Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Top Ten Scores from Composer Hans Zimmer

Back in 2009, I did a little Top 10 list for composer James Horner.  It wasn't very easy to narrow it down to just 10 scores, but that was nothing in comparison to the torment of compiling this latest list.  Hans Zimmer, or perhaps more accurately, his style of music, is one of the more polarizing things in the world of film music fans.  Directors and studios are clearly still infatuated with what the man can produce...and, I say, that's well justified.  While bludgeoned for "not having enough originality" or for spawning off "clones," even a moderate examination of Zimmer's portfolio shows that he (and his crew) are capable of a great deal of diversity....especially when looking back a couple of decades across his full body of work.

So I've taken on the daunting task again...this time giving you my top 10 Hans Zimmer scores to date.  To make things a little "easier" I've eliminated from contention most of his projects where there are multiple composers credited (ie. The Rock, Kung Fu Panda, The Road to El Dorado, etc.)...with one notable exception, which you'll, no doubt, notice below.  Evenso, it was still a very difficult task and let me just give you a few that could have very well made this list...but didn't:  THE LION KING, BACKDRAFT, CRIMSON TIDE, THIN RED LINE.

So what IS on the list then?  Proceed, see, and listen...

#10 -  Sherlock Holmes

For those that say Zimmer doesn't do anything innovative then they simply haven't heard SHERLOCK HOLMES yet.  This 2009 release couldn't be any stronger evidence to the contrary. Save for a few elements from Pirates of the Caribbean and perhaps RANGO, there is hardly another score in the composer's portfolio that even comes close to this off-kilter and playful score.

#9 -  Inception

Inception features one of the most clever moves made in a film score in recent memory.  The use of a note from Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne Regrette Rien," is more than an audio-easter-egg, but has a direct tie to the plot and structure of the film.  The more dream-levels we dive into, the slower the note is those in the successive dreamworlds would hear it. While the overall score may not be his most unique, it ranks #9 due to its cleverness and perfect fit for  the film.

#8 -  Spanglish 

Not a score you hear much talk about, but Zimmer (along with Heitor Periera's mesmerizing guitar) crafts his best score for a romantic comedy.  Spanglish is a charming score further proving the composer actually has more variety than given credit for.

#7 - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

The lucky #7 slot is filled by the best score of the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy.  According to Zimmer, at the time, this was to be the last of the film's so he and his cohorts could truly let loose on the score...and my hearties, did they ever.  At World's End is a rousing and adventurous and unforgettable romp and was duly honored at the Tracksounds Cue Awards of that year.  Obviously, the Pirates world didn't end there, but On Stranger Tides doesn't reach the heights or depths of the third film.

#6 - Gladiator 

Gladiator debuted while I was actually in Italy and so it will always have a special place in my listening-heart.  Whenever I hear it I'm instantly transported.  While Lisa Gerrard's contribution is considerable, even without that element, Zimmer brings an ancient power to life and helps to make a number of movie moments absolutely unforgettable.

#5 - Beyond Rangoon 

This is an often forgotten about score going way back to 1995.  Beyond Rangoon features one of Zimmer's most exotic and mesmerizing main themes.  While it echoes a number of his recognizable stylings of the era, his use of flute and wordless vocals sets it apart.

#4 - The Prince of Egypt 

Simply put - one of the best scores for an animated film to date.  While Stephen Schwartz's original songs provide such great character for the film, Hans Zimmer's score is deep, soulful, and inspiring.  Both the film and score have never received their due - at least as deserving as the Oscar winning score from The Lion King.  Once again his ability to graft in culturally appropriate instrumentation and keep the score  generally consumable by the masses is on display.  The Prince of Egypt is at once an incredibly nuanced score but and excitingly exotic and emotional ride.

#3 - The Da Vinci Code

A tour de force.  There's no other way to put it.  Zimmer simply holds nothing back for The Da Vinci Code.  Unfortunately, the film didn't live up to the book...nor to it's own score, but read the book while listening to this and see just what sort of experience you have.

#2 -  The Last Samurai

If it weren't for the dominance of The Lord of the Rings, I'm quite certain that The Last Samurai would have received much more attention than it did back in 2003.  Both the film and it's score, like many others that year, were simply squashed by The Return of the King.  Peter Jackson's film and Howard Shore's score just slammed the door of possibility on everyone.  Zimmer embellishes his recognizable style with Japanese taiko, shakuhachi, and even Native American vocalists - the end result remains poignant after countless listens.

#1 -  The Power of One 

Anyone who knows me, this site, or our podcast, will not be surprised at this title coming in at number one.  I have lauded it for years.  As great as The Lion King seems to be in the minds of many, The Power of One was a powerful predecessor that scars and takes just a bit of the pride out of the 1994 Disney score.  With the marvelous vocals provided by Lebo M and company, The Power of One is a score that simply oozes with the rarest commodity, heart.  All hail the true king of Zimmer scores!

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