Get ready for an avalanche of a cappella, once the "Pitch Perfect 2" juggernaut kicks into high gear.
The sequel to the surprise smash that launched millions of videos of kids singing with plastic cups hits theaters Friday, and the "Pitch Perfect 2" soundtrack (Universal) reflects the higher stakes.
The first single from the soundtrack is Jessie J's version of "Flashlight," a song co-written by Sam Smith, Sia and others that serves as the movie's theme song. It's a beautiful inspirational ballad that soars like Beyonce's "Halo" and is easily Jessie J's best single yet. Of course, as Anna Kendrick's success with "Cups" showed last time, a big-name singer isn't needed to land a song from this movie franchise on the radio.
In fact, let's hope Rebel Wilson's part-jokey, part-faithful version of Lindenhurst native Pat Benatar's 1984 classic "We Belong" somehow becomes a radio staple.
The other potential single here is the dance anthem "Crazy Youngsters," performed by Ester Dean, best known for cowriting Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" and also part of the "Pitch Perfect 2" cast. "Youngsters" feels like it could have come from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album, both in sound and theme, as Dean sings, "They call us crazy youngsters. We won't apologize."
However, the a cappella performances really are the focus here. On "Riff Off," the Barden Bellas and their nemesis Das Sound Machine face off on a medley that includes everything from Sisqo's "Thong Song" to Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
Das Sound Machine's combination of Fall Out Boy's "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" and DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" is also quite inspired. Of course, the Bellas counter with a mix of Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" and David Guetta's "Where Them Girls At," as well as a pretty version of "Flashlight."
"Pitch Perfect 2" serves more as a souvenir than a hit-filled soundtrack, which should be just fine for the franchise's legions of fans.
THE GRADE B+