REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack [spoiler free]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE

Scan_20160103 (8)STAR WARS: The Force Awakens original motion picture soundtrack (2015 Lucasfilm/Disney)

After seeing The Force Awakens on December 18, my radio pal Rob Daniels who had not seen it yet asked me, “How was it, seeing a Star Wars movie without the 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare at the start?”

It was strange.  Not unexpected of course; we all know the reason there is an Episode VII today is because Lucasfilm sold Star Wars to Disney.  The old 20th Century Fox fanfare does not commence the soundtrack, which instead begins with the main Star Wars title theme.  This quiets and slows, as the covert start to the movie begins.

“The Scavenger” introduces the character of Rey.  Add this to yet another intriguing piece of character music from the mind of John Williams.  “The Scavenger” is unlike any of the other Star Wars cues; it’s brand new, just like the character of Rey.  I get goosebumps hearing it again, such is the power and identity of the score.  It also has the tone to connect this new chapter to the other instalments of the saga.  This is only a brief respite.  Much like the movie itself, the action resumes shortly.  The title “I Can Fly Anything” suggests you should fasten your seatbelts for this cue!*  Williams allows you to close your eyes and picture the flurry yourself.  He always has; that’s his magic.  As kids, we would drop the needle on the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back while navigating an asteroid field with our Kenner Millenium Falcons.  Or, you would flip the pages of your Marvel Star Wars comic movie adaptations, while listening to those records.  The experience still works today.  Through the drama and occasional quiet moments of reflection, you will notice callbacks to cues from the classic trilogy — “The Falcon”, or “Han and Leia” for example.  These pieces of music are warmly remembered.

When the soundtrack to The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, the track “Duel of the Fates” became a bit of a hit single.  There is no “Duel of the Fates” here, but “Rey’s Theme” serves well as the memorable track this time out.  With more subtlety (and perhaps even femininity?), “Rey’s Theme” is a new kind of Star Wars music.  I have high hopes that the character and story arc will unfold in a way just as emotional and satisfying as her theme music.  Star Wars deserves to have characters that you can invest your emotions in.  With the prequel trilogy, I could never feel much for Anakin Skywalker.  You always knew that no matter what happened in the prequels, he’s just going to end up in the black suit and blowing up Aldaraan.  Rey’s future is unwritten.  Having a strong theme will help her character going forward.

Scan_20160103 (7)

Vintage Star Wars fun can be had on the tension-packed tracks “The Rathtars!”, and “Kylo Ren Arrives”.  Somber beauty is “The Starkiller”, ironic considering the scene in question.  For deeper listening, check out the tracks “Maz’s Counsel” and “Snoke”.  Perhaps there are musical clues buried in these pieces to help us identify who some of these characters may be?

The soundtrack is a wild ride like the movie from which it came, picking up suspense as it nears the end.  The less said about the last few tracks on the CD the better, except to mention that Williams continues to forge new ground for Star Wars right to the finale.  With passion and precision, every track is the perfect accompaniment.

My only disappointment, although not unexpected since this is only a single CD release, is that some music is naturally omitted.  The one track I wish was available is the neat rasta-space-blues song playing when our heroes arrives at Maz Kanata’s tavern.  It’s the “Cantina Band” or “Lapti Nek” of the movie, but it’s not on the CD.  There are whispers that a 2 CD deluxe edition is forthcoming this year.

5/5 stars

* The Millenium Falcon has seatbelts, but the USS Enterprise does not.  Discuss!

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61 comments

        1. I don’t even know why I said that! I like Jimmy Smits.

          He used to joke that in a future special edition, Lucas will dub him screaming “NooooO!” during the Aldaraan scene.

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  1. Tell me, when is the spoiler ban lifted on Star Wars? It seems now everyone who needs to see it has…multiple times. But, yet, I keep seeing ‘don’t be an asshole’ posts on fb about Star Wars. I went to see it and didn’t care about spoilers, but that’s me. I am not a massive SW fan as it is. I didn’t see the first three movies until my mid 20s.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Your husband had the best comment ever, during that game where things were starting to look ugly. “Can’t Geddy just whip out his bass and play something cool and everybody calm down?”

