When a song that doesn’t subscribe to your personal taste gets popular, the criticism toward it tends to be harsh. I tried to be fair to the title song of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. It still hasn’t— and I don’t think it ever will—justify why people have gone nuts about it. Or why a song of such importance to the film—the first promo was the song video and not the trailer— so mediocre? It seems straight from the Aashiqui 2 assembly line of Arijit Singh songs, the lyrics, at best, ordinary and with a familiar central melody.

Bulleya, the second song, at first, felt like it will follow suit. Its fashionable Sufi design all too apparent and accompanied by visuals of angsty, stubbled Ranbir Kapoor singing on the streets, it was hovering close to a wannabe Imtiaz Ali zone. But after a number of listens of the subsequent songs that gradually softened my views on the album, Bulleya turned out to be pretty good. It is generic Sufi-rock stuff, better versions of which we have possibly heard in Coke Studio, Pakistan. But one that packs in punch at the right moments, such as the charged-up catch line and the perfect electric guitars riffs. But we have Amitabh Bhattacharya to thank for bringing in his trademark light touches. Even in a song packed with Sufi cliches like ‘bulleya’, ‘murshid’ and ‘haafiz’, Bhattacharya balances it out with unusual words like ‘phadphadaye’ and ‘pagdandi’. The album only further improves from here.

Channa Mereya accentuates the sadness in the happy, a dichotomy Arijit Singh is particularly effective with. The opening is a beauty. Bhattacharya writes great, simple lines—“Accha chalta hoon duaon mein yaad rakhna… Dil ki Sandooko mein mere achhe kaam rakhna."

But for all its Sufi angst and unrequited love, the most enjoyable song of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is the playful Break Up Song. It is instantly catchy and where Pritam and Bhattacharya rekindle their penchant for nonsensical fun (Badtameez Dil). The idea is a cheerful, melodious dance song celebrating a break-up and the composer-lyricist smartly mixes the old-fashioned and the trendy—‘saiyyaji’ is paired with ‘break-up’, ‘jeevit’ with ‘cupid’, for instance. The song is equally contrasting for the techno-pop arrangement. Jonita Gandhi brings in shades of a Shamshad Begum oldie and Singh delivers it like a happy 1990s’ song.

Cutiepie is the perfect example of having a potentially good song in hand and botching it up. It has a terrific first verse: sung with folk abandon by Pardeep Singh Sran and clever wording by Bhattacharya—‘ati fantastic’ sounds delightful. But Pritam clutters the song with a lousy chorus and generic EDM elements until it chokes into a gawdy club-mix and nearly undoes all the good work.

It’s unclear whether these five songs complete the album; it is unlikely, given the film’s protagonist is a singer. But Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is likely to encourage other films to follow the route of releasing one single every two weeks and hold the album till after the film’s release. It’s a big album for Pritam, whose knack of churning out bonafide chartbusters has teamed well with Karan Johar. His increasing comfort with Bhattacharya has also established a new composer-lyricist chemistry. But Pritam’s inability to completely break away from overused templates is what stops his albums from being consistently good.

Our picks from the album:

* Break Up Song

* Channa Mereya

* Bulleya

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