The vocalist most people will want to know about is Tom Cruise, who's playing Stacee Jaxx, a swaggering, arrogant rock god -- a bit of a cross between David Lee Roth and Michael Jackson. He acquits himself decently on a couple of his tracks, notably "Paradise City" (which plays just as the film opens) and "Wanted Dead or Alive," which he shares as a duet with Julianne Hough, who plays the small town girl, Sherrie, who comes to Los Angeles in search of fame and fortune. It's unfortunate that Cruise isn't as persuasive or as effective elsewhere, where his work is strained, particularly during his performance of "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
Hough, whether singing solo, in duets, or in the film's ubiquitous group montages, brings a sweet good-girl sound to her frequently powerhouse vocals, and her perhaps most impressive turn comes as she holds her own with the estimable Mary J. Blige in a surging duet of "Harden My Heart."
As Sherrie's love interest, Drew, a barback with his own dreams of stardom, Diego Boneta brings a blend of innocence and fierceness to his numbers, which include the iconic "I Wanna Rock," as well as "Undercover Love," which he delivers once Drew has been repackaged as a member of a silly, faux gritty boy band.
Of the other A-list cast that's been assembled for the film, Tony Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays the Tipper Gore-like first lady of L.A., delivers a couple of numbers with sultry gusto, including "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," and it should come as no surprise that Blige's work throughout is remarkable.
Perhaps the most unique (and curiously satisfying) turn on the album comes from the mercurial and exceedingly charismatic Russell Brand, who plays Lonny, the second fiddle to Alec Baldwin's Dennis Dupree, the guy who runs The Bourbon Room, the club where much of the movie takes place.
He uses his personal style and innate sense of flair to compensate for what he lacks as a singer, making both "I Can't Fight This feeling" (sung with Baldwin) and the mashup of "We Built This City" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" (where Zeta-Jones is the other lead vocalist) real winners.