I know I mentioned this along with the Kendrick Lamar album in the last post, but I want to really dive into it. To me, this is one of the best soundtracks released in the last decade or two, and its composer is one of the best musicians alive. This review is only going to be about he soundtrack, not the movie, but there will be movie spoilers throughout.
If you went in to listening to this without knowing that is was the soundtrack for this movie, it might sound like a mashup of several styles of music. There’s classical, African and hip hop influences throughout the project, and though they sound good together, when you put it into the context of the movie, the genre blending becomes special.
In the movie, Killmonger is a Wakandan who grew up in Oakland. In the soundtrack, every song for a scene that involves Killmonger has African and Hip Hop drums. The songs for T’Challa and Wakanda (for the most part) stick with the traditional African drums. This is Ludwig Goransson’s way of musically representing the young, outside thinking, at times violent, Killmonger invading the traditional thinking and behaving Wakanda.
“Royal Talon Fighter”
Another blending of genre found throughout is African music vs. super hero music. Most super hero movie scores sound very similar, big, dense string and brass sections playing epic sounding pieces. This movie is sort of a super hero movie that is also a drama that is also a political action movie, and the score reflects that. It breaks into the stereotypical super hero sound, most notably on “Royal Talon Fighter”, but keeps the traditional African drums underneath. It then transitions anywhere from dramatic strings to African chants to hip hop.
This song contains the most instances of the common motif found throughout the soundtrack. The motif, mostly delivered with strings, is heard at its most prominent at the 2:54 mark and is most frequently heard in the ancestral plane scenes/songs.
The only drawback I can find is the lack of lasting melodies. The score tends to focus on the drums (as a movie about Africa should) and doesn’t have many of those Star Wars or Indiana Jones moments. To be fair, the movie is less than two weeks old, and music doesn’t become iconic in 2 weeks. I can see the Ancestral Plane melody becoming one that is seared into our heads after multiple viewings, but I can’t find many other candidates.
As if there was any doubt after “Creed,” Ludwig Goransson and Ryan Coogler again created something special in the relationship of the music to the movie here. As difficult as it must’ve been for Coogler to fit all the symbolism and meaning as he did into a super hero movie, it must’ve been equally as difficult for Goransson to fit all of the meaning he did into this score. This is a Masterpiece.