The Commitments

Genre: Rock, Soundtracks; Lead Performers: Robert Arkins, Maria Doyle, Andrew Strong; Producer (group): MCA

Theatrical singing is about diction; soul music is about words sung so passionately it doesn’t matter if you can understand them. The Commitments might have been able to distract you with dialogue and motion on-screen, but without the visuals, their essential hollowness overwhelms all other considerations. Maria Doyle sort of copes with the teen-pop breathiness of Mary Wells’ ”Bye Bye Baby,” but asking her to dig into the deep soul of Aretha’s ”I Never Loved a Man” is one of the stupidest wastes of human energy since the Charge of the Light Brigade. And the male vocals are totally hopeless — when Robert Arkins reaches for falsetto shrieks at the end of ”Slip Away,” he sounds like a rabbit with a punctured lung, and Andrew Strong’s most credible moment is proving that ”call me Mr. Pitiful” can be a god-awful pun. But I suppose The Commitments — whose album leapt into Billboard’s top 10 — will content the growing number of people who prefer the hollow excesses of Michael Bolton to the genuine soulfulness of, say, Ray Charles. D-

Originally posted October 18 1991 — 12:00 AM EDT

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