On Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida — Giuseppe Verdi’s agent didn’t have enough clout to get him into the credits, obviously — a host of superstars perform songs from a new stage musical composed by the songwriting team that brought you The Lion King. There is every reason to expect an insufferable kitschfest. But in fact, many of these performances — Boyz II Men’s gorgeous “Not Me,” Kelly Price’s soulful “The Gods Love Nubia,” Dru Hill’s soaring “Enchantment Passing Through” — are powerfully emotional. The arrangements are restrained — relatively speaking, of course — and the excesses of most musicals are deftly avoided.
Don’t expect to suss out Aida‘s love-triangle plot from this collection. Not all the songs from the musical are included, and the ones that are appear in no particular order. But, against all odds, this pop opera is impressively satisfying on its own unpretentious terms.