Various artists, "Pitch Perfect 2" (Universal)
The movie sequel to the surprise smash that launched millions of videos of kids singing with plastic cups hit theaters this weekend, and the "Pitch Perfect 2" soundtrack reflects the higher stakes. The first single from the soundtrack is Jessie J's "Flashlight," cowritten by Sam Smith, Sia and others, that serves as the movie's theme. It's an inspirational ballad that soars like Beyoncé's "Halo" and is easily Jessie J's best single yet. The other potential single here is the dance anthem "Crazy Youngsters," performed by Ester Dean of the "Pitch Perfect 2" cast. The tune feels like it could have come from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album, in sound and in theme. However, the a cappella performances really are the focus here. On "Riff Off," the Barden Bellas and their nemesis Das Sound Machine face off on a medley that includes everything from Sisqo's "Thong Song" to Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Jose Gonzalez's "Open Book" is an intimate, introspective acoustic number that finds him checking into a hotel with his giant pet worm. Drama ensues. tinyurl.com/ngbumdr