Music Break – The fabulous songs from The Greatest Showman (2017)

I can’t believe I hadn’t done a Music Break post on The Greatest Showman since it’s been released three years ago. I’ve been listening to its songs over and over, and it’s truly one of my favorite musicals in the past decade.

Interesting Trivia – courtesy of Screen Rant and IMDb:

  • The musical grossed over $400 million worldwide against an $84 million budget.
  • This film was a dream project for Hugh Jackman since 2009.
  • Jackman did extensive research for the film–reading dozens of books about Barnum, long hours of dance rehearsals, and singing – lots and lots of singing! When asked what was the hardest movie to prepare for compared to Logan, Jackman actually said it was hands down this movie!
  • The film features eleven new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016).
  • From early on in pre-production on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film’s 1800s setting. As Pasek said, “The choice was to express not just the characters’ feelings, but also how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. He wasn’t bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one.”

Ok so here are 5 of my favorite songs featured in the film:

Tightrope

Right from the first moment I heard it, I just fell in love with this song. The scene is so beautiful but also heartbreaking as Charity is lamenting on her husband being away with the opera singer Jenny Lind and that success actually drives him away from their family.

This curtain scene is so exquisitely done… and oh so heartbreaking!

I LOVE Michelle Williams‘ singing voice! In an interview with New Zealand Herald, she said:

I find that singing and dancing is a direct path to joy. And I just wanted more of it, that’s why I wanted to make the film. Singing is natural for me. I don’t know if I’m the greatest in the world at it, but I just love it!

A Million Dreams

Though Ellis Rubin played young P.T. Barnum in the movie, it’s actually Ziv Zaifman who provided the singing voice for  for this song which I think sounds fantastic. I love that in the second part of the song, it’s Hugh Jackman singing it as the adult Barnum, it adds such a wonderful dimension to the song.

Rewrite the Stars

One of my all-time favorite duet from a musical, perhaps beating Moulin Rouge!‘s Come What May (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) which was my fave for a long time. Zac Efron and Zendaya have a lovely chemistry and this duet as they’re swaying on a rope is such a showstopper scene that takes my breath away every time I watch it.

I read a bunch of articles how arduous it was for them to film the high-flying aerial stunts and the outtake video of them colliding mid-air. Props for the two actors and the entire filmmaking team for making the sequence look so effortless!

Never Enough

Rebecca Ferguson‘s voice was dubbed by Loren Allred. However, in order to get into the role, Ferguson insisted on singing the song in front of the extras while filming. She is actually Swedish, born in Stockholm, just like the character.

I love Ferguson’s passionate performance here, she absolutely sells me that she’s the greatest singer in the world. There’s also some intriguing intercuts in the scene depicting the tension in the relationship between Barnum and Charity, as well as Efron and Zendaya’s characters.

This Is Me

This is such a defiant, heartfelt anthem sung phenomenally by Keala Settle who played the the bearded lady Lettie Lutz. The rousing scene

According to Jackman, the film’s nine-year development process from conception to completion was, in part, due to studios’ unwillingness to take a risk on an original musical. What finally sold the deal at 20th Century Fox was this Oscar-nominated song This is Me, which had literally been written by Pasek and Paul during the two-hour flight to the studio meeting where the film was green-lit.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen The Greatest Showman, which song(s) is your favorite?

Music Break – The fabulous songs from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Happy mid December, everyone! It’s less than two weeks until Christmas so I’ve been watching more holiday-themed movies than usual… naturally.

So this weekend I decided to watch one new Christmas movie and my hubby + I debated whether to watch The Christmas Chronicles or Jingle Jangle on Netflix. We decided on the latter because of the great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, it did not disappoint! Though my hubby isn’t a huge fan of musicals (and I could sense a slight ‘oh no’ expression when the characters suddenly burst into song in its opening number), he ended up enjoying the movie, yay!

I have to say I really enjoyed the movie! The story has a Dickens-an vibe to it, one can’t help but think this is A Christmas Carol with an all-black cast. Writer/director David E. Talbert has created a new sumptuous holiday classic that’s perfect for the whole family. I was ooh-aahing at the spectacular set pieces, beautiful costumes (by Michael Wilkinson, natch!) and simply magical look of the movie.

