Listen: Harris Jayaraj's "Manjal Veyil" (Tamil)

So I have been listening to Dev. A lot. And despite the overwhelming sense of familiarity that seeps all through the album, I have come to enjoy it. Certainly it's a fun breezy effort, much better than most Harris Jayaraj works in recent times, but did it warrant the kind of critical review I gave a couple of days back? Composers have their own "signature" comfort zones where they operate best, Ilaiyaraaja is one, Santhosh Narayanan is one, D. Imman is another, and Harris Jayaraj too is no exception.

But what is it that makes me go all effusive over Raja's music (at least most of the times), and dismiss that of Harris and Imman as derivative and boring? What is the thing that separates them? What does Raja have that they don't? Of course, this comparison may seem absurd to begin with, given Ilaiyaraaja's enviable body of work spanning over five decades, but I have been struggling to understand the dichotomy that seems as perplexing as it is irrational. Does it all trickle down ultimately to my music preferences? Or is it the craft? Or is it some misplaced nostalgia? (After all I grew up listening to Ilaiyaraaja and A. R. Rahman, you see.)

Whatever be the case, Dev's release gave me an excuse to go back and revisit Harris' 2006 outing Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. The third collaboration of director Gautham Menon and the composer features the customary Bombay Jayashri melody Partha Mudhal, the sparsely-arranged pleaser Uyirile, but there is also the elegant Karka Karka, the shamelessly catchy Arabic fusion Neruppe and then, Manjal Veyil. Riding on an unconventional song structure not so common in Tamil, Jayaraj dresses up the groovy number with a profusion of guitars and Hariharan's impassioned singing that makes it electrifying and lifts the song to stratospheric heights. Give it an earful below (or via YouTube) -