Albums of the week: From Mary Poppins to A Star Is Born
With beloved British film character Mary Poppins finally making her return to the big screen, we review the film’s album and round up the other stand-out soundtracks of the past 12 months.
Mary Poppins Returns Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Set 24 years after the practically perfect nanny left the Banks’ lives, this sequel sees Emily Blunt land via umbrella to help the family in the magical way that only she can.
It was never going to be easy following the classic songs made famous by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, but Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s vocals are sharp, evoking memories of the original.
Marc Shaiman’s orchestration is out of this world, and transports you back to the 1930s and Scott Wittman’s lyrics. These are pieces that step out from the screen.
We are introduced to this new Poppins world in Underneath the Lovely London Sky, while Mary’s pal, Jack, and Mary’s cousin, Topsy (Meryl Streep), have the lively bouncy number Turning Turtle.
There is even Angela Lansbury as a balloon seller — Mrs Potts herself sings Nowhere to Go But Up, which is highly reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston, a slightly surreal but cosy experience.
This would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to add to any Disney fan’s collection.
Bohemian Rhapsody: The Original Soundtrack
At the first take, one might assume the soundtrack for Bohemian Rhapsody — the Queen biopic about the late, great Freddie Mercury — is just another compilation album of the band’s greatest hits, but it’s so much more than that.
Yes, there is a fair whack of some of the group’s best-loved songs, including Bohemian Rhapsody (obviously), Crazy Little Thing Called Love and I Want To Break Free, but it’s also filled with nearly a dozen previously unreleased recordings, all of which feature in the film, with Rami Malek as Mercury.
All in all, the official soundtrack offers up a fresh way to relive Queen’s incredible story and, even if you have not seen the film, it’s worth a listen.
Jonny Greenwood - Phantom Thread Soundtrack
Astonishingly, Jonny Greenwood’s Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread was his first, with his stunning There Will Be Blood soundtrack deemed around 10 minutes too short on original music for consideration a decade ago. This exquisite score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed film should give him plenty of reason to shop for a dinner suit.
Phantom Thread depicts a power struggle between dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and a young waitress whom he leads to London as his lover (Vicky Krieps).
In keeping with the power struggle that plays out, Greenwood’s orchestrations are sumptuous yet fragile, laced with tension and melancholy.
A Star Is Born — Official Soundtrack
The third remake of A Star Is Born has been in the pipeline since 2011, and two years ago Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper signed up. The film has received critical acclaim, and expectations were high for the music.
Cooper gives a bluesy performance on the grinding opening track, Black Eyes and Alibi. Meanwhile, Gaga transforms from club singer to a pop/R&B artist. Heal Me and Why Did You Do That? are highlights, but she truly shines in the ballads Always Remember Us This Way and the closer (and possible spoiler) I’ll Never Love Again. These songs are good enough to stand alone, but no doubt work best in the context of the film.
Thom Yorke — Suspiria (Music for the Guadagnino film)
Brooding, disconnected, an ever-present sense of dread and paranoia... it’s not too hard to imagine why Luca Guadagnino, the Italian director behind the remake of 1977 horror classic Suspiria, was so set on having Thom Yorke write the music for him.
The 23-track album takes in a range of influences from choral to Krautrock, and offers a chance to take his experimental sensibilities one step further, away from the constraints of the popular album format.
But amidst its eerie instrumentals and suffocating darkness, Suspiria also features some insanely beautiful songs. Open Again was described by Yorke as “the most simple and pure statement in the film I think, lyrically”. And Unmade is a moment of stunning clarity that could easily have made it on to a Radiohead record.
Does an Oscar beckon? It’ll certainly be up there. Either way, this is a worthy addition to a glittering back catalogue.