Some welcome trends in this year’s soundtracks: the disappearance of remixes, streaming platforms encouraging experimental albums for web series, and an uptick in unconventional romantic numbers.
The hit-makers of previous were not as consistent in 2023. Last year’s breakout composer Hesham Abdul Wahab spread himself thin with six soundtracks in 2023. Anirudh also was everywhere with massy tunes for films starring Rajinikanth, Shah Rukh Khan and Vijay. Pritam had too much on his plate and didn’t produce anything remarkable this year.
Arijit Singh sang for nearly every major Hindi film in 2023, delivering a new sound only in AR Rahman’s Main Parwana for Pippa. Amit Trivedi had a decent year with Jubilee and Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat. Both yielded at least two enduring tunes: Babuji Bhole Bhaale and Banjaare.
Here is what made the cut in 2023.
Chinnanjiru Nilave, Ponniyin Selvan: II
Can our best intentions survive life? AR Rahman’s haunting tune asks the question like it’s dreading the answer as it reflects on the doomed passion between Nandini and Aditha. Lyricist Ilango Krishnan writes, “When harsh winds blow, my love, how can the strongest flame hope to burn?”
Jhoome Jo Pathaan, Pathaan
If Chaand Taare (Yes Boss) exemplified an early-career Shah Rukh Khan’s dreamer image, and the Kal Ho Naa Ho title track cemented his eternal matinee idol status, Jhoome Jo Pathaan is the song for SRK 3.0. Kumaar’s outstanding lyrics bridge the gap between Khan’s persona until now as well as his 2023 grizzly action hero avatar.
Pyaar Hota Kai Baar Hai, Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar
If the road to sustaining stardom is about attempting slight variations on an established screen image, Pyaar Hota Kai Baar Hai should feature on a Ranbir Kapoor Essentials playlist. The jaunty tune effortlessly sung by Arijit Singh brings back memories of Kapoor’s highly missed Bachna Ae Haseeno and Badtameez Dil days.
In a year in which Anirudh had three major soundtracks, the contest was between Kaavaalaa and Chaleya (Jawan), while his mass-rock songs with weird English lyrics are suffering from sameness. While Chaleya is a good tune, its insipid lyrics are a drag. Kaavaalaa scores for its tune, beats, and Shilpa Rao’s uncharacteristic star turn in an item song.
Modern Love Chennai soundtrack
The Ilaiyaraaja-heavy soundtrack features solid contributions from Yuvan Shankar Raja, Sean Roldan and GV Prakash Kumar. The veteran composer, who scored two of the six entries in the love-themed anthology series, gets the bulk of the songs, of which Thee Inbamae, Paavi Nenjae and Thaen Mazhaiyo are standout tunes. Sean Roldan’s peppy Jingrudha Dhanga, with lines like “You’re a racing dove, I’m a single shark”, is fun.
Bas Tere Karke, Kohrra
The torch song is correctly placed at the end of Kohrra, neatly summing up six episodes of heated material. The minimalist production haunts the emo lyrics with an anguished sizzle that is in tune with the show’s denouement.
Sapta Sagaradaache Ello – Side A title track
A catchy tune combining Kapil Kapilan’s classical-inflected singing with synthop looms over the romantic drama and encapsulates its themes neatly.
The Chamak soundtrack has a lot of talent on paper but is peculiarly uninspiring. Among the reasons are songs that are wrapped up under two minutes because they are used either as montages or as backgrounds in scenes. Khairaat, sung by Kanwar Grewal, stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album.
Rainbow Rishta soundtrack
The album stands out for its extremely contemporary, Gen Z sound. Eleven love songs oscillate between being gentle or cheerful. The variety, which includes Goan mandos and an Assamese-Hindi song, is refreshing.
Onnoda Nadandhaa, Viduthalai Part 1
Dhanush has a pleasant voice but is hardly the best singer available for an Ilaiyaraaja tune. Yet, his awkward vocals perfectly complement Ananya Bhat with respect to what the song is trying to achieve: portray a future romance between two individuals apprehensive of the world around them.
Karakkenne Thanichakkeettu, Thuramukham
A haunting melody from K, featuring Sayanora Philip’s evocative vocals, Karakkenne Thanichakkeettu hangs heavy over the heart as it bemoans unresolved wounds and ancient tragedies.
Neetho Ee Gadichina Kaalam, Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi
Kalyani Malik and Geetha Madhuri’s vocals in the duet whisper sweet nothings to each other. The production is equally minimalist, patiently cooking the romance.
Kabhi Kabhi Zindagi, Mast Mein Rehne Ka
The Shailendra Barve composition’s laidback blues with sunny vocals from Vijay Prakash makes for a nice afternoon song, something to help you edit the city into a montage while you look out of the window seat of a bus.
Arjan Vailly, Animal
Manan Bhardwaj uses spare production to retain the mythic charge of the song conceived and performed by singer-lyricist Bhupinder Babbal. The sonic equivalent of a double espresso on a winter morning, Arjan Vailly, and the scene that utilises it, touches a high that the rest of Animal and the soundtrack are hard-pressed to capture. The movie’s most popular songs were reworkings of existing material: Rahman’s Roja covered by Threeory, and the Iranian folk tune Jamal Jamaloo.