Tag Archives: soundtrackoftheday

Iron Man (2008) – Ramin Djawadi

Ramin Djawadi’s score to the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 2008’s Iron Man, proved to the world that Marvel was attempting to accomplish something…well…different. Just as they have separated themselves from the traditional superhero movie, they have separated themselves from the typical superhero film score. Where John Williams’ score to the original Superman film, starring Christopher Reeve, is filled with a literally soaring main theme, loud and triumphant, Ramin Djawadi’s score to Iron Man is decidedly more modern, rock-based and very fitting of the rock star personality of the titular character.

Heavy guitar is featured throughout, being used in nearly every track, from  “Driving With the Top Down” to “Merchant of Death” to “Gulmira”. The use of such an unorthodox instrument (as far as film scores go) emphasizes the nature of the character: wild, impulsive, and expressive. It drives the score in the more action-oriented scenes, showing that the Iron Man character is not someone to be taken lightly like Superman might be with his soaring hero theme; Iron Man is real, he is in-your-face, and he’s not messing around.

All of that being said, the score is not without its quiet moments. “Vacation’s Over” does not feature any heavy guitar at all, focusing instead on the traditional movie orchestra, which provides a sort of return to the civilized world in comparison to the more primitive, or less controlled, sound of the guitar. Very appropriate, considering the fact that it’s heard at the scene in the film when Stark is rescued and returns to the United States. Other more reserved tracks include “Extra Dry, Extra Olives”, a tentative piece that lightly builds on the budding relationship between Tony and Pepper, and “Are Those Bullet Holes?”, perfectly representing a moment that shows how much Pepper really cares for Tony and how she is concerned for his well-being.

Overall, Ramin Djawadi has created something truly different and unique in his score for Iron Man: music that perfectly embodies the character that it was written for while remaining entertaining enough for both rock and film score fans to enjoy it. I regret that it doesn’t have much of a theme associated with the character (Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” doesn’t count), but that doesn’t stop this score from being quite enjoyable and special.

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

  1. “Driving With the Top Down”   3:10
  2. “Iron Man (2008 Version)” – John O’Brien & Rick Boston  1:05
  3. “Merchant of Death”   2:15
  4. “Trinkets to Kill a Prince”   3:08
  5. “Mark I”   3:54
  6. “Fireman”   2:09
  7. “Vacation’s Over”   3:35
  8. “Golden Egg”   4:13
  9. “DamnKid” – DJ Boborobo   1:13
  10. “Mark II”   2:47
  11. “Extra Dry, Extra Olives”   1:44
  12. “Iron Man”   3:30
  13. “Gulmira”   4:06
  14. “Are Those Bullet Holes?”   2:00
  15. “Section 16”   2:34
  16. “Iron Monger”   4:45
  17. “Arc Reaktor”   3:56
  18. “Institutionalized” – Suicidal Tendencies   3:49
  19. “Iron Man” – Jack Urbont   0:20

Total Length: app. 55 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

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TRON: Legacy (2010) – Daft Punk

I think that the high quality of Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy was unexpected for most people, but, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense: get a musical duo famous for their electronic music to compose the score to a film whose setting takes place primarily in an electronic world.

And it’s the electronic music featured in this score that makes it so great. From the Vangelis-esque “Overture” to the infectious club groove “End of Line” (the title a reference to the original TRON film) to the aggressive “Disc Wars”, Daft Punk has managed to create a score that works well as both a companion to the film it was written for and as a standalone work of art. However, there is plenty of traditional film music – that is to say, orchestral rather than electronic – that is just as good, such as in the tracks “Recognizer”, which sort of emulates the feel of electronic music, the beautiful “Nocturne”, and “Finale”, which features some excellent brass as well as some soaring strings.

While it’s not the greatest film score of all time, it’s definitely one of the better scores composed by a musical group not known for its film scores. Daft Punk’s music for TRON: Legacy fits the setting tremendously well, enhancing the crisp visuals with an exciting soundtrack that combines traditional film scoring with newer ideas to create something unique and satisfying.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Overture” 2:28
2. “The Grid” 1:37
3. “The Son of Flynn” 1:35
4. “Recognizer” 2:38
5. “Armory” 2:03
6. “Arena” 1:33
7. “Rinzler” 2:18
8. “The Game Has Changed” 3:25
9. “Outlands” 2:42
10. “Adagio for Tron” 4:11
11. “Nocturne” 1:42
12. “End of Line” 2:36
13. “Derezzed” 1:44
14. “Fall” 1:23
15. “Solar Sailer” 2:42
16. “Rectifier” 2:14
17. “Disc Wars” 4:11
18. “C.L.U.” 4:39
19. “Arrival” 2:00
20. “Flynn Lives” 3:22
21. “Tron Legacy (End Titles)” 3:18
22. “Finale” 4:23

