Justin Hurwitz
La La Land (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)


4.4
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
January 11th, 2017 | 124 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Here's to the ones who dream

Typically, infatuation with a soundtrack is a one-way street: go see the movie, enjoy the music, acquire the songs. That’s par for the course…but when you’re an avid music critic, those roles sometimes end up getting reversed. That’s how I found myself humming along to ‘City of Stars’, totally oblivious to the background or context from whence any of the songs came. La La Land won nearly every possible award for a film, so the hype surrounding it was impossible to miss; factor in that it’s also a musical and you can begin to understand how I – along with many others – came to appreciate the soundtrack before witnessing a single scene from the movie. The rarest thing about this soundtrack isn’t that I heard it before seeing the film – it’s that the collection of songs is so beautiful and well-orchestrated that it easily stands on its own, movie or no movie. You don’t need the visual component to enjoy these tracks, and if anything I’m worried that when I do see La La Land, it won’t live up to the vast expectations set by this beautiful, irresistibly warm collection of tunes.

La La Land exists in a vibrant musical setting comprised heavily of jazz and other classical influences. ‘Another Day In The Sun’ and ‘Someone In The Crowd’ feel like grand overtures, complete with some of the most upbeat percussive elements on the record and group choruses worthy of a Broadway stage. The aforementioned jazz influx also comes early and often, with offerings like ‘Herman’s Habit’ and ‘Summer Montage / Madeline’ recalling 1920s dance joints with their rich saxophones and trumpets all propelled by lively piano lines. Songs like these truly feel like they have a zest for life, and are enough to transport you to La La Land. They wouldn’t be complete, however, without the addition of Gosling and Stone’s gorgeously intertwined vocals. Both actors put on a phenomenal vocal display, from the Sinatra-like show-tune ‘A Lovely Night’ to the romantically inclined, premium-cut ballad ‘City of Stars.’ That the latter song surfaces in three parts makes it all the more rewarding, and gives the soundtrack a sense of continuity – from Gosling’s initial rendition to the duet version, and finally with Emma Stone’s whistled outro on the final track. It’s a testament to how the soundtrack, and the people in it, evolve: from loneliness to being in love, and finally reaching a point where words are no longer needed to convey emotions. While ‘City of Stars’ marks a popular highlight and critic’s choice, the best vocal performance by either actor actually comes on Stone’s ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’ – starting as a gentle brushstroke of soothing vocal charm and culminating in the most sweeping, powerful melody of the entire soundtrack. It’s a defining moment for La La Land.

Despite all of the swirling jazz, classical, and vocal aspects that characterize La La Land’s brilliance, some of its most rewarding moments are minimal in stature. For as vivacious as the whole experience is, there are also gratifying exhales that enrich the music’s imagery. The gently cascading classical piano notes on ‘Mia & Sebastian’s Theme’ paint a picture of a city skyline, overlooking the horizon on a starry night with a glass of champagne resting carefully on the balcony’s edge. ‘Planetarium’ is a dreamy piece, floating buoyantly on its playfully elegant, almost flirtatious strings – quickly rising and falling as if to bat its lashes. Then there’s ‘Engagement Party’, another stunningly lo-fi piano piece that never fails to deliver emotionally while conjuring up images of a gentle ballroom sway. It’s tracks like these that make up the heart of La La Land’s soundtrack, offering thoughtful moments of introspection and romance to balance out the jazzy, Broadway style of the more upbeat songs. Writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz have struck a perfect balance here, and the result is not only a soundtrack for all moods, but also one that intensifies any particular feelings being experienced throughout. It’s truly a soundtrack capable of standing toe-to-toe with the classic musicals and films that come to mind from past decades.

There’s an argument to be made that without having experienced the visual component, there is no way to accurately critique the auditory half of things. There’s certainly some truth to that which I won’t bother denying, and seeing La La Land is definitely on my list of things to do now that I’ve become so spellbound by its soundtrack. However, I’ll make the same recommendation to others that I would make to myself if I had the opportunity to start all over: if you’re intrigued by the music, just go for it – don’t feel obligated to see the movie first. With songs as melodic, romantic, and all-in-all beautiful as these, there’s almost no way to regret having heard the soundtrack. Of course, for those who have already seen the movie, I can only imagine that the songs of La La Land are capable of carrying even more meaning, which is a prospect that I’m beside myself with excitement about. This soundtrack is an inspiring and at times blissfully ethereal piece of art...allow yourself to drift off to La La Land.




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user ratings (99)
Chart.
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
January 11th 2017


25141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

I usually hate musicals, but this is great.

Digging: Belle and Sebastian - How To Solve Our Human Problems Pt. 1

runaways
January 11th 2017


673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Been seeing a LOT of criticisms about both the movie and particularly the soundtrack (which I guess is to be expected with something so hyped). Hell, I've heard people see the soundtrack is the worst part of the movie. And yeah Ryan's no Fred Astaire but his voice works in the capacity it's given. Weird seeing how "City of Stars" will most likely win the Oscar for Best Original Song since "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" is a much stronger song.

brainmelter
January 11th 2017


4723 Comments


this movie was really great, it exceeded my already high expectations. and I don't like musicals either
Edit: fixed

Digging: Outre - Ghost Chants

AsleepInTheBack
January 11th 2017


5192 Comments


sounds interesting, I really need to check more soundtracks

VaxXi
January 11th 2017


4137 Comments


My movie buff of a sister was raving about how this was the best movie she saw last year, haven't been able to see it myself since our rinky-dink theater only plays 3 movies at a time.

SowingSeason
Moderator
January 11th 2017


25141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Thanks for the catch brainmelter

ShitsofRain
January 11th 2017


8038 Comments


5 years since The Artist

the academy likes

Digging: Dark0 - Xenotype

greg84
Emeritus
January 11th 2017


7587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I loved this movie. Audition is an incredible tune indeed. My favorite moment of the whole movie.

Digging: Big K.R.I.T. - 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time

Toondude10
January 11th 2017


11712 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hoping to see this soon, maybe Saturday.

Digging: Machine Head - The Blackening

SowingSeason
Moderator
January 11th 2017


25141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

I need to see this soon because it's going to be out of my local theater in a couple weeks. I can always find it online but I feel like with a musical known for its gorgeous scenes the big screen is the way to go.



It will be weird knowing all the words to the songs but oh well.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2017


39508 Comments


I haven't heard this yet but moana soundtrack >

Digging: Glassjaw - Material Control

Toondude10
January 11th 2017


11712 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The Moana soundtrack (and film for that matter) were good



...just good.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2017


39508 Comments


Nah both are classics

Anthracks
January 11th 2017


6078 Comments


this movie looks so damn gay

Digging: Anima Damnata - Nefarious Seed...

TedSchmosby
January 11th 2017


766 Comments


ryan gosling is good at everything so

Valkoor952
January 11th 2017


1969 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

seeing the movie tomorrow, hyped

BigPleb
January 11th 2017


51614 Comments


Gosling can do no wrong tbh.

wwf
January 11th 2017


5694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

moty tbhtbh

Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

FullOfSounds
January 11th 2017


15611 Comments


Did someone say Gosling? http://www.sputnikmusic.com/bands/The-Goslings/8881/

Digging: Hannah Diamond - Pink and Blue

wwf
January 11th 2017


5694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'And yeah Ryan's no Fred Astaire'



thank god for that



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