The songs by EGOT-winner John Legend are fused with fun and sweet holiday spirit, while some of the songs are emotionally-tinged as the characters deal with loss and betrayal. The score itself is by John Debney, who’s no stranger to working on musical/animated features (The Greatest Showman, The Jungle Book), though I also admire his work for The Passion of the Christ.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t watched it already:

Well, in lieu of a full review, I thought I’d do a Music Break post instead, since I haven’t done one in months! I think we could all use a huge dose of holiday cheer these days, and these songs certainly did that for me. 

I LOVE this opening number sung by young Jeronicus Jangle (what a fabulous name!) played by Justin Cornwell. The set design of the Jangles & Things store that seemed to have been meticulously designed. The choreography is astounding! It’s no surprise that Ashley Wallen is the same choreographer behind The Greatest Showman.

Can I just say I adore Mrs ooops, Miss Johnston (played wonderfully by Lisa Davina Phillip). Her crushing on Mr. Jangle is such a hoot, she’s such a delightful comic relief and more! I wish she had more scenes in the movie but I’m glad she ended up having a bit more to do towards the end. The trio singers add even more whimsy to an already merry musical number!

I’m glad that Jingle Jangle isn’t just all about pretty visuals and phenomenal set design. The movie is filled with memorable characters of all ages. Madalen Mills is such a joy to watch, a bundle of sunshine everywhere she goes. Though the film is set in the Winter, there’s not a drab mood in sight! What an inspiration to young girls everywhere that Journey is a brilliant kid inventor and she’s singing a song about math. Her enthusiasm and jubilant spirit is infectious, and this song is definitely her calling card that this amazingly-talented young performer is ready to be a star!

I should’ve known Forest Whitaker could sing… somehow I always see him as a serious actor, and he did direct one of my favorite dramas starring one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston in Waiting To Exhale. But according to IMDb, Mr. Whitaker went to USC where he majored in music and earned two more scholarships training as an operatic tenor. In any case, this one is such a sad but beautiful song.

Last but definitely NOT least, Tony-award winner Anika Noni Rose absolutely killed this powerful song that’s truly the heart of soul of the movie. The loss and redemption theme is wonderfully realized here… Make It Work Again might as well be an anthem for 2020 as we all hope we can make things work again after this pandemic!

I’m not including Borrow Indefinitely song by the Don Juan toy – I initially thought was voiced by Antonio Banderas, but turns out it’s Ricky Martin. Though at first I thought he was a hoot, the character actually gives me the creeps and I find it quite irritating (sorry Ricky!).

Now, who else saw this movie and thought, man this could totally be a Broadway musical! Well, when we can finally go see live theater again, I could totally see this one become a musical hit. I mean, the set pieces would work nicely on stage and the musical numbers already have a theatrical-feel to it. It would be a fun alternative to White Christmas, Scrooge, Elf, etc. while giving performers of color a chance to star in a new + fabulous Christmas classic.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen Jingle Jangle, which song(s) is your favorite?

Music Break: ABBA’s songs in Mamma Mia!

Happy midweek everyone! It’s kind of a sleepy Wednesday even though just exactly a week ago I was extremely busy casting for my upcoming short film project, Master Servant. It was my first time holding auditions (as I didn’t have to do that Hearts Want) and let’s just say it was quite an experience. I have even more appreciation for actors (especially working actors) and what they have to go through to land a part.

In any case, well I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week… it had been such a whirlwind few weeks that I needed a crowd-pleaser type of movie and it definitely did the trick. It’s funny but when the original first came out, I didn’t even bother to see it and wasn’t really interested. But my friend in San Diego has the DVD so I ended up watching it when I visited her. I actually grew up listening to ABBA (who’s my brother’s fave) and it was fun nostalgia hearing the catchy tunes once again. As for the movie, well I don’t think it would’ve worked at all without ABBA’s music to be honest. It’s the kind of contagiously rousing songs you can’t help but being drawn to it, heck the songs have been stuck in my head for days since I saw the sequel! Plus having Meryl Streep and a pretty phenomenal cast doesn’t hurt. Amanda Seyfried is pretty good as Sophie (Streep’s daughter) but it’s Julie Walters and Christine Baranski who’s truly light up the screen. I wish we all had them as our besties!

Oh and the scenery!! Honestly, I was gawking at the amazing Greek islands (filmed on location on Skopelos, Skiathos and Damouhari Pelion) which surely have become a major tourist attraction now thanks to the movie. Who hasn’t fantasized living in such a incredible place, running a hotel with your handsome boyfriend and your three dads consist of Mr. Darcy, James Bond and Thor’s Dr. Selvig?? I mean, come on!!

Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan as Sophie’s three dads

It’s the kind of movie to just put off your thinking caps and be ready to groove! So here are some of my fave songs and/or scenes from the original and the sequel:

Ok yes it’s a silly movie, but I couldn’t help but tearing up a bit hearing this rendition of The Winner Takes It All (darn you Meryl!)

Donna looked so believably devastated in this scene… I wish the sequel had more oomph in showing her romance with Sam in the flashback scene. I feel like this scene in the original was far more emotional than the entire scene of young Donna & Sam in the sequel.

Oh man, what an end credits!! Such a hoot to see all the three dads in full disco gear. Looks like the entire cast had such a great time making this that they totally went all out in the bohemian spirit of the movie!!

I’ve been a fan of Lily James since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Cinderella, she’s instantly likable and apparently this girl can sing! I actually like her rendition of this melancholy song… yeah she’s my current girl crush.

I really, really enjoyed this scene and the song Why Did It Have To Be Me. I adore Lily James as young Donna (not an easy task playing the young version of a character originally played by Meryl Streep, but she did a fine job!) and Josh Dylan (young Bill) is my fave of the three young actors.

Well one of the highlights of the sequel is Cher (natch!)… and her fans would likely NOT be disappointed. She only appears at the end but her rendition of Fernando (a duet with Andy Garcia), as teased in all the promos, is pretty darn amusing.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Well, which ABBA song(s) is your favorite?

Music Break: St Patrick’s Day Special – Favorite songs from movies set in Ireland

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY everyone! I’m wearing green today… we’re all Irish on March 17th, right? 

In my Sing Street review I said I was going to make a Music Break post dedicated to that movie. Well I haven’t got a chance to do so but hey, it’s perfect for today! Since I haven’t done a Music Break post in ages, I’m going to include my fave songs from other movies set in beautiful Ireland!

So without further ado… here we go…

Can’t pick just one from Sing Street… what a great soundtrack!

I saw ONCE after I saw Sing Street and of course it broke my heart…

Ooooh how this song made me swoon… I have such fondness for Circle of Friends

Now I have to admit I adore P.S. I Love You… perhaps the last Gerry Butler movie I actually enjoyed…

Now, Leap Year is a rubbish movie, I only watched it for Matthew Goode! But this song by Snow Patrol is lovely.

Of course you can’t talk about great Irish-tinged songs without mentioning ENYA right 🙂


Hope you enjoy this edition’s music break. What’s YOUR fave songs from movies set in Ireland?

Music Break: 5 Favorite TV shows’ Opening Credit Themes

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My hubby was listening to Spotify the other day and he was playing some really great music, which turned out to be scores from some TV series. It might have been the Westworld one that made me take notice, and of course it’s by one of my fave composers, Ramin Djawadi. I remember growing up in the 80s, some of my fave shows have memorable opening themes, i.e Dallas, Miami Vice, MacGyver, Mission: Impossible, Knight Rider, A-Team, etc. Boy listening to those for this post definitely took me back, ahah. Well, contemporary themes perhaps aren’t as catchy, they sound much darker, more ominous, but more emotional and indelible. So here are five great TV scores from the past five years. This post also doubles as an opening credits appreciation, because first impression is everything and the best ones are absolutely indelible.

Netflix’s Daredevil

Definitely one of my fave opening titles. Normally I’d fast-forward the opening just to get the show, especially when you’re bingeing 2-3 shows at a time. But I’d always watch this one as it’s just so striking and it gives you a hint that our protagonist is blind in a graceful way. Composer John Paesano said he didn’t want to create something that sound like a typical superhero sound. Well he totally achieved that.

