“Hey Ya!” was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to OutKast. The mega-gigantic 2003 smash single catapulted the Atlanta duo of Andre “Ice Cold” 3000 and Big Boi from freak-funk avant hip-hopsters creating intense masterpieces to a mainstream pop act soundtracking sporting events and award shows; in short, a pair of artists once comfortably under the radar were now undone by their own ambitious achievement. Idlewild, the first album from the pair since the stunning The Love Below/Speakerboxxx affair, is as frustrating, uneven, and strained as one would expect a project repeatedly pushed back since mid-2005. The lowlights (“A Bad Note,” “Life Is Like A Musical,” and “Peaches,” to name a few) overwhelm the scant highlights (the propulsive, truly off-the-wall “Morris Brown,” “Mighty O,” and the knowing “Hollywood Divorce”) but the troublesome element plaguing Idlewild isn’t something that can necessarily be fixed by scrapping release dates or feverish late nights spent reworking songs. The film incarnation has been critically thumped, billed as style strangling substance, so it follows that Idlewild is ostensibly a soundtrack. Unfortunately, the album feels more like a clip job fashioned by two men whose professional relationship is quickly disintegrating but who must maintain a united front. It’s an interesting failure, as OutKast are probably incapable of making boring music, but a failure nonetheless. Big Boi wants to make music and Andre wants to act; it really is that simple and no matter how the men in OutKast twist away from the point, it’s beginning to show in the finished product, to a degree that will tarnish the duo’s modern classics.
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