It’s no coincidence that “WWE: The Music Vol. 9” is also titled “Voices.” Right now WWE has placed a large amount of focus on Randy Orton, his new ascendance to a position of power in storylines, and to his place as a main eventer on “the grandest stage of them all” come April 5th. Therefore you’ll see his scowling glare front and center on the cover of this new CD, and his new theme “Voices” is the first track of 13 on the album. You won’t learn it from the album’s back cover, but Rich Luzzi from Rev Theory is the one singing the vocals on his new song. WWE tends to be rather stingy when giving out credit. From their point of view, all songs on a “WWE: The Music” album are written and produced by James A. Johnston, even when someone else makes the song what it is. As “Voices” is the key song of the album and something you’re going to hear a lot in the months to come, try to imagine this track without Rev Theory’s lead singer putting his VOICE on the track. As a guitar rock instrumental, it might be okay, but it wouldn’t send the chill down your spine Luzzi’s harrowing and slightly psychotic performance does. In fact any other lead singer in this role would have been useless. Would it really have taken up that much space on the back cover to say “vocals by Rich Luzzi of Rev Theory” or even “vocals by Rich Luzzi?”
Making “Voices” the opening track definitely sets things off on the right note for their latest CD, but everything that comes after it is a decidedly mixed bag, especially for the hip-hop heads reading this review. One thing becomes apparent when listening to their latest offering – every theme song for a wrestler born outside the U.S. plays up their ethnicity to the hilt. Maryse gets her “Pourquoi?” song in French, with only the occasional “Ooh-wee” crossing linguistic boundaries. Something about the way the elements mix is all wrong. On one hand you feel they’re trying to play Maryse up as foreign and seductive, but the vocals are layered on top of each other in a way reminiscent of T-Pain’s AutoTune, and the vaguely techno beat wouldn’t be sexy even if Madonna or Mariah crooned on it. Great Khali’s new theme is called “Land of Five Rivers” and again it features vocals sung in the wrestler’s native tongue. Listening to this bouncy India pop music makes me think it’s actually an insult to a billion people. Are we supposed to assume the fans of the WWE Universe in India don’t like rock, rap or reggae? Was Khali consulted? For all we know he’s a fan of 50 Cent and Wyclef Jean. Perhaps he feels like a clown coming out to this song. I know I would the way his character has progressed from a bad-ass gigantic heel to The Fat Chick Thrilla but I digress. That’s not nearly as bad as Umaga’s “Tribal Trouble” though, a ridiculously over-the-top anthem with exotic birds chirping and a chorus of warriors you can only imagine wearing loincloths and dancing around a towering fire. Nice to know the Samoan Bulldozer has been turned from a stereotype into an even bigger stereotype before they’ve even put him back on television. At times like these I wish they’d bring back 3 Minute Warning.
Out of all of these ethnically exaggerated embarassments, the only one I can get down with is Vladimir Kozlov’s “Pain.” You won’t be surprised to hear somebody snarling what are surely Russian cursewords over the beat (though given how little Russian I know it could be a recipe for borscht) but the strong pounding beat actually gets your heartrate going and is kind of catchy. I know, it’s odd they would give such a compelling song to someone who has such a boring personality on TV, but at least if they’re going to push Kozlov hard on TV every week I can look forward to him coming out to this track. “Kung Fu Naki” also works in spite of itself. On the surface it’s a really bad parody of the song “Kung Fu Fighting” but in parodying a classic song they kept enough of the original to make it worthwhile, and hearing “Funaki” rhymed with “Nagasaki” is good for a laugh – especially with Dice Raw from The Roots delivering the lyrics. Jack Swagger’s “Get On Your Knees” is as blatant a ripoff of Rage Against the Machine peformed by AGE Against the Machine but benefits just from imitating something good – the thrashing guitar rock and angry white boy rap fits perfectly.
Unfortunately most of the rest of this album isn’t even bad – it’s just dull. Kane’s “Man on Fire” takes everything that was cool about previous versions of his theme (including the wailing guitars) and strips them away to give his song a tinny, hollow sound. Kelly Kelly’s “Holla” is a remix of a previous version that needed no remix, and when the singer croons that “this beat is hot” she’s now telling a blatant lie. I don’t even want to get started on how bad the DiBiase/Rhodes/Manu anthem “Priceless” is now that it’s been redone, let alone the irony that Manu is listed as part of the crew when he was kicked out before this album hit store shelves. I don’t often say country is better than rock, but the country feel of their old song was FAR better. R-Truth is the only man to get any kind of writing credit on the back cover of “What’s Up?” but it almost seems like WWE intentionally sabotaged his song to get even. The vocals are poorly mixed with the instrumental, and since Killings has such a raspy vocal delivery (think Mystikal) you can barely understand his rap.
The one saving grace of this album may be if you pick up the “Best Buy Exclusive Limited Edition Bonus Disc.” What’s on this disc? Stone Cold’s “shattering glass” theme song opens it, Ultimate Warrior’s appropriately titled “Unstable” follows, and the rest are long-time WWE favorites from Hot Rod’s bagpipes to Mr. Perfect’s epic “Perfection.” The only song that seems out of place is Triple H’s old “Blue Blood” theme – it was bad then and it’s still bad now. If you get the two-disc edition of “Voices – WWE: The Music Vol. 9” it’s worth your time but a one-disc version will leave you hearing VOICES IN YOUR HEAD telling you that you wasted your money. Don’t worry though, THEY UNDERSTAND.