Westworld

This is one of the two Ramin Djawadi‘s work I’m featuring on this shortlist. He’s definitely one of the best composers working today. I’ve highlighted his awesome Pacific Rim score here, but his scores for the two HBO series are definitely much darker and foreboding. This one certainly has a western/sci-fi feel to it that is absolutely perfect for the show. And man, the visuals of the opening credits totally gives me the chills!

Downton Abbey

Elegant, lush, classy and wonderfully evocative. I absolutely adore the theme music by Scottish composer John Lunn. It’s tailor-made for fans of period dramas like yours truly, as it just makes my heart turns to mush every time I hear it. Such a gorgeous melody that puts you in the right mood to watch all the dramas unfolds both upstairs and downstairs of the Crawleys’ household.

Game of Thrones

I actually haven’t seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate its music. It conveys the sense of a journey in the vast medieval world chockfull of intrigue, volatility and sheer unpredictability. I’ve started to recognize Ramin Djawadi‘s signature sound, I can’t explain it but it’s there.

Sherlock

As an Anglophile, I LOVE the London scenery of the opening credits, with a score that has a certain wit about it to match the titular hero. The score is by David Arnold and Michael Price. Arnold’s done quite a few Bond soundtrack, including one of my all time favorites Casino Royale. The show isn’t overly dark and I think the music reflects that. It has a hint of mystery and the idea of puzzle solving, but in a rather playful way.

Honorable Mentions:

Stranger Things

Jessica Jones

Black Sails

Well it seems plenty of Netflix’s original series have pretty awesome theme songs! These two are definitely memorable, and the Black Sails one (which I have posted about it here) also has an incredible opening credits visuals to go with its haunting music.


Well, these are just some of my fave TV opening credits’ scores. What are some of YOUR faves?

Music Break: The Age of Adaline soundtrack & interview w/ composer Rob Simonsen

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I’ve been featuring various soundtracks on my Music Break Feature, so I’m thrilled that on my 71st Music Break post, we actually get insights from the composer of the piece I’m featuring: Rob Simonsen!

I’ve mentioned in my review of The Age of Adaline how much I adore the music. I’ve been quite obsessed with the dreamy, ethereal sound, listening to it for days on end from start to finish. I think the last romantic drama’s soundtrack that prompted a similar reaction was John Williams’ Sabrina (1995), it’s one of the rare soundtracks where I love every single track, just like this one.

Here’s a sampling of The Age of Adaline soundtrack:


robsimonsen
image courtesy of IMDb

Rob Simonsen is an American composer based in Los Angeles. When you look at his IMDb page, surely you’ve listened to a few of his music. He’s not only super talented but also prolific, with over 50 credits under his belt since his first film he worked on in the early 2000s.

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Image courtesy of IMDb

 

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The first film you did music for was a medieval fantasy Westender (in which you also starred in). What led you into working on that project?

Westender was a film I made with my best friends from high school. We initially intended to make a short, but the endeavor expanded as we started and we decided to turn it into a feature. I mentioned to the director, Brock Morse that I wanted to score the film and he was excited about that. It was nearly a 3 year process from beginning to end with the ongoing edits and reshoots. I wrote about 1.5 hours of orchestral music and that was my jump into film scoring. It premiered at Seattle International Film Festival, where I met Mychael Danna, who was a guest speaker of the festival. We hit it off and a year later we both moved to LA and I began assisting him.

As for The Age of Adaline, how did that project come about for you?

Lee Toland Krieger [the director of The Age of Adaline – ed] heard the score to The Spectacular Now and really liked it. He reached out to me with interest for Age of Adaline, I watched the film and loved it, then met Lee and we hit it off. It was a really great collaboration with him, and I consider him a good friend. We worked really hard on Adaline and I can’t wait to work with him again. He’s a fantastically talented guy.

I love the ethereal, dreamy sound of The Age of Adaline. What have been some of the inspirations for writing the score?

Ah, thanks! Lee and I talked a lot about the story of this woman trapped in time and the mysterious, supernatural angle of the story. So there were a lot of musical ideas born of conversations about story and character with him- about the way we wanted her and her world to feel. Musically I was listening to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ instrumental version of Serenade to Music, which is a piece that blows me away every time I listen to it. Also Holst’s Neptune, from The Planets.

