Ranking the Soundtracks

I’ve been sitting on writing this post for a while.  I thought it would be fun, in follow up to the post I wrote years ago on the best compositions in Star Wars (here and here), to instead write my rankings of the soundtracks.  Instead of individual pieces, I wanted to look at the soundtracks as a whole.  Which do I think are the top and which do I think make it to the bottom?

The only reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long is because IT’S SO HARD.  It changes often but I wanted to imagine someone asking me to give my final answer, as if I were playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and something was on the line.

After much thinking (like two months, seriously), here is my own personal Best of Star Wars Soundtracks list:

8.  Rogue One.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I didn’t really like Rogue One as a movie or it’s the fact that John Williams did not write the soundtrack that caused this movie to be on the bottom, but there you go.  The second time I watched it, I did come away feeling slightly more kind towards the music, but I think both having a different composer and not enjoying the movie was a double whammy that landed this at the bottom of the list.  Plus, it never had the wonderful themes that we love so much played enough throughout it.  I am planning on listening to it more, but for now, it ends up on the bottom.

7.  Attack of the Clones

One of my favorite pieces is Across the Stars.  It wows me and moves me every time I listen to it.  But as a whole, AOTC is slightly underwhelming.  There are probably about 2-3 tracks that I would want to listen to that on the soundtrack and if I were being perfectly honest, none of them stand out like Across the Stars.

6.  A New Hope

Agh, I hate even ranking this soundtrack so low because A New Hope introduced the world to Star Wars music.  Some of my favorite tracks of all time are in ANH.  But if I was looking at it as a whole, ANH involves too much brass in it’s soundtracks to make me rank it any higher.  The staccato, brass music is not my style and I don’t like listening to it too much and often skip most of the tracks.

5.  The Force Awakens

Number 5 and 4 are in close competition.  I love Rey’s theme and it was my top listened to track of 2016 (according to Spotify).  Currently, my most listened to track is The Jedi Steps.  Clearly, I love some of the pieces.  March of the Resistance and Kylo Ren’s theme (okay not really called that but it’s played whenever he comes on screen) are also really well done.  I originally did not like the soundtrack that much but as time has gone on, I have listened to certain tracks at least once a week.  I love it, but the reason it’s still ranked lower than most is that I believe I love it because I’m a Star Wars fan.  When leaving the theater, there were not many pieces that made me want to run home and figure out which music was playing when.   My love affair with the TFA soundtrack grew over time as a fan, but I don’t think there is anything in the soundtrack that stood out to the casual viewer.

4.  The Phantom Menace

I love TPM’s soundtrack.  It was a fresh new sound to the Star Wars music and set the Prequels off on the right foot.  The Naboo Palace was one of my favorites, and I loved the battle droid music.  Anakin’s theme was softer than expected but had hints of darkness at the end.  Duel of the Fates is unbeatable and is still one of my favorite tracks of all time.  I probably also rank it higher because it was the first Star Wars soundtrack I ever owned (on cassette!) so nostalgia plays a big part in this decision.

3.  The Empire Strikes Back

There are some great pieces in ESB, namely of course, The Imperial March.  That track is SO GOOD.  I love the Imperial March and could listen to it over and over again.  I also love Yoda’s theme and the music played throughout Cloud City at the end of the soundtrack.  The Asteroid Field and Han and Leia are excellent tracks that round out this soundtrack and brings it to the next level.  I feel like this soundtrack is balanced well, but again, not something I could probably listen to over and over again.  The key pieces are amazing but there are some others in there that bore me.

2.  Revenge of the Sith

I think ROTS is one of the most underrated soundtracks out of all the Star Wars movies.  The expanse of what the soundtrack covers is breathtaking.  Some of the most moving pieces in the Saga come from ROTS.  Battle of the Heroes is the most prominent track, but Padmé’s Ruminations still stands up there as one of my favorite compositions of John Williams.  Every time I listen to it, I actually DON’T want to listen to it because of the breadth of emotions it pulls from me.  I think General Grievous’ theme is brass done well.  The soundtrack flows in a way that even without seeing the movie, you can follow along with the music and feel your soul move.  It starts out fast, clipped, and semi-dangerous.  By the end, your heart is broken and full of foreboding.  If I had never seen the movie, I would still be able to feel the emotions I am supposed to.

1.  Return of the Jedi

I place ROTJ first because it’s a soundtrack where I like almost every single one of the compositions created by John Williams.  Not only does it flow well, but it mixes some of my favorite music throughout the entire soundtrack.  We have the Force theme, the main theme, Luke and Leia, the Emperor’s theme, some of the Imperial March, the second Death Star battle, the Ewok’s forest battle music, and the celebration at the end.  It’s bittersweet in some places, we find resolution in other pieces, there is fear, hope and tension woven throughout the soundtrack.  If I had to listen to one soundtrack from the Star Wars universe for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

 

I’m surprised that I picked ROTJ as my favorite of all time (for now).  I didn’t expect it when I first started out with this project.  Yet out of all the movies, it’s soundtrack has most of the compositions that I enjoy.

 

If you had to – how would you rank your favorite Star Wars soundtracks?

Haiku Me Friday! Yoda’s Escape

The end, this will be
Into exile, I must go
And now wait, not long

Though Yoda visited Dagobah during TCW (some of my least favorite episodes, actually), I have always wondered how he felt when he landed there after escaping Order 66 on Kashyyyk.  With this haiku, I chose to use the point of view that Yoda knew he would end his life on Dagobah.  He knew he was waiting for the twins to grow up, but knew that with their training, also came the end of his life.

I’m not sure why I chose this point of view, but Yoda is wise for the most part and understands a great deal more than anyone else, so I have a hunch he knew that his life might end on Dagobah.

What did Yoda do for ~20 years while he was in exile?  Wouldn’t even communing with Qui-Gon Jinn get old?  I hope he had some good books.

We see such a small sliver of Yoda’s life and know so little about him, which I love.  I hope Disney doesn’t go ruin that for us and give us too much information.  There’s a little bit about his past out there on Yoda’s Wookieepedia page, but it’s not much at all.  I want Yoda to never have a species assigned to him and I never want to know the 800 years prior to The Phantom Menace.  For the most part, I don’t mind Disney giving us new material and explaining loved characters (not a huge fan of the new Han Solo movie, but it is what it is), but please Disney – keep Yoda mysterious.

 

Tell me – would you want to learn more about Yoda’s life?  How much is too much?  Or do you want to know it all?

Haiku Me Friday! Padmé’s Death

I cannot wake up
The despair overwhelms me
My husband, my babe

Yes, it’s confirmed – I’m on a Prequel kick.  And thank you Mei-Mei for suggesting that for 2017, I do my haiku’s in first person form.  This has provided a new, fresh, and interesting challenge for me.

I’ve never given much thought to Padmé during that time period where she is strangled by Anakin, falls unconscious, and then gives birth.  She seems like she is struggling between two worlds during this time…as her body gives out and succumbs to death, her brain is struggling to come back to the world.  It seemed like a battle to me; she is restless, yet wants to stay in oblivion.

I used this haiku to perhaps show the few things that might be going through her limited brain power.  She can’t wake up, even if she tries, but all she probably feels is a crushing sense of despair, with instinct hanging on to her husband and baby.

Because of her sense of despair, she slowly begins to lose the will to wake up permanently.  It’s always been hard for me to accept that Padmé gave up on life…there have been great articles written that have since swayed my opinion somewhat so I tried to relate to her more with this haiku.

Imagine having stress and an inkling of something not right for months, gnawing at you and eating away at your inside.  She probably knew that something was changing within Anakin, even if she didn’t want to acknowledge it.  In the deleted scenes within ROTS, we see that she was forming the beginning of the Rebellion without telling Anakin.  Secrets and dishonesty have formed between them.

On top of that, she has kept her pregnancy secret for the most part with shapeless dresses.  This constant hiding wears someone down.

Then it all blows up in her face.  Her fears are confirmed: Anakin has changed, but her fears could not have prepared her for what actually happened.  Anakin didn’t have political leanings that were so drastically different from her own – Anakin had turned to the dark side and had annihilated multiple Jedi, including ones younger than 10 years old.  He had committed murder and did not seem to regret it.  When she tries to rescue him and run away, he chokes her and causes her to lose consciousness…but keeps her alive.  Barely.

I wouldn’t want to wake up and face reality either.

I believe that the twins were born prematurely.  Maybe not months prematurely, but a few weeks before they were supposed to be born.  The choking and distress caused Padmé’s body to shut down, but instinct forced her body to bear the children.  Once that act was complete, Padmé had enough consciousness to tell Obi-Wan the names of her children (canon dictates she did not know she was bearing twins.  Slightly unbelievable, I know) and to let him know that there was still some good in Anakin.

And then she did not want to face the world where she had born children to a monster.  Despite that she knew in her heart that he still had good in him, she also knew she was not the one who would bring it forth.  So instead, she succumbed to letting go of her life to let someone else fight that battle.

It’s still hard for me to accept, especially as a mother, but when I think through it very hard, a part of me gets it.  Just a small part, but I’m slightly more sympathetic.

 

Does anyone else have alternative theories on why Padmé gave up?

Fan Art Friday! Best Friends Clash

I had so much fun doing this picture.  I didn’t do my normal, random let-the-book-fall-open-where-it-will-and-pick-a-piece but instead I found this while working on last month’s Leia portrait and fell in love because there are lightsabers!  We all know how much I love lightsabers (so much that I think that could have been another reason I didn’t like Rogue One as much as the Saga movies).

I also figured out the best lighting for taking these photos is at 6am.

I also figured out the best lighting for taking these photos is at 6am.

Originally, I didn’t look at the lightsabers too closely so I was going to do green (my favorite color lightsaber) and red.  But when I actually began to work on it, I realized that they were two distinct character lightsabers: Obi-Wan and Anakin.

Well, there was no question to what I would do after that.  When I did not realize whose lightsabers these were, I was going to make the mandala/background very industrial with greys and blacks.  But no way – I had to make this Mustafar themed!

I believe that’s why I had so much fun: it’s rare in these pictures that I have been able to use a lot of orange, reds, and yellows.  Because of that, I didn’t let myself go choose anything but shades in that range.  I used as many different fiery hues as possible and they ranged from brown-red to golden yellow.

I kept the end half-circles on the mandala for my industrial look and I’m happy with that choice.

I have to say – this picture was up there for me in my favorites because 1) lightsabers, and 2) all the colors I got to use that I don’t normally pick.

Don’t forget to check out Mei-Mei’s interpretation of this picture!

Haiku Me Friday! A formidable queen

Planet in distress Lovely, isolated queen So young for the role

Planet in distress
Lovely, isolated queen
So young for the role

Shout out to Queen Amidala.  I was supposed to do a Fan Art Friday with Mei-Mei and I completely dropped the ball.  First, I forgot.  Then, my daughter got very sick and all my attention was devoted on getting her well again.  So be sure to check out Mei-Mei’s coloring book post and I’ll be back with her in February for the next one.

But I wanted to give my own little homage to Queen Amidala because she is one of my favorite characters in the PT.  I like Padmé, but Queen Amidala and Qui-Gon Jinn changed my liking of Star Wars into an obsession when I was 11 years old.  Padmé and Queen Amidala are the same though, right?  Yes and no.  I don’t think the Barack Obama we see on TV is the same Barack Obama behind closed doors with his family.  Padmé from AOTC and ROTS was different than Queen Amidala as she was no longer ruling.  Though she was a senator, she was freer to be herself.

I loved Queen Amidala because she represented strength to me.  Though I am older and also see the way she got played by Palpatine, I hardly fault her for it.  Palpatine is one of the best characters in Star Wars because of how he plays everyone in the galaxy as pawn in his masterful game of chess, including Amidala.

I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but another reason why I loved her is because there was no man by her side.  The Jedi protected her, but they were not from Naboo, nor were they part of her politics.  I appreciated how she made the decision to return home to Naboo though every man advised her not to.  She appreciated the advice of counsellors, but led with her gut and made her own decision in the end.

It’s hard for me to relate to people who hate The Phantom Menace.  I understand where they are coming from as TPM is vastly different from the Original Trilogy, but by hating the movie, they miss out on some great characters, with Amidala being one of them.