Justin Timberlake and various artists, “Trolls: World Tour (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” (RCA Records)
Even if you refused to see even a minute of 2016’s animated film “Trolls,” you’ve likely heard it. And for that you can thank Justin Timberlake.
His “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” was everywhere — at the Oscars, Grammys and Super Bowl, atop the Billboard charts and even in the presidential campaign that year. Can the sequel’s soundtrack be more glitter-filled?
It can. It definitely can. Timberlake is back (along with super-producer Max Martin) and they’ve got help from A-listers like Kelly Clarkson, SZA, Anderson .Paak, Chris Stapleton and production assistance from Grammy- and Oscar-winner Ludwig Göransson. The result is a surprisingly dope soundtrack with a clutch of excellent songs in all genres that deserve a rich life outside the kiddie set.
To be honest, it wasn’t that hard to improve on the original soundtrack, which was a mess, with cheesy covers — the nadir was Zooey Deschanel and Anna Kendrick doing “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” — that even the addition of a weak Ariana Grande song couldn’t help. It was all about “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
But the sequel’s soundtrack isn’t reliant on a single song and takes the music more seriously, befitting a story about music’s different genres. The one tune bravely trying to top “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” this time is the very addictive “The Other Side” with SZA and Timberlake.
Other standouts easily spill out, including Paak and Timberlake’s “Don’t Slack,” which precedes the shimmery pop crowd-pleaser “It’s All Love,” which adds Mary J. Blige and George Clinton to the Paak and Timberlake team.
Paak and Timberlake are back for the bubbly, gospel-tinged “Just Sing” and they’re aided vocally by the eclectic group of Clarkson, Blige, Anna Kendrick and Kenan Thompson. Later Clarkson truly shines in a rueful, banjo-led “Born to Die,” a Stapleton-Timberlake knockout. That pair also wrote a fiddle-filled, foot-stomper “Leaving Lonesome Flats” and gave it to Dierks Bentley.
Like the original, there are plenty of “Glee”-like covers and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom does three — Hearts’ “Barracuda,” Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”
One song is clearly for the parents: “Trolls Wanna Have Good Times” is a sloppy mix of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Chic’s “Good Times” and Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.” It would be perfect for a Gen-X barbecue.
Keep going and you’ll dig up some odd-ball tunes, like the HAIM-written, Joan Jett-honoring “Rock N Roll Rules” and, weirdly, actor Sam Rockwell doing a cover of “I Fall to Pieces.” Why poor Anthony Ramos was tasked with Daft Punk’s “One More Time” is not clear.
But then, right at the end, is another gem: “It’s All Love (History of Funk)” with Paak, Blige and Clinton, which is a pure bliss. “Turn it up, louder!” go the lyrics and you’ll find yourself — perhaps to your own amazement — jamming along to the new “Trolls” soundtrack.