The song Start Again (featuring Elena Tonra) has become one of my favorite songs now. Did you also write the lyrics for that?

Thanks again! No, the lyrics were by my good friends Nathan Johnson and Katie Chastain. They have a band project called Faux Fix, and they write great tunes together and I love their storytelling and perspective in their lyrics. I called them up and said “I have the opportunity to write a song that might go in the end credits of this film. It has to be done in 48 hours. You guys free this weekend?” They came over and we workshopped a little bit based off of a kernel of a tune idea I had put together from a piece of score.

We worked for a few hours and then they went home. 24 hours later they showed up with all the lyrics and a song structure and it was so perfect. We demoed the song and eventually had Elena Tonra sing the vocal. I’ve been a big fan of Elena’s for a while and she was gracious to lend her talents to the song.

I’ve been curious about the process of music composing. How early in the filmmaking process did you start writing the score? For example, does the script have to be completely finished before you can start, or do you work on it as the film is being shot?

It depends. Some films I’m brought on in the script phase, other films it might not be until near the final cut that I’m brought in. Each film has it’s own landscape and evolution of how the elements come together. Oftentimes the first thing I do is sketch out themes and send them to the director- kind of a general vibe check to make sure we’re in sync. That material then begins to find it’s way into the edit and scored cues and the boxes slowly get checked off as we progress.

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Is there a specific genre of film you enjoy working on? Was there any film you saw recently that you wish you had written the score for?

I love sci-fi films. It’s been great working on Adaline and other films like Nerve, both of which have a fantastical and slight sci-fi quality to them. I loved Ex Machina. I’m very excited to see The Arrival and excited for all the work my friend Johann Johannsson is doing.

Lastly, who are some of favorite composers who have inspired you?

So many! Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, Bjork, John Barry, Philip Glass, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner. Of course John Williams. My mentor Mychael Danna. We live in such a marvelous time where we can devour music of all genres and times. I find so much music that’s inspiring.

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A photo of Rob when he recorded the score to Marc Webb’s “Gifted” in London last May

THANK YOU so much Rob for taking the time to chat with me about your beautiful work!


Hope you enjoy this week’s Music Break! Thoughts on The Age of Adaline‘s score and/or the interview?

Music Break: Favorite songs from Garry Marshall’s classic ‘Pretty Woman’

I was still in high school when Pretty Woman came out and it was a pretty huge hit back then. I haven’t seen this movie in over twenty years, but the passing of director Garry Marshall this past week made me re-watch some of the clips. This and Beaches are my two favorite films from the late filmmaker, and no doubt this movie is one he’ll be most remembered for.

PrettyWoman_cast

It’s the 90s version of the classic Cinderella tale, as the protagonist’s BFF (played by the awesome Laura San Giacomo) puts it… Cinde-f*king*rella. The pairing of America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts as a Hollywood Blvd prostitute with former American Gigolo Richard Gere as the to-die-for billionaire is just perfect. They have amazing chemistry that you’re dying for them to be together. And who doesn’t love Vivian, Julia’s huge grin and infectious laugh are so adorable!

I might rewatch it again one of these days. I remember it being a funny, heart-warming and of course dreamy feel-good movie with so many iconic scenes!

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The soundtrack was a staple in the early 90s for me. Now, normally I’d be listening to a movie’s score more than the songs featured in the soundtrack, but for some reason I can’t remember the score from James Newton Howard. But the song compilation album is awesome. It must’ve been one of the CDs I actually brought to college and you know what, these songs are still fun to listen to today. It’s been great walking down memory lane listening to these songs this past week.

So here are some of my favorites… 

I’m not much into sappy love songs, but I did have a thing for the Swedish pop rock duo Roxette 😉

My brother Paul was such a huge fan of Peter Cetera, both when he was still part of the Chicago band and his solo effort. I have to admit I was a bit of a sucker for his love ballads 🙂


Last but not least, the Kiss song isn’t technically in the soundtrack, but hey don’t you just love Prince!

It’s really devastating that Prince and Mr. Marshall are gone the same year! 😦


Hope you enjoy this week’s music break! What’s your favorite ‘Pretty Woman’ song(s)?