Total Length: app. 59 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Tangled (2010) – Alan Menken

Alan Menken’s score for 2010’s Tangled is like a modern update to the scores of the classic Disney films of the 1990s; who better to bring new life to the classic scores than the man who originally scored/wrote songs for The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, PocahontasHercules, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

The best part about this score is that the styles vary so completely from track to track. The first instrumental track we hear is titled “Flynn Wanted”, and it manages to effectively capture the swashbuckling, adventurous feel that Eugene Fitzherbert tries to emulate as the thieving Flynn Rider. Two tracks later, “Horse With No Rider” introduces an eerie, anxious theme that serves as a backdrop to Mother Gothel’s realization that Rapunzel may have been found and the subsequent panicked flee back to the tower. And still something different is “Campfire”, in which we hear some subtle hints at the main theme for the musical number “I See the Light”, a play at the budding relationship between our two protagonists. The ending to “The Tear Heals” is filled with the emotion appropriate to the situation; it’s grand, heartfelt, and, to use a bit of a cliche, magical.

Of course, the real highlights of Tangled‘s soundtrack are the musical numbers, which the score only serves as backup to. In “When Will My Life Begin” and its two reprises, we see the main conflict within Rapunzel: her desire to do something with her life other than stay in the tower forever. While I’m not a particular fan of “Mother Knows Best”, it is an appropriate introduction to Mother Gothel, and, even more, a setup for an excellent reprise. “I’ve Got a Dream” is a hilarious, raucous sing-along that shows us that “our differences ain’t really that extreme”. The real standout song of this album, though, is “I See the Light”, a beautiful duet between Rapunzel and Eugene that reminds me of Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” every time I hear it…but in a good way.

Overall, while the score only features a couple of standout moments (“Kingdom Dance” is my favorite), the musical numbers are what you buy the album for. With fantastic performances by Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi, the score for Tangled is a return to the classic Disney singalong animated film; it’s fun, it’s touching, and it tells a wonderful story.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “When Will My Life Begin”   2:32
  2. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1)”   1:03
  3. “Mother Knows Best”   3:10
  4. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 2)”   2:06
  5. “I’ve Got a Dream”   3:11
  6. “Mother Knows Best (Reprise)”   1:38
  7. “I See the Light”   3:44
  8. “Healing Incantation”   0:54
  9. “Flynn Wanted”   2:51
  10. “Prologue”   2:03
  11. “Horse With No Rider”   1:57
  12. “Escape Route”   1:57
  13. “Campfire”   3:22
  14. “Kingdom Dance”   2:20
  15. “Waiting for the Lights”   2:48
  16. “Return to Mother”   2:07
  17. “Realization and Escape”   5:51
  18. “The Tear Heals”   7:38
  19. “Kingdom Celebration”   1:51
  20. “Something That I Want”   (Grace Potter)   2:43

Total Length: app. 56 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


A Bug’s Life (1998) – Randy Newman

Disney/Pixar’s A Bug’s Life is one of my favorite of the Pixar soundtracks, and certainly my favorite of Randy Newman’s Pixar scores.

The first song on the album is “The Time of Your Life”, sung by Newman himself, which I had never paid much attention to until tonight; I knew the first line and the chorus, but ignored the rest because I didn’t see how it connected to the film. As it turns out, the lyrics are all about being ambitious and pursuing what you love; in other words, it describes Flik in the film. Who’d have thought it, eh? The song itself is catchy, and it’s heavily referenced in the orchestral score in tracks like “Seed to Tree” and “Flik Leaves” – both of which are meant to foreshadow Flik’s rise to greatness as the film progresses.

Newman plays around with leitmotifs, composing an industrial, hip-sounding theme for Flik’s grain-harvesting machine and for the city (“The Flik Machine”, “The City”), a sort of “aggression” theme heard in “The Bird Flies” and “Ants Fight Back”, a gypsy-like theme for the circus bugs introduced in “Circus Bugs” and hinted at again in “Loser”, and a few other various themes heard throughout. The way each of these leitmotifs is interlaced into the score is like a game of tug-of-war; each melody is designed to pull your attention to the character(s) they represent, and they each take turns pulling your attention back and forth.

