A movie can’t be successful without its music, and this is especially true for La La Land. Multiple genres – most prominently jazz – and musical stylings collide to create a masterpiece of a soundtrack. It’s likes haven’t been seen for a while, and has found a balance to be both original and borrow music ideas already done before. Justin Hurwitz, the composer, collaborated with Damien Chazelle, the director, on the movie Whiplash, and their experience together shines through. If you watch the movie, it’s obvious that both the movie and music plays off of each other. Music is written for scenes, and scenes are directed to the music. It’s what makes this album one that will sweep all of the awards shows this year.
Following the plot of the movie, the album starts out with “Another Day of Sun”, an energetic dance number and one of the only cast songs. The lyrics exude the message of dreaming that can be seen in every segment and applies to every single character. It’s a precursor that summarizes the story and includes every instrumentals piece featured, doing well to encompass jazz with a horn section, piano, and including vocals. The tempo slightly picks up, and is unnoticeable until the very last notes, ending with horns blaring. Sunny and bright are two words to sum up this song, and it’s the perfect introduction. It’s almost as if we’re given a sneak peek into what is ahead of us and for the characters, and we’re tempted to be curious.
Depending on your opinion, the sole purpose of music can be different for everyone. If you’re like me, you understand that music is meant to tell a story, whether that be about heartbreak or happiness. “Someone In The Crowd” demonstrates how vocals can go beyond the just the music and deliver a message. It isn’t a deep one, but it doesn’t have to be – it talks about dreaming, and the effort that must be put into reaching them. The singers, especially Emma Stone, lament about the socialization and social climbing required to be known by “The someone in the crowd who could lift you off the ground.” The vocals are particularly poignant, making it a comparable cast song to the previously discussed song.
The most showstopping tune is certainly “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme.” Beginning with a piano solo, this instrumental piece tells a magnificent story. The piano begins softly and garners a persona as it crescendos and picks up in tempo. Soon, orchestral string instruments join and it becomes a duet as the two play off of each other. They intertwine to become a recognizable melody, and pulls people in who may be averse to “classical” music. It’s almost as if Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are the two sides of the song, the piano and the strings. It’s almost as if it’s depicts their relationship. It’s a true testament to the power of instrumentals.
“A Lovely Night” shows off the playfulness between the duo of Mia and Sebastian. It’s the most a-typical musical song on this album, and shows in the movie as they break out in tap dancing while horns punctuate the moving line of music. “Herman’s Habit” continues and contributes to the story with a jazzy and traditional song. As Sebastian is a jazz pianist, it is fitting to have; it is quite unusual to have song on a soundtrack that hearkens to the 1920’s, and it betters the album on many levels.
Deciding whether Gosling or Stone is the better singer is like asking whether someone likes crunchy or smooth peanut butter. Essentially, they are the same, just with a few differences. Neither are exceptional singers or dancers, but despite this, the Oscar-nominated duet version“City of Stars” is arguably the most recognizable and popular song from the film. Perhaps it’s because it is often featured in the movie’s trailers, or simply because it’s simple and catchy. The piano is the only thing accompanying their voices, and seems to enhance the song greatly. Combined with the lyrics that encompass love as a whole, it has become defining for La La Land.
If you had any doubts about seeing La La Land, they should not be based on the music alone. The soundtrack is exceptionally well done and has a good balance between vocals and instrumentals. Hurwitz made an album that is sure to be listened to for years to come.