If you like one dramatic Randy Newman score, the chances are that you'll like them all. They have his style stamped all over them and are almost all well thought through minor masterpieces. However, you can't always strike gold and the score to Ron Howard's The Paper is the one slight misfire in his canon. I've not seen the film, but it's about a newsroom and the conflicts therein and was to be Newman's second collaboration with Ron Howard after their success with Parenthood. It is worth noting that Newman has not since worked with Howard. This is a shame as it would have been interested to see what Newman might have made out of Apollo 13, great though James Horner's score was.
One of the biggest problems with the album is that many of the cues are very short and don't amount to anything. Brief cues are fine once in a while, but when they make up a lot of the album and play discontinuously the result is often bitty and unsatisfying. The opening cue doesn't start promisingly, with a curious rhythmic motif that builds nicely as the orchestra joins in. Although themes in this kind of Newman score tend to be somewhat subtle, The Paper doesn't really offer anything substantial apart from what could be referred to as a tick-tock motif. The first few cues feature variations of this idea and natty brass fanfares playing over the percussive background, but this rather dies down somewhat and there is rather a descent into occasionally bland string sections.
Since the cues are so short, it often sounds like joins between scenes rather than proper underscore. This almost certainly works fine in the film, but doesn't make for a terribly good album experience. A little more editing of cues together might have helped give the score a more cohesive feel. There are moments when the music becomes more fesity such as in The Newsroom: 7:00 PM, which brings back the percussion motif and some good brass writing, but it still doesn't seem to amount to a great deal in the end.
The finale song is probably Newman's weakest movie song. It has quite a catchy tune but never really amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Alex Brown provides a counterpoint vocal that plays off Newman's lead vocal rather well. There is no attempt to mix the voices; something that never works terribly well. While there are some Newman songs I can't imagine being sung by anyone else, his voice isn't great, but mixes with a 'cleaner' studio vocal come out rather badly most of the time. The music isn't bad as such, indeed there are some good ideas, many of which show Newman to be experimenting with percussion, even if when the orchestra appears, the harmony is unmistakable Newman. It ultimately boils down to a less than perfect representation of a good, if not outstanding score.