Do you raid your obscure vinyl collection, Tarantino style? Do you hire Hans Zimmer and let him off the leash to wreak musical genius?
Or do you just grab an up-and-coming band by the collar and empty a suitcase of money in front of them? “Yup, let’s do that” said Beautiful Creatures director Richard LaGravanese. Probably.
So, this band. Thenewno2 (who shall hereafter be known as The New No. 2 to keep us all from going completely cross-eyed) are Dhani Harrison (vocals/guitar), Paul Hicks (keyboards/programming), Jonathan Sadoff (keyboards/guitar), Jeremy Faccone (guitar), Aaron Older (bass) and Frank Zummo (drums). Ben Harper and Liela Moss offer guest vocals on the final two tracks, but we’ll get round to them eventually. First, let’s talk about everything else that’s wrong with this score.
Enthralling and overwhelming might have been the plan, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Let’s put this into context. Beautiful Creatures is hyped up as a film about magic and mystery and teenage romance yet for a trailer that promises momentous events and mysterious happenings, opening track ‘Interception‘ is completely, unforgivably boring.
This and tracks like ‘Swamptronica Voudon’ or ‘Breaking The Ice’ feel like they’ve time travelled into the future to become muzak versions of themselves. Wavering on one or two piano chords or cycling and recycling a single bland motif, they’re vague, plain and inoffensive. The parts of this soundtrack worth getting bothered about are the tracks that make promises they can’t keep.
‘Lena’s Magic’ is the first sign of anything truly unique and touching in this score, introducing a love theme on what sounds like a silky smooth pedal steel guitar. It’s a bit twinkly and misty-eyed, but that seems to be about the shape of this story so far. The elegant, ghostly atmosphere of ‘Sarafina At Church’ goes partway toward redeeming this score from its own sugary tendencies, but even this isn’t entirely on its own merits. It owes a lot to the darker side of Danny Elfman’s score for Batman Returns. Tender, fragile strings, hovering and quivering on the upper end of the scale lend the score one of its few moments of tension.
Considering thenewno2’s claim of creating a new genre called ‘Swamptronica’, ‘Ridley’s Claiming’ is one of the few tracks that offers any kind of swampland imagery. Tortured electric guitar squeals and phantom choirs tease us with hints of mystery and snatches of mythos. They lean a lot more on the tronica than the swamp, and even that’s limited to drably monotonous drum machines.
‘The Spell That Left a Curse’, aside from having the only track title that isn’t vaguely script-note-like (‘Family Dinner’, anyone?) or trite and clichéd, has a certain movement to it that everything else here lacks. It progresses where the majority are happy to sit in a mud puddle and splash around with two chords. It builds and soars, where the rest endlessly drift. But then it’s gone, and there are still twenty-odd tracks to wade through.
Finally, you come to them. The end credit songs. Because what else were they going to be? ‘Run To Me’ and ‘Never Too Late’ really want to be epic and sprawling. They really want to tie up everything we’ve been through and offer a sense of continuity through to the rest of the film trilogy this franchise desperately wants to get stuck into.
Like everything else on Beautiful Creatures, they’re trying too hard to be something they are plainly not. Those bits and pieces peppered all over the tracks – the pedal steel and the penny whistle and the gypsy fiddles – they’re like the badly faked accents in the film. What seems intended to ground it and give it validity just come off as ordinary pastiche.
This music wants to be dangerous, but it also wants to be palatable. And that’s just not how a good score works. A good score complements the film; it winds itself around every scene, owns every unforgettable moment, so that you can’t even imagine one without the other. It should take risks. It should sound like nothing else out there. You should be coming away humming it; those motifs should be imprinted on your brain.
Beautiful Creatures couldn’t so much as imprint itself on a bar of soap.
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