Neil Finn's song for The Hobbit
So the news broke yesterday that Neil Finn's song for Peter Jackson's film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was now online - you can listen to it here. It's called Song on the Lonely Mountain, and Rolling Stone previewed the track, including a quote from Finn that Jackson and his team suggested he get in a "dwarven state of mind" for inspiration. He then recorded the song with sons Liam and Elroy.
It's no worse than the mushy balladry that clings to Jackson's Lord of the Rings series; songs by Annie Lennox and Enya. But it's not great by Neil Finn standards. And the mushy balladry that clings to the Lord of the Rings films is not great by song standards.
Hobbit fans and Jackson fanatics will love this Neil Finn song instantly because this is all just part of the journey. And it's probably not fair to judge a song created for a movie - specifically for that purpose - without seeing the film.
But it's unlikely I'll see the movie. I haven't enjoyed a Peter Jackson film since Heavenly Creatures (Oh, and Forgotten Silver too, sure.) He no longer makes the good kind. His kid-in-a-candy-store visual effects sprees have a whiff of cinema about them occasionally. But they can fix that in post.
But are you allowed out in public in this country if you don't like what Peter Jackson and Neil Finn are up to? These are the two towering giants in their respective industries, right? The ones with the farthest reach internationally. And they've earned that - it would be churlish to suggest that they haven't. But if you're told often enough that what you're passing off as movies or songs doesn't stink, you'll surely believe it.
Song on the Lonely Mountain can hide behind being a tune made to fit the brief - just as Randy Newman would never have to defend You've Got a Friend in Me as trying to be anything other than the right sort of whimsy that Pixar required at the time. But writing You've Got a Friend in Me didn't harm Newman when he returned to Harps and Angels - or the most recent I'm Dreaming. He's always been able to separate his film work from his own solo albums.
I wonder if Neil Finn will be able to do that. This isn't just any old movie. It's a bit of a big deal. Can he walk away from this when he needs to? Will he be finishing concerts with Song
on the Lonely Mountain from now on? People really will be dreaming it's over - despite any warnings to the contrary.
Finn's song for The Hobbit arrives at a curious time - he's about to become a solo artist again; there's a tour with Paul Kelly and reports of a solo album in the can, or at least planned for early next year. You may remember from my open letter and one or two other posts about Neil Finn that I've been a big fan of Finn the solo artist; I've hoped - for a while now - that he'll knock Crowded House on the head (again) in favour of a solo album and shows as Neil Finn rather than hide with/behind the band.
Now he'll have a movie to hide behind - and a likely Oscar nomination. All for a song that only comes close to lingering in the mind if you pause to wonder why Ritchie Blackmore wasn't called in to play a lute or provide a mandolin solo.
Jackson and Finn are a fearsome double-act. There's just no way we're allowed to criticise that. Or can we?
Perhaps the audiobook-version of the film version of the original Tolkien text - an audiobook of the screenplay - will feature Richie McCaw reading with The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra offering plink-plunks in the background.
In accordance with my training, being a Finn fan from the youngest age, I want to actually like Song on tthe Lonely Mountain. But I can't. It only comes close to sticking in my mind if I think of it as the sort of thing that Tim Finn now pads his albums out with. And that's not a happy thought - if I needed to point that out.
But what do you think of a) Neil Finn being called up to sing for his supper in this context? And b) what do you think of the song? Do you dislike it immensely? Or do you really like it? And were you excited to hear it as you prepare for the film? Or do the film and the song mean very little to you in your life?
Hobbit season is going to hurt. It will be long. And brutal. And we will be told - (so) often - about all the wonderful financial benefits.