By Lexi Ashbury
Recently, I forced my friends to watch “Across the Universe” for the hundredth time in the comfort of my living room, paired with the sounds of my off-key singing. Watching the movie and hearing the soundtrack after a brief hiatus is a nostalgic feeling I can only describe by sobbing in front of the television. If you hear that title and think of the classic Beatles song, congratulations, you’re onto something.
The film (yes film) was released in 2007 and is categorized as a “British-American jukebox, musical, romantic, drama film,” according to my trusty source, Wikipedia. This movie is essentially to The Beatles what “Mamma Mia” is to ABBA. It tells the stories of many different characters living during the Vietnam War who all cross paths at some point in time while featuring 33 original Beatles songs. While this is one of my favorite movie soundtracks and I listen to it daily (while singing into my microphone-shaped hairbrush), I personally think there are renditions of songs in the movie that are far better than The Beatles versions… here is evidence of my pretty bold claim.
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” – T.V. Carpio
The fourth song in the film is sung by a character named Prudence who is a cheerleader at her high school. She sings her heart out on the bleachers while looking at the football team, until it’s revealed she has a crush on one of her fellow cheerleaders. Her feelings towards a girl force her to drop out of school from shame.
Honestly, I don’t even love The Beatles version of this song to begin with. This cover is perfectly slowed down with light instrumentals sprinkled throughout. T.V. Carpio’s voice absolutely accomplishes in this rendition what four men couldn’t do. While listening, you feel the raw emotion come through – far different than the light-hearted original.
“Let It Be” – Carol Woods, Timothy T. Mitchum
Performed by supporting cast members, this song variation will send chills up your spine every time you listen. Plus, who doesn’t love a gospel choir in the background? The song is played over two scenes of tragic deaths. The scene shifts between two funerals, one for a young boy killed during a riot and one for a love interest who was killed in Vietnam. No disrespect to Mr. McCartney, but Carol’s strong, heart-rendering voice doesn’t leave a dry eye in the room. Her range is powerful and ties both of the tragic scenes together perfectly.
“If I Fell” – Evan Rachel Wood
This is another song where I don’t particularly love the original to begin with. This rendition is so phenomenal I can’t even put it into words. Fun fact, Evan Rachel Wood sang it in one take and perfectly nailed it the first time. To set the scene, she’s basically contemplating if she wants to fall for the main male protagonist; this plays over a montage of moments of the two.
What I love the most about this cover is that they focus more on the strong nature of her voice rather than the instrumentals that are supposed to surround it. By letting her take over and take control of the song, it creates a powerful moment in the film and an immediate classic/staple of the soundtrack.
“Dear Prudence”– Dana Fuchs, Jim Sturgess, Wood, Carpio
This is the song that I force everyone to listen to in the car with me, even if they haven’t seen the movie yet. I love a moment where everyone joins together to sing. I personally love when they slow down, “The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you.” Yes, I know they do that in the original, but Wood’s voice is so harmonious and expressive that even that one line took the cake for me. No disrespect to the White Album that I love so dearly, but there is something so freeing about this version that is really beautiful.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Martin Luther McCoy
I’m currently writing this paragraph as I levitate in my bedroom, this song shaking the walls. Okay, I’m not saying it’s better than the original, it’s a classic, but McCoy’s voice gives the song a sultry attitude that it didn’t have before. His voice is my favorite out of all the cast members and he perfectly nailed this emotional song. The delicacy of his tone absolutely encompasses all the tension that had been building up until this point in the movie. It’s a true testament that even some of the greatest songs ever written can be outdone.
The entire soundtrack is phenomenal, and the movie is definitely worth a watch; it’s clearly one of my favorites. If you’re a Beatles fan, or even if you’re not, it won’t hurt to give it a listen. I hope you give the movie a chance, or at least the soundtrack! It might become a new staple in your music library.