Music critics occasionally venture a crack at reviewing WWE music compilations, but they often miss the mark, because you simply cannot just act as if this is some regular compilation CD and assess the songs simply as songs. Not for the most part. But to explain, I need to back up a little bit…
There are different kinds of WWE compilations. The basic type is usually, but not always, entitled “WWE the music volume whatever.” The tracks on them are mostly superstar ring entrance music, which is to say they are essentially hero and villain themes from a TV show soundtrack and ought to be assessed as such. They may be purchased by those who simply like the tunes, but more often they are enjoyed by fans who want to psych themselves up for a workout, or kids who play with wrestling action figures and want to recreate the full experience. Almost all of these are composed and recorded by WWE's in-house music maestro Jim Johnston.
You kids today are damn lucky, by the way. Back when I played with Hasbro's WWF figures, the only way you could get theme music was to join the fan club and they'd send you an 8-minute cassette. Lots of rewinding and fast-forwarding involved. No fun.
Anyway, there's another kind of WWE album, like WWE Aggression, WWE Forceable [sic] Entry, and more recently WWE Wreckless Aggression. These albums feature actual name bands doing either covers of the theme tunes, or new songs inspired by a particular wrestler. If these catch on, they may sometimes be adopted as the new heard-on-TV theme. These albums tend to be the better ones.
But WWE The Music Volume 8 is a mix of both styles — there are themes as heard on TV, and there are covers. Most of the covers flat-out suck this time around, though. Fortunately for the bands, perhaps, the Cd booklet doesn't identify who did which cover. So while I know that Disciple, Collie Budz, and Theory of a Deadman are on this disc, I don't know who did what. They all sound very similar anyway.
If you're going to buy this album, the Wal-Mart version is the only way to go, as it features three bonus tracks, one of which is the best theme song going today, Santino Marella's “La Vittorio e Mia,” an honest to goodness opera-style song in Italian backed by an industrial beat. And unlike many of the other themes that simply repeat themselves after a minute, this is a song with peaks, valleys, and bridges, not a mere verse-chorus-verse construction.
Another of the bonus tracks is the faux-Irish jig used by Hornswoggle, Vince McMahon's illegitimate son who happens to be a Leprechaun (just go with it). It's amusing. Bonus track #3 is a lame cover of Ashley Massaro's theme, which was passable nu-metal before, and is now a lackluster dance mix by someone who sounds drugged.
So how about the rest?
There's a distinct '80s pop hint to both Kofi Kingston's “S.O.S.” (imagine if reggaeton were produced for an '80s MTV audience), and Beth Phoenix's “Glamazon,” which sounds like an instrumental version of Kim Wilde's cover of “You keep Me Hangin' On.” A new ECW theme called “Don't Question My Heart” is a blatant and horrible rip-off of Metallica's “Sanitarium.” Candice Michelle, in keeping with her transition from Playmate to ass-kicker, gets her heavy come-on song remixed with annoying stutters and a DJ yelling, while Shelton Benjamin's “Ain't No Stoppin' me Now” has been slowed down and sounds less enthusiastic.”
For the Wreckless Intent CD, WWE managed some excellent timing by hiring 3-6 Mafia to record a theme for Mark Henry right before they won the Oscar for best song. So why get a new hip-hop band to do a new, inferior song? Passable covers include harder versions of the entrance tunes for Vince McMahon, Chris Jericho, and Mr. Kennedy. Kennedy previously had his entrance tune available only as a bonus track on a compilation of previously released material, so it's good to get this, but it does rather sadly leave out his signature “KENNEDYYYY!” exclamation at the beginning.
Edge-heads Hawkins and Ryder get a fairly generic metal tune, while John morrison, whose gimmick is based on Jim Morrison, gets a song that sounds like…Jimi Hendrix??? Jesse N Festus' “Biscuits and Gravy” is old-school WWE theme all the way.
Which leaves Jillian Hall's “Sliced Bread.” Non-fans will not understand this one at all: Hall's gimmick is that she thinks she's a great singer but very plainly isn't. There was a theory that the whole idea came up as a way of mocking Hulk Hogan's daughter Brooke, but Hall's more blatant inspiration is Britney Spears — an exaggeratedly bad Britney Spears to the nth degree. So the song is funny if you're in on the joke, possibly unlistenable otherwise.
So all in all, this is a comedown from Wreckless Intent, but a step-up from the download-only WWE The Music Volume 7, which was mostly generic themes from boring guys like Bobby Lashley and the short-lived Marcus Cor Von.
The Santino track is worth the money…but I don;t think you can buy it separately. As Ron Simmons would say: “DAMN!”