‘La La Land’ revitalizes movie musical genre

'La La Land' revitalizes movie musical genre

By Evan Ruderman, Round Table executive producer

It’s no stretch to say that recent film “La La Land” was a smash hit, totalling over 400 million dollars in box office sales and being nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning 5. However, much of the film’s success derived from the soundtrack, being the only Best Picture nominee that was a musical. Combining elements of the golden age of musicals, pure jazz, and modern elements, the “La La Land Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” synergizes these styles to create a refreshing sound that will be sure to get your foot tapping.

From the very first track, “Another Day of Sun,” it is clear that the listener will be in for a ride throughout the album. Combining the classic feel of an opening musical number with walking bass lines and jazzy undertones leads to a peppy tune that sets the tone for much of the soundtrack, not to mention one of the many tracks that is likely to get stuck in your head.

“Someone In the Crowd,” the next song on the record, is even catchier than the last. Justin Hurwitz, composer of the soundtrack, has a special talent for creating songs that are both musically complex, and yet still able to be quickly stuck in your head. The contrast in “Someone in the Crowd” between the softer and more extravagant parts of the song offer a unique listening experience that is a pleasure to hear.

One of the most memorable tracks, “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme,” is a haunting piano melody that gives chills the first time it is heard. Dark and soft at the beginning, it crescendos into a frenzy of notes that is even more impressive to hear when you learn that Ryan Gosling, the actor who plays main character Sebastian, went from a novice at piano to playing at this level in only six months.

The next song on the album, “A Lovely Night” brims with energy and is a fantastic representation of the chemistry between Gosling and lead actress Emma Stone. Filled with snarky lyrics and upbeat instrumentals, the only disappointment is that the tap dance from the movie during this song is not audible, instead replaced with a lengthy instrumental that is just as interesting to listen to.

Accompanied by several instrumental tracks on each side which are all great background listening, the next major song on the album might just be one of the best. “City of Stars,” winning the Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice, and Academy Award for Best Song, this relatively short piece shows off Gosling’s lower range which is soothing to the ear. Reserved and tactful, this ode to Los Angeles is well deserving of the praise and awards it has received.

The second half of the soundtrack, albeit not filled with hit after hit in comparison to the beginning, has quite a few tracks that stick out as well. “Start a Fire,” sung by John Legend, is easily the most modern piece on the playlist, fusing contemporary pop with the soothing piano tones that have been explored through the rest of the album.

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” Stone’s only entirely solo song, is a creative interpretation of her character’s audition that begins with speaking and transitions to a true dramatic ballad. Often not considered the strongest singer, Stone makes up for this with the amount of emotion transferred through her voice into the listener.

The final major piece of the film, “Epilogue,” is the instrumental culmination of the entire soundtrack, combining motifs and tunes from almost every track leading up to it. The longest track on the album, coming in at almost eight minutes, “Epilogue” works as a sort of condensed album within the album, a medley of every catchy tune from the film. Although it truly takes watching the film itself to receive the full emotional impact of the piece, this song is still a great listen having not seen the movie, moving from jazzy to dramatic and everywhere in between.

Whether listening a first time through, or already on your tenth as many fans are, the “La La Land” soundtrack is entertaining and emotional. From the catchiest tracks that are sure to get stuck in your head to the most haunting melodies, Hurwitz has outdone himself with this score, evoking nostalgia for classic movie musicals such as “Singing in the Rain” and “Mary Poppins.” Even for those who don’t consider themselves fans of musicals or jazz, if anything could change their minds, this is the soundtrack that will do it.