intense lyrics — were they not edited. In “I’ll drink your wine and I’ll slap your wrists/I’ll spin your clocks and I’ll gut your fish/I’ll fuck you blind and make a run for it,” “fuck” is dropped to silence, which I suppose is a way to avoid having the parents of the teenagers to whom this album is most appealing lose their minds. Given the irony though of Thorne releasing a track last month titled “Bitch I’m Bella Thorne,” it seems a bit naive in retrospect.
The score by Bright Eyes’ Nate Walcott stands out, as his guitar work fits in perfectly alongside the dance and pop aspects which otherwise dominate the Midnight Sun soundtrack (although his work seems more melodically complex and heavier). Walcott’s music simply stands taller than the music which precedes it.
The album sounds good, if a bit thin, although that seems more due to the production than the pressing itself. There’s no hiss or pops, despite the colored vinyl, but when you crank it up on the more danceable tracks, like “Warsaw” or Mia Wray’s “Where I Stand,” the bass never kicks in as much as the retro-leaning dance pop needs to.
The “Sunset Sea Mist” white and blue splatter looks really lovely and complements the album artwork well. There’s not a lot otherwise to the album jacket, but the typography and composition keep everything looking good. The songwriting credits on the back cover are actually legible, and it’s refreshing to see an attempt to work in more information, even without an insert.
The Midnight Sun soundtrack is available on vinyl from Lakeshore Records.