Since this was only Newman’s second Pixar film score, most of the material in A Bug’s Life is pretty original, minus a bit of the filler music (non-thematic material) that resembles his score to Toy Story. Newman’s score brings a sense of grandeur to a world that we rarely think about because of how minuscule it is, showing that, while our world may be big to us, it’s even bigger to a bug; they can have big adventures too! My favorite track is the last one on the album, “A Bug’s Life Suite”, because it contains all of the main themes heard throughout the film…seriously, go listen to that! All film soundtracks should be required to have suites/overtures.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “The Time of Your Life” (performed by Newman) 3:16
2. “The Flik Machine” 2:54
3. “Seed to Tree” 1:01
4. “Red Alert” 1:49
5. “Hopper and his Gang” 3:21
6. “Flik Leaves” 2:37
7. “Circus Bugs” 1:27
8. “The City” 2:35
9. “Robin Hood” 0:59
10. “Return to Colony” 1:33
11. “Flik’s Return” 1:24
12. “Loser” 2:43
13. “Dot’s Rescue” 4:00
14. “Atta” 1:08
15. “Don’t Come Back” 1:07
16. “Grasshoppers’ Return” 3:01
17. “The Bird Flies” 2:38
18. “Ants Fight Back” 2:14
19. “Victory” 2:33
20. “A Bug’s Life Suite” 5:12

Total Length: app. 48 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Rocky (1976) – Bill Conti

Bill Conti’s score to Rocky is most remembered for the main title, “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)”, and for a good reason: essentially, when you break each of the tracks on this album down into their core elements, it is easy to hear that “Gonna Fly Now” serves as the foundation for every single (non-vocal) track on this album.

While, yes, all of these tracks are based around “Gonna Fly Now”, Bill Conti does a nice job with individualizing each track enough to make them stand out on their own merits. For example, “Philadelphia Morning” contains the main theme played mellowly on a piano, while “Butkus” is a bit of a jazzy rendition of the same theme. “Alone in the Ring” is also played on the piano, but it is weighted with contemplation and hope, and “The Final Bell” is, in my opinion, one of the best victory songs of all time. There’s not much more to say…I’ve pretty much said it all. Literally every single instrumental track follows along those same lines.

Though you might think that hearing “Gonna Fly Now” over and over again, albeit in different variations, would be boring, Bill Conti manages to keep it somewhat fresh throughout, supplying a decent score to one of the most beloved sports movies of all time. Despite that, though, it’s the lack of completely original material from track to track – as well as the fact that, at only 32 minutes long, it is a depressingly short score – that prevents Rocky from getting a higher rating from me.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)” (vocals: DeEtta Little/Nelson Pigford) – 2:48
  2. “Philadelphia Morning” – 2:22
  3. “Going the Distance” – 2:39
  4. “Reflections” – 3:19
  5. “Marines’ Hymn/Yankee Doodle” – 1:44
  6. “Take You Back (Street Corner Song from Rocky)” (vocals: Valentine) – 1:49
  7. “First Date” – 1:53
  8. “You Take My Heart Away” (vocals: DeEtta Little/Nelson Pigford) – 4:46
  9. “Fanfare for Rocky” – 2:35
  10. “Butkus” – 2:12
  11. “Alone in the Ring” – 1:10
  12. “The Final Bell” – 1:56
  13. “Rocky’s Reward” – 2:02

Total Length: app. 32 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) – Harry Gregson-Williams

When I reviewed the score to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I mentioned that I’ve never much cared for Harry Gregson-Williams’ music. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just a bit boring, not offering anything that warrants high praise for the album as a whole…at least, that’s what I thought until I began listening to them critically. Now, I’m treated to little surprises every time I pick up one of Mr. Gregson-Williams’ scores – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time provides plenty of those little surprises.

The opening track of the album is also the best; “The Prince of Persia” introduces the main theme for the film, beautiful and exotic, borrowing heavily from the culture of West Asia. It also introduces a theme for Dastan, the prince of Persia, that is referenced throughout the film in times of triumph or great physical displays from Dastan, such as at the end of “Raid on Alamut” when Dastan takes to the streets of the city and kicks some serious tail. In fact, it is the repeat of these themes throughout the film that adds to its effectiveness as a successful action/adventure film score.

For an action film, Prince of Persia has a lot of very pretty, potent tracks that mainly serve as background to dialogue, such as “The King and His Sons” and “No Ordinary Dagger”. “Destiny” also features some of these rich themes, finishing off the film with a sense of grandeur and – forgive me for this – destiny.

I don’t know why I initially dismissed this score as boring and typical, but I was wrong; with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Harry Gregson-Williams has created a score that magnificently emulates the culture of this part of the world, supporting the film in a great way. While it may not be as great as The Chronicles of Narnia or film scores from other composers, Prince of Persia is sure to entertain just about any listener.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “The Prince of Persia” 5:20
2. “Raid On Alamut” 6:32
3. “Tamina Unveiled” 2:34
4. “The King and His Sons” 2:59
5. “Dastan and Tamina Escape” 4:31
6. “Journey Through the Desert” 2:55
7. “Ostrich Race” 0:59
8. “Running from Sheikh Amar” 3:27
9. “Trusting Nizam” 4:37
10. “Visions of Death” 1:46
11. “So, You’re Going To Help Me?” 2:20
12. “The Oasis Ambush” 1:54
13. “Hassansin Attack” 2:59
14. “Return To Alamut” 3:05
15. “No Ordinary Dagger” 4:39
16. “The Passages” 3:09
17. “The Sands of Time” 3:58
18. “Destiny” 3:38
19. “I Remain” (performed by Alanis Morissette, written by Alanis Morissette and Mike Elizondo) 4:57

Total Length: app. 67 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


The Bourne Legacy (2012) – James Newton Howard

When I first learned that James Newton Howard was to be composing the score, I was actually a little bit worried – not because of my lack of faith in Newton Howard as a composer, but because it’s such an opposite film from the kinds he normally composes for. When I think Newton Howard, I think beautiful, flowing melodies, rich orchestra, and perhaps a warm brass fanfare or two…I certainly don’t think “action film”. John Powell composed the scores for the original Bourne trilogy, so I was surprised that he didn’t return. Despite my reservations, however, Newton Howard did a splendid job.

 I have two favorite things about this album: 1) the opening track, “Legacy”, contains the main theme for Bourne as heard in the opening track of The Bourne Identity‘s score, “Main Titles”; 2) the closing track is an updated version of Moby’s “Extreme Ways”, featuring a more orchestral accompaniment and the subtitle “Bourne’s Legacy”. “Extreme Ways” played in the end credits of all three Matt Damon Bourne films, so it’s nice to see it return.

Aside from those two tracks, much of this score is a lot more…”much-ier” than John Powell’s original scores. Newton Howard uses some of the same electronic orchestration, but he combines it with an orchestra in a way that is consistently action-packed and suspenseful. Whereas much of The Bourne Identity‘s score was a bit minimal, The Bourne Legacy‘s score features tracks like “Drone”, “High Powered Rifle”, and “Magsaysay Suite” that are much bigger and decidedly not minimal.

That’s not to say that Newton Howard sacrifices the kind of music I know him for in favor of this new, aggressive style. In fact, his traditional style of music is also featured throughout; in “You Fell in Love”, we hear a somber melody that starts dramatically in the low string part before the high strings take over and just about break your heart. Another track, “Aftermath”, opens with long, sustained strings that seem to emulate great loss or tragedy. This builds into a strong, full string orchestra that hints at a mission unfinished and more to come.

One thing I miss from The Bourne Legacy‘s score, though, is a consistent motif that is heard throughout the film that lets the audience know that something is either happening or about to happen. In Powell’s original score, you can hear what I’m talking about in the track “At the Bank”; this motif is catchy, prominent, and featured throughout, and it trains the audience to know that something awesome is going on when you hear it. There’s nothing like that (that I’ve noticed) in Newton Howard’s score, unfortunately.

Despite that small complaint, I’m overall pretty pleased with The Bourne Legacy‘s score. It keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat – or, if you’re standing, on your toes – throughout, and it supplies plenty of both compelling action and emotion, showing that this job is not just about killing people…it’s about finding who you are and doing something about it. James Newton Howard’s deviation from his normal style is refreshing and opens plenty of doors for both his career and for the continuation of the Bourne film series. This score definitely has me even more excited to see Jeremy Renner in the new film next week!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Legacy”   2:40
2. “Drone”   4:15
3. “NRAG”   0:59
4. “You Fell in Love”   1:42
5. “Program Shutdown”   3:00
6. “Over the Mountain”   0:51
7. “High Powered Rifle”   2:50
8. “They’re All Dead”   2:48
9. “Manila Lab”   2:40
10. “Wolves/Sic Ric”   2:19
11. “Doctor of What?”   4:28
12. “Aaron in Chicago”   1:32
13. “Wolf Attack”   2:57
14. “Chem Talk”   1:35
15. “Flight 167”   3:30
16. “Aaron Run!”   1:08
17. “You Belong Here”   1:17
18. “Cognitive Degrade”   2:49
19. “17 Hour Head Start”   3:51
20. “Viralled Out”   0:58
21. “You’re Doing Fine”   1:18
22. “Simon Ross”   1:37
23. “LARX Tarmac”   1:45
24. “Magsaysay Suite”   3:04
25. “Aftermath”   2:49
26. “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Legacy)” (Moby) 4:51

Total Length: app. 64 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!