Damien Chazelle’s musical masterpiece La La Land has recently hit theaters and it’s a fantastic film filled with comedy, drama and a soundtrack that sticks with you long after the credits roll.
But exactly what is it about the film's music that continues dancing through our heads once we leave the theater?
There are more than a city of stars, but these are the four biggest reasons the #LaLaLand soundtrack is starting a new musical fire.
- 5 Fantastic 'La La Land' Filming Locations To Visit in LA
- Everyone Is Going Ga Ga Over La La: Here Are 4 Things You Might Not Know About La La Land!
- Yes, That Really Is Ryan Gosling Playing Jazz Piano In 'La La Land,' Reveals Director Damien Chazelle
1. The Minor Key
If you don’t know these music terms, don’t worry, I got you covered. Basically, to know whether a song or a musical piece is in the minor or major key, you only need to listen for emotion.
If a song makes you feel happy, the song is usually in a major key, like the Happy Birthday song or Justin Timberlake's’ "Can’t Stop the Feeling." In contrast, when a song makes you feel sad, relaxed or weary, the song is usually in a minor key, like Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again.”
This concept works on most songs, but not all minor key songs are sad songs. Take for example Maroon 5’s “Makes Me Wonder.” The song is played in a minor key, but it’s not a sad song, rather it’s groovy and has a sense of dark emotion.
#Broadway musicals, and musicals in general, tend to steer away from the minor key, but La La Land uses it extensively throughout its soundtrack. The recurring motif used throughout the movie, "Mia and Sebastian's Theme," is in the minor mode. This is one reason why the songs are very catchy, since many of the musicals typically use the major key, like #Moana or #Hamilton.
While being in the minor mode helped the music in La La Land, it was the combination of the minor key and a short chord progression that truly made its main motif pop.
2. The Tracks Are Composed Like Club Songs
Many of today’s club songs, hip hop and pop are in the minor key. Current hits such as Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” (the mannequin challenge song), The Weeknd’s “Starboy,” and Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens” are as well. They also have a one chord progression that repeats throughout the song.
That is one of the reasons why today’s hip hop music (trap music) is considered very easy to make. While some might consider this bad, it is this aspect that makes La La Land’s theme song shine. The main song, “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme,” is composed like a club song. It's a brilliant move on the part of La La Land's composer, Justin Hurwitz, that 's explained best during a particular scene in the film.
When Sebastian (#RyanGosling) and Keith (John Legend) are rehearsing in a scene during the film, Keith told Sebastian that in order to save #Jazz he needed to revolutionize it. In order to connect with the youth, the generation that will grow up with his music, then he needed to stop living in the past. In short, in order to save a dying genre, the genre must adapt with the times and La La Land does just that.
La La Land’s theme song, while still played in a traditional form, is composed like today’s top hits. Even the duet between Ryan Gosling and #EmmaStone, “City of Stars,” is composed like a club song. Put some 808 drums and synths over the song and the song could easily dance to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100.
The Order In Which The Songs Were Played
The order in which the songs were presented in the film also contributed to the impact the musical numbers had.
The very first song, “Another Day of Sun,” is in the major key. The happiness and energy of this song was perfectly executed in the opening scene, which catapults the audience into the musical journey ahead and ultimately makes the following songs in the minor key easy to remember.
Concurrently, La La Land not only used original songs, but very famous ones as well. To keep the audience engaged, the use of “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls and “Take on Me” by a-Ha, were perfectly placed near the middle of the movie, acting almost like a bridge between the first song from the beginning of the movie to the next song presented, “City of Stars” and John Legend’s “Start a Fire.”
A Modern Club Song Played With Classical Instruments
Justin Hurwitz, the composer of La La Land, is a genius. The film's main song and motif, “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme,” is embedded throughout the whole movie, swimming smoothly though a pool of minor keys galore. It feels like a club song with a classical twist and a familiar friend who visits us throughout the film. It's the heart of the movie that never skips a beat.
Together with major key arrangements and a clever use of famous songs here and there, the music in La La Land is extraordinary. It's one soundtrack that doesn't just hit a high note for movie musicals, it sicks in our heads and moves our feet.
Which track is your favorite? La La Land is now playing everywhere. Watch the trailer below: