Welcome back, pitches — the Bellas return for the a cappella series' third (and supposedly final) outing with the new film Pitch Perfect 3. After their big win at the World Championship, the ladies find themselves scattered and stuck in the real world, working mediocre jobs and dealing with day-to-day disappointments. An invite back to college gets the gang back together and ready for a riff-off... only to have the reunion blow up in the Bellas' faces when they realize they were invited to watch, not sing. But singing is exactly what Bellas do best, and it shows in the Pitch Perfect 3 soundtrack, which gives new life to pop hits and features a full slate of amazing covers that cross genres and defy expectations.
To kick their lives back into gear, the Bellas decide to go all-in for one last show, a USO tour with a chance at televised stardom opening for DJ Khaled at the end. The ladies initially butt heads with the other groups, full-on bands with instruments and singers who just don't get the magic of a cappella. The soundtrack's first riff-off captures the tension, with the Bellas sliding through Pink, R. Kelley, and Walk The Moon, only to get slapped down when one of the band members bluntly says "so...it's singing."
Adding insult to injury, the ladies are trounced when all three bands takes stage and slam the Bellas with a perfectly coordinated, country-fried cover of the Cranberries' "Zombie", beating them at their own game. What the Bellas can't articulate, and what the other groups don't appreciate at first, is the specific flavor and style the girls bring to each song they take on, making it their own even if they didn't write it.
Though the "what makes an artist a real artist" question is one of the film's main sources of tension, the soundtrack, available to stream on Spotify, answers it perfectly. Each band highlights exactly what the Bellas bring to the table with their reworked songs made into something new. Saddle Up turns "Ex's And Oh's" from sexy anthem into a toe-tapping country-western barn raiser, for instance.
In the movie, the unfortunately-named girl group Evermoist, supposedly offering the full package of creativity, look down on the Bellas for not writing their own lyrics. Their contribution to the soundtrack is one of the few original songs on the album, a post-breakup pop rocker called "How A Heart Unbreaks." It's enjoyable, but doesn't compare to the soundtrack's high point.
Through most of pop music's history, songs weren't written by the people who ended up singing them, and multiple groups would cover the same song, sometimes in the same year. The Brill Group wrote some of the greatest hits of the '50s and '60s, including "The Loco-Motion" and "One Fine Day", and it wasn't until years later songwriter Carole King decided to sing herself. Even then she had a rocky start — a singer-songwriter was unusual, if not unheard-of. This was far from believing singers lacked some sort of talent for not writing their own songs.
Today, even singers known for writing their own songs still have massive hits put together by a handful of extremely talented songwriters, people whose names are revered by music insiders but remain mostly unknown to the general public. Singer-songwriters like Sia are still a rarity, and there's no shame in taking someone's work meant for interpretation, and doing just that. Which is why the absolute peak of the Pitch Perfect 3 soundtrack is a rousing, bombastic cover of George Michael's "Freedom ('90)" by the Bellas. They take Michael's personal anthem about destroying your past to live your best, truest life, and bring it to the masses as a uniting group declaration. It's uplifting, it's freeing, and it's the pitch-perfect cover tune for the film series to go out on.