Tim Burton’s epic and amazing Nightmare Before Christmas was released over twenty years ago and it remains one of his most beloved works. Every year a new generation of misfits and degenerates fall in love with Jack and Sally, ready to storm Hot Topic for any and all merch with their faces on it. There’s no doubt it’s an amazing movie with a fun and whimsical soundtrack. When the movie was re-released in theaters, the soundtrack was reworked with covers from various artists. What sounded like a good idea ended up being a total nightmare.
I’m not big on movie soundtracks or even musical movies, but I make an exception for this film. Every song is great and never gets on your nerves, unlike some films. The soundtrack is amazing on its own, so having popular artists put their own spin on things didn’t sound that bad. Unfortunately, for a disc that boasts twenty tracks, only a handful are worth your time. Hands down the best song is “This is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson. He is absolutely perfect for this cover since he was once known as a creepy guy. Also, he tries to keep the original vibe by putting on different voices for the various characters. Since the song has a harder edge to it, it makes it something you don’t mind hearing all year round.
All American Rejects also tried to adapt different voices for “Jack’s Lament,” but the result is terrible. Half the time they sound bored, like they didn’t want to do the song in the first place. Then there are moments where they go between falsetto and dramatic as if they couldn’t decide whether or not to alter their vocals. They hit the mark in terms of music, but the band sounds tone deaf throughout the whole thing. Korn does a decent job with their cover of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws.” Jonathan Davis sounds mischievous and bratty as he snarls “Kidnap the sandy claws/throw him in the bag.” It’s a great metal version of the tune, which is rare because I personally don’t like Korn, but they were a perfect fit for the song. Rise Against is another band that does a good job with their cover of”Making Christmas.” Filled with fast, hard guitars and lots of screaming, they made the track into something you can mosh to.
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of instrumental tracks on the album. Most of them are good and stay true to the original, such as Vitamin String Quartet’s “Jack and Sally Montage” and Amiina’s cover of “Doctor Finkelstein/In the Forest” that sounds downright haunting. The most baffling musical track is “Oogie Boogie’s Song” by Rodrigo y Gabriella. They definitely put their own spin on things by turning the jazzy track into a Flamenco dance number, but the issue is they took out all the lyrics. How can you take one of the most iconic, epic, fun, and amazing songs from the movie and strip it of the lyrics that perfectly show who Oogie Boogie is? Tiger Army also covered the song with the lyrics, but it doesn’t fair any better.
One really good instrumental is “Nabbed” by Yoshida Brothers. Things start out in an Oriental musical style before it evolves into a groovy funk track with elements of electronica weaved throughout. Midway through it turns into smooth 90’s jazz. It sounds hard to pull off, but they do it in a way where everything meshes together. They really made the track something different and enjoyable. You’ll find yourself dancing to it before you know it. It actually seems like something Daft Punk would do. It’s so good you won’t mind that it’s seven minutes long.
The rest of the soundtrack is uninspired. It either sounds downright awful, like Sparklehorse’s ear shattering version of “Jack’s Obsession,” over dramatic like Flyleaf’s version of “What’s This?” or just dull, like Polyphonic Symphony’s version of “Town Meeting Song.” Some like Plain White T’s do a decent enough job, but fail to really turn the song into something different. After awhile, the album grows boring and annoying. You keep looking at the tracklist wondering if it’ll finally end. If you want to relive all the magic and whimsy of the movie, it’s best to stick with the original.
Overall, the album gets 6.5/10. While there are a handful of artists who did something fun and original with their covers, most of them are dull, boring, and just plain bad. It wasn’t a bad idea to update the soundtrack, but most of the songs don’t differ much from the original. I could see this being played at Halloween parties, but if want to relive the magic, fantasy, and charm of the movie, listen to the original soundtrack. Danny Elfman sounds better as Jack anyway.
By the way…..