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Well me personally I don’t have any more Force Awakens content forthcoming right now, but I have some books on order and I may review those. But my policy will be no spoilers until April, when the Blu-ray comes out. Then, screw anybody who hasn’t seen it yet!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Now, due to your grand review, I have to put this Star Wars soundtrack on my NEED list. On another note: Axl Rose will make certain his band goes on stage 1 hour (or more) late for each of their (gulp) “comeback” shows. You ROCK, Mike.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I saw Axl’s solo band(Guns n Axl’s?) on the Chinese Democracy tour in Toronto 2010. Danko Jones and Sebastian Bach both opened and they were both awesome. But it was over 2 hours between when those 2 bands ended until Axl graced us with his presence. It was a bad scene. Everytime another song would come over the speakers between sets the crowd got more and more pissed off, then the boos started. I am glad I wasn’t on the floor as it seemed to be getting near riot levels. I heard people yelling at the security and arena personnel like they had any control over Axl. When they finally came on they put on a great show, and Axl was energetic and his voice was great. He is a really good showman, but there is absolutely no need for making paying fans wait.
      I would have really enjoyed another hour each of Sebastian and Danko, and that could have filled up the space.

      I just wonder if he doesn’t have some form of disorder that causes this. He must have to get really pumped and crowds probably freak him out, so he has to psych himself on stage.

      My guess is there is no way this will happen at Coachella. They will have to sign a contract that states exactly when they start, and when they finish, or they won’t get paid. There are too many other acts to work around, and the promoters do not want 100,000 pissed off fans rioting.

      I would also guess that other venues will need to have the same type of clause. I would tell him we pay you when the show is done, and we knock off $5000 for every minute you are late going on stage. Money talks, Axl’s bullshit walks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. On a side note. My brother saw GNR 4 nights before I did in Hamilton Ontario, and the band was right on time, and he said the entire night was awesome.
        Again, it might be the venue was more strict, or it might just be Axl. One night he is good, and later not so much.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You’ll notice the other band members don’t like to talk about him being late. I think you nailed it earlier when you said he must have some issues. I think he does. Maybe it’s a form of stage fright or performance anxiety, but I believe the time it takes to get him on stage is purely psychological. You hear stories about him watching a movie at the hotel before showing up for a show late. But that doesn’t exclude that it could be purely anxiety and in his mind. He’s been very open in the past about the physical abuse he suffered as a child and how he still carries that baggage.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I think if I had $150 million in the bank, I could find a therapist, hyponotist etc. that could help me through it.

          In a side note, I won tickets on Dave to the Psychic Fair. I think I might wear a I love Nickelback tshirt just to sway the readings.

          I hope I don’t get beat up more than 5 times, as that is the bare minimum requirement by law.

          ;)

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I promised my wife. Apparently, she says I have been spending too much time blogging and listening to music, as if there is such a thing.

          I wouldn’t mind borrowing your I Love Nickelback shirt though.
          I prefer black, but I will take any colour one from your collection.

          ;)

          Yes J and/or Sarca I believe.

          Trying to read the mind of Lebrain would be like trying to cram all the info from NASA into a Commodore 64.

          :)

          Like

      1. I think unless the movie is Avatar and designed to be a 3D experience front to back, then always see 2D first. The next time I go, I’m doing IMAX 3D with the shaking seats. Brad Moore says it’s awesome.

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  3. I thought the misic was excellent. Rey’s introduction particularly striking – a few subtle non-Star Wars things going on across the whole movie, actually. Anyhoo, great write up, Mike – think I might look at picking this up at some point (I didn’t bother with the prequilogy CDs … even though the music was the best thing about them).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J, the prequel CDs are hit and miss. You know what the issue is? Too much of what I call “atmosphere score”. For all the damn prequel scenes with talking. Talking talking talking. The music for those scenes isn’t nearly as exciting or interesting. Too much exposition!

      The best prequel CD to buy is Revenge of the Sith. It has some great music – Rob Daniels said that Williams just put every trick in his book onto that CD, because it was probably going to be his very last movie score. But that’s not all! It also has a bonus DVD, narrated by Ian McDiarmid, and loaded with music videos from the classic movies! All the hits, on one DVD.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Your comments gave me a thought. They should do a “Star Wars greatest hits” CD. There used to be one back in the 90’s called The Skywalker Symphony, with all the best tracks from the classic trilogy, freshly re-recorded for CD by John Williams. But there’s nothing like that which includes music from all the movies! Duel of the Fates is kind of a MUST. It’s a brilliant piece of music and there are others too.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I had a compilation a fair few years back, but can’t remember the name of it. Quite possibly that Skywalker Symphony one …

          I dare say there’ll be some type of compilation when the saga is complete!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. John Williams’ work on the scores for these movies is genius and I wonder if anyone could have done it better. Ah well, it’s moot. He did it and it rules. I really noticed the music in the movie, and this CD would be fantastic to hear.

    Shame you’re gonna have to buy it again later this year! :P

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here’s my guess: The Falcon has seat belts because it was a freighter and there’s probably some sort of regulation about it. The Enterprise didn’t have seatbelts because, for all their technologival advances, the Trek people were also arrogant and didn’t figure they needed them, even though they totally did need them just about every episode. Also, probably because watching the actors throw themselves around is hilarious.

    Liked by 2 people

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