One fine day, walking around Laraib Music, hoping to find something decent to listen to, I came across an Atif Aslam poster. It had a picture of him and stated that Atif was back with a new album that comprised of 17 tracks. This was a shocker for various reasons. First of all, 17 is a huge number. How many artists in Pakistan can manage that many decent tracks on one album? Moreover, Atif's album appeared out of thin air. One day there was nothing and the next day, puff! It was there. There was no pre-release hype, no launch gig, not even a press conference. Skeptically, I bought the album as Atif was a superstar and had won hearts with just one song ("Aadat") in 2004. Imagine what 17 gems could do collectively. Sadly, my skepticism was accurate because as soon as one rolled down the album jacket, two things became clear: Doorie isn't an Atif Aslam album in its truest sense and secondly, it is an album that should've been called "Atif remixed, featuring 6 new tracks."
"Doorie" is a chaotic mix of 17 songs that are incoherent, weak and unoriginal. But before explaining how, let's first talk about the fleeting good side of the album.
The best song on the album is the excellent "Maula". Its mood is just so different than anything Atif has ever done. It has a Sufic feel to it, with heavy percussion and acoustic guitars forming the music structure. Atif sings with emotions, convincingly as he croons, "Mujh Ko Bata Mera Dar Ha Kahan Maula/Jogi Bana Mein/Firda Rawan." A fear of lost identity, losing oneself in the fast pace of life are some of the themes "Maula" touches on in a subtle demeanour. Excellent number.
Other good pop ditties include the upbeat yet morbid "Hum Kis Galli Ja Rahe Hain" where the drained protagonist asks, "Hum Kis Galli Ja Rahe Hain/Apna Koi Thekana Nahie" and the moody and melancholic, "Kuch Iss Tarah" that invites the listener into a world of romance with all its hurt and agony included. Then there's the annoyingly addictive, "Doorie" that effectively portrays the heart of a man missing his love. It's quite sweet even if it is a tad corny. Anyhow, that was the good side of the album. And now for the disappointments, blunders, errors.
Other 'original' numbers on Doorie fall short in one way or the other, especially when compared to the above-mentioned tracks or Atif's first album "Jalpari". One example is "Mahiya Ve Soniya". It begins in a sensual manner with a saxophone playing in the background and a girl singing "Every time, pick a place, I'll be there." Excitedly, one wonders what will happen next but the tune changes quickly and soon Atif bursts into the unoriginal, done to death phrase, "Mahiya Ve/Dil Naiyon Lagda." It's not the music that destroys the song but the severely filmi lyrics such as, "Pagal Pagal Rehti Hai Meri Tau Har Dhadkan/Bas Teray Deedar Ka Chaya Mujhe Pey Paagalpan." Move on and one finds "O Re Piya" with its filmi music, thanks to the orchestra running in the background. It really feels like a Nadeem-Shravan song that is neither here or there. And with this song ends the original material on the album.
"Tere Bin" from "Bas Ek Pal" is also present in the playlist. It's a fantastic track but again, this song was on "Bas Ek Pal's" soundtrack and doesn't really belong to "Doorie".
Remixes take over the album and one would like Atif to explain the difference between a club mix, house mix, euro mix, soul mix, trance mix, energy mix, eternal mix and freaky mix. The only thing freaky is that some of them sound exactly the same as their original songs. It isn't uncommon for bands to remix their popular songs. The remix of Abbas Ali Khan's "Malal" took the song to a whole new level with electrifying percussion nuances and beats. Another case is Rungg's "Saath Saath" that was remixed by the multi-talented Zeeshan Parwez. He turned a pop/rock number into a dance number in a simple, subtle and bouncy way. The point is, it's all right to do remixes, provided one knows how to do them. It is this reason why random folks don't turn tables at clubs and parties. There is a reason why we opt for DJs. This is where "Doorie" disappoints terribly. It turns all the wrong tables as far as remixes are concerned and in doing so, takes away the beauty of the original numbers.
Be it the "Tere Bin (club mix)" or "Doorie (house mix)", "Kuch Iss Tarah (euro mix)", "Mahi Ve Soniya (soul mix)", "O Re Piya (trance mix)", or "Yakeen (club mix)" – all remixes are bad. With "Tere Bin (club mix)" and "Doorie (house mix)", the problem is chaos. There is an attempt to achieve too much and as a result, it fails. It sounds like a science project gone wrong. Moving onto "Kuch Iss Tarah (euro mix)" and one finds mediocrity. This is perhaps the only remix that is a little calm in its sound and structure but it's a sound that anyone from Paul Oakenfold to John Digweed to Sasha could do. There is no originality, not that it's copied but it is just out there, reminding one of too many things and not being able to stand on its own convincingly. Then there is that awful remix of the already average "O Re Piya". It's another out there remix with a weird intact beat juggling around from pace to pace, shifting and changing, for no rhyme or reason. But hey, it's not the worst. That honour must be given to "Yakeen (club mix)" for distorting, destroying, and breaking the brilliant original into a sound that is redundant, repetitive and one that fails to build a connection with the melody. It neither matches nor constructs a pathway for itself. Skip it.
The final surprise of the album is the "Hum Kis Galli Ja Rahe Hain" mix and "Doorie (energy mix)" – both of whom are the same numbers. The only difference is the addition of words to the titles.
Atif Aslam is an immensely talented singer and composer. He proved his worth with songs like "Yakeen" and "Ehsaas". They were not on Jal's album and were his original numbers. Lyrically, these songs were absolutely riveting even as they remained simple musically. Atif Aslam through these tracks built up his own identity.
Everyone wondered what the second album would be like, and whether Atif would come out with another musical treasure? Atif did steal the nation and he is doing so once again but without the musical genius, lyrical quality, originality and emotions with which he (Or Goher Mumtaz?) penned "Jalpari".
Sequel albums are always under scrutiny. If one has a monumental success like "Jalpari" to fall on, he might get scared. But the thing is, only he will get scared who did the actual composing. Going over the inlay of the jacket, one discovers that every song including "Doorie" has been composed by Sachin Gupta and a few tracks have been done by Mithoon. Even the lyrics are not Atif's own. They have been written by Sameer, Sayeed Quadri, Sachin Paul, Uzma & Shahzad. This is an album composed in every way by a bunch of people while Atif Aslam lends his vocals to their songs.
Insiders in the industry claim that Atif has another album on its way and that is the real deal. But if that's the case, what was "Doorie"? Some say it was his entry in India but how can it be his entry into India when he released his album there and has been singing tunes for Hindi flicks for a while now?
The bottom line is that as a sequel to "Jalpari", "Doorie" disappoints; as an album, it disappoints and as a talented musician, Atif Aslam has disappointed. What more is left to say?Maheen Sabeeh