September 22, 2020


By Kristi Kates | Jan. 7, 2017

Various artists — “Moana” soundtrack — Walt Disney

As if Lin-Manuel Miranda hasn’t had a big enough year with the raging success of his Broadway musical “Hamilton,” now he’s penned a set of ridiculously catchy tunes for the new Disney animated film “Moana” (alongside an equally on-point score by Mark Mancina). Paying careful homage to the Polynesian influence of the storyline, Miranda’s writings include the zippy “You’re Welcome” as performed by The Rock; the comically devious “Shiny”; and “We Know the Way,” sung by Miranda himself. Layers of island vocals and hooks that are sweet without being syrupy complete this captivating island picture. *** ½

Various artists — “La La Land” soundtrack — Interscope

In this new film of Hollywood hopefuls, the music is as much a character of its own as those of aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in that the music links the film’s many vintage moments together, giving them heft and a golden L.A. glow. The other surprise is the fact that both actors actually sing quite respectably on the soundtrack, most effectively on the more expressive songs like Mia’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and Sebastian’s showpiece, the wonderful “City of Stars” which will surely be a contender for Oscar music. ***

Various artists — “Sing” soundtrack — Republic

Think of “American Idol” with talking, singing animals as contestants, and you’ve got the elevator pitch for “Sing.” The album, however, is a different story; once the revamped pop songs are pulled away from the cute animated visuals, they become merely middling karaoke, with more weighty tracks by artists like Leonard Cohen and David Bowie sounding especially out of place. The one standout is Reese Witherspoon’s unexpected dance-floor version of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”; it’s rendered with so much cheerful abandon you’ll forgive her for turning it into EDM-lite. **

Thomas Newman — “Passengers” soundtrack — Sony Classical

While the movie itself has become burdened with a little controversy, the score manages to stand on its own within — or without — the storyline, dynamically weaving lonely woodwinds and piano through electronic-based compositions like “Hibernation Pod 1625” with its slight minor tones and “Crystalline” with its abandoned feel. Newman only invites orchestral elements in to add a more vast sense of scale appropriate to the “lost in space” setting; the result of his careful choices frequently elevates the film, and by itself, the soundtrack is an emotional and affecting listen. ***


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