Barely Lethal: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Review
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We’ve all heard the timeless classic, “don’t judge a book by its cover”—a great saying to follow because it will undoubtedly lead you to more than a few pleasant surprises in your lifetime. However, even the most positive of the positive would have to admit that if the title of that book was Barely Lethal, they would be more inclined to leave it alone. Such was my dilemma just a few days ago—only Barely Lethal is the name of a soundtrack for a movie about a special ops agent who fakes her death and enrolls in high school in order to experience a normal adolescence. As you can tell—since you’re reading my review—I ultimately decided to give it a chance, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t.

Now that’s not to say that there’s nothing good about it. Composer Mateo Messina is no slouch—steadily getting work for many years in various forms, including movies, television shows, and even his own symphonies—and he manages to create a few enjoyable snippets here. The opening number, “Prescott,” serves as an exciting 47- second preview of his ability to blend many different sounds and rhythms—from its alternating and rapid mix of clapping, snare, and cymbalic percussion to its flowing guitar chords paired with light popping xylophone sounds and dynamic solo bass scales. He then builds upon it with “Fight Club,” transitioning into several different rhythmical sections while incorporating even more sounds, this time of a spacey or electrical nature. After several forgettable follow-ups, Messina hits his peak with “Last Chance,” which will have you practicing your best beat-boxing techniques, thanks to the fluctuating wows of the bass, scratchy guitar lines, and tapping drums just begging to be tongue trilled.

However, beginning with “Truth Serum A” (a mere two songs removed from “Last Chance”), each of the next five songs runs anywhere from two to three minutes long—quite a change, considering that over half of the album’s 25 songs are under a minute. During this stretch, Messina seems to throw out his entire arsenal: electric guitars, wind instruments, conga drums, ticking clocks, maracas, and every kind of keyboard distortion imaginable—but, by then, the formula has started getting old. New sounds, shifting percussion, brief pauses for robotic bass crescendos, repeat. It isn’t long before those additional woodwinds and keyboard effects start making songs like “Truth Serum B” sound like something from National Treasure, and “Car Chase” sounds like a perfect fit for the original Mortal Combat. When Messina couldn’t muster up anything different for the section finale—outstandingly titled “Douche Baguette”—I knew that all hope was lost. After that, there was nothing to do but trudge through the last eleven songs, most of which are nothing but shorter, fizzled-out versions of their more drawn-out counterparts, crawling their way to the finale—a remake of the first track, entitled “Prescott Reprise.” It’s a slightly enjoyable track, but it serves as little consolation for the journey it took to get there.

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