I created a playlist so magnificent, so glorious, that I felt the need to blog about it. You will all have opinions, I’m sure, but for the exact purpose for which this playlist was created (blasting in the car) and for a person with exactly my taste in music, this is the Perfect Playlist.
I put these on shuffle, but here they are:
1: “Overture,” Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber. (Stage version, not film) I started with this one because there is literally no better song than this one to start your drive home in Atlanta traffic. It is loud, it is boomy, it is epic, and it is the perfect way to tell if your volume is loud enough, because if the first chord doesn’t knock your socks off, you need to turn it up.
2. “Test Drive,” How to Train Your Dragon, John Powell. This is the most triumphant, most joyous sounding piece of movie soundtrack I think I have ever heard. If you’ve seen the film, you know it’s the point where Hiccup and Toothless finally get the prosthetic tail piece to cooperate and manage to go out and do some seriously epic flying. If I’m in the right mood when I’m watching (or even just listening), this piece makes me tear up a little bit. The bit at the key change, right after the “they lost control for a second” segment (1:53 on this Youtube version) is seriously the most epic thing. I want to watch it again. I love this movie. I love this movie so much. Thank you, Dreamworks. Thank you.
3. “Over Hill,” The Hobbit, Howard Shore. Honestly, I only included this for a grand total of 15 seconds of soundtrack. On the linked Youtube clip, it starts at 0:43 and ends at about 0:56. It’s the “Misty Mountains” theme in full orchestral grandeur. It is the part of the Hobbit soundtrack that corresponds to the emotional string-pulling the other film excerpts on this list do — it’s the part of the movie that makes your eyes go wide and your heart stop for a second to think, “Yes, surely Howard Shore was sent to us by the Valar themselves.”
4. “Buckbeak’s Flight,” John Williams, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakban. What’s funny about this one is that I’m not a huge fan of the drums in the beginning at all, but the climbing theme and then the broad, sweeping, glorious chords of Buckbeak’s main theme that start at 0:27 on the linked YouTube clip are more than enough to make up for the rest of it. It’s just so damn pretty. From there on out, this is one of the greatest musical themes to have come out of that entire eight-film franchise. When those sweeping chords come back around and slam into you right around 1:23 or so, it’s just… it’s one of those things that makes me wish I had majored in music after all.
5. “This Land,” Hans Zimmer, The Lion King. I am of the mind that the Lion King is the greatest thing Disney has ever done. It’s Hamlet with lions and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. It came out in 1994, blew nearly everything Disney had done before it out of the water, and has yet to be topped by anything that came after it. “This Land” is, in my opinion, the greatest part of the entire soundtrack. First, you get that gorgeous melody up front, and at the end you get the African themes that come in and out throughout the whole movie. It’s probably just about as perfect as that bit in the movie where Adult Simba finally gets up on Pride Rock and roars his big liony heart out (which may be, actually, the thing that initally broke me and made me into the wibbly movie crier that I am today. That part makes me leaky every time).
6. “The White Tree,” Howard Shore, The Return of the King. Of course this pieces is on this list. How does a woman create a list of “things to blast” without including her favorite theme from her favorite films? That, by the way, would be the theme for Gondor. “The White Tree” is the music that accompanies what is probably the most gorgeous part of The Return of the King, the lighting of the beacons. The Gondorian theme can be heard in glorious surround sound brass chorus starting at 2:36 on the linked YouTube clip, but the buildup to it is essential to the proper enjoyment of the piece. It’s a climax and release situation.
7. “He’s a Pirate,” Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt, The Pirates of the Caribbean. So while Lord of the Rings is my absolute favorite thing in any medium, book, film, video game, performance art, you name it — Pirates of the Caribbean comes a surprisingly close second. And the soundtrack is a huge part of the reason why. When I set this playlist up this afternoon and put it on shuffle, this came up right after the Phantom Overture, and the entire way through it I had a big, goony smile on my face, because apparently this bombastic piece is exactly what I needed after the day I had at work today.
8. “Main Title/The Ice Planet Hoth,” John Williams, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Honestly, I could have chosen any of the six “Main Titles/Something Something” ones, but I picked Hoth because Empire is my favorite of the Star Wars films. Whatever! It’s the overfamiliar blast of the Main Titles I really wanted on this playlist, anyway. It brings back to mind the first time I ever saw the full trilogy all the way through. We’d borrowed the VHS tapes from our next door neighbor, and I holed myself up in our basement, however young I was at the time, and watched the entire trilogy over and over and over again until those neighbors demanded them back because they were moving out of the state and didn’t want to give them to me, the jerks (ok, ok, honestly, I should have just asked my dad to buy a set). Anyway, I was hooked, and after that I was unstoppable. I had all those PC games — Tie Fighter, X-Wing, you name it — and by the time BioWare came out with Knights of the Old Republic and they started making even more movies, I was beyond salvageable.
9. “Coronation,” Andy Brown and Ilan Eshkeri, Stardust. This is another of those that is just so triumphant and happy that I can’t help but love it. This one also has the extra bonus point of being one of the songs on my shortlist for the “wedding party enters the reception” song at my wedding to the Swede this past November. We eventually went with Cake’s “Love You Madly,” because this one would have required timing it to the second to get us in right at the climax of the main theme at 1:50. Which would have been freaking amazing, but alas, kind of hard, because it would have meant introducing our rather small wedding party for two solid minutes — which is way longer than you think it is, in that kind of a situation.
10. “Wrath of the Lich King (Main Titles),” Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. I just told you guys the story of how I became a total nerd, so stop staring. Yes, I’m including titles from World of Warcraft. Listen to it and try to argue with me that it doesn’t deserve some seriously epic blasting. It starts with that pretty awesome, halloweeny effect that it has, and then just turns into this marching battle drone, which is how I really got to know the World of Warcraft. I started playing when Burning Crusade was the only available expansion, and so for me, Lich King was the first real “new big thing in Warcraft” that I got to experience in real time. It was really exciting for me! I had a lot of fun back then, and I associate this music with that — as all good WoW players know, the Main Theme to any expansion is what plays when you’re logging in and loading up the game, so you get really familiar with it really fast.
11. “The Blood of Cu Chulainn,” Mychael and Jeff Danna, The Boondock Saints. This maybe seems a little out of place considering the rest of the music on this playlist so far, but I will guarantee you that to me and my dorky ears, this is perfect. I have a huge — maybe huge isn’t a big enough word, really — soft spot for anything Irish or even vaguely Irish-sounding. I even get all grinny when there’s something horribly stereotypical, like some dude in a green hat with a shamrock on it shouting “Ay she-shay it’s Saint Paddy’s Day!” and shilling green Guinness to you on the 17th (it’s SO CLOSE!). I’m sure real Irish people look at me and go, “Oy, you’re one of those people,” but hey. I am one of those people, I can’t exactly blame them. Anyway, this song punches me right in the gut of that part of me, so it always makes me smile real big.
12. “Chosen,” Robert Duncan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This has to be the long version to count. It’s the theme to the final battle between good and evil from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is one of my very favorite TV shows of all time. It has a vaguely celtic feeling up front, thanks to the use of all those tripolets, and then it slows down into one of the more magical “get you right in the feelings” genius moves ever done by a scorewriter, which is that thing Robert Duncan did at the end where he took the chords from the main theme to the TV show and planted them squarely into a poignant strings-and-piano finale closer-upper. It gets me every time. I am such a sap when it comes to this stuff, and this particular piece of score wrapped up a seven-year-long obsession that literally built more than one of my best friendships through high school, so it holds a lot of extra special soft-spotty meaning for me.
13 and 14. “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” John Williams, and “The Olympic Fanfare: Bugler’s Dream,” by Leo Arnaud, both from THE FREAKING OLYMPICS. To know me is to know an Olympic obsessive with no plans to find help. Winter or Summer, when the Olympics roll around it is really, really hard to get me to think about nearly anything else. The 1996 Olympics were probably the peak of my obsession, because they were the first ones to take place during my own time zone (hell, they were in my own city) and also during a time in which I had literally nothing else to do (being an elementary school aged child, I was able to stay at home all day and do cartwheels pretending that I was a member of the Mag 7. You know, back when the gymnastics teams were seven and not five people strong).
15. “Main Title (UK Version),” Bear McCreary, Battlestar Galactica. This one has this great “two personalities” thing going, where it starts off all calm and beautiful, and then turns into something bombastic (and let me just link to the horrible US version, which replaces the bombastic amazingness with something bizarrely sterile and… vaguely patriotic? I don’t even know).
16. “One Day More,” Claude-Michel Schönberg, Les Miserables. I have spoken here before about what I think this song can be at its most powerful, and that is precisely why I have included it on this playlist. It stands out as the only song on this playlist with lyrics (unless you count operatic chanting in Sanskrit, which appears in 15), but hey. Every playlist needs an oddball.
Note: There are songs I can think of that I would certainly have included if I had owned them at the time of this playlist’s creation, the most notable being the opening titles for Bethesda’s Skyrim, which is currently one of my very favorite things in the entire world (hello, second playthrough, I’m going to do every single quest you can give me, don’t try and stop me, so have a listen! I really need to get my hands on this soundtrack…
Like, really really.