It is obvious that a great deal of research, attention and care has gone into crafting this score by Ludwig Goransson. The reason being – it is fantastic.
It is not often nowadays that we see a superhero score rise above the now incredibly large vat of superhero music. Especially one that rises as far as the score for Black Panther does. It is just so different in pretty much every way to the rest of them, and it is that difference that helps it to really shine. Black Panther is an incredible blend of African and superhero music.
I shall begin this review by doing what I do every time; picking out the standout cues of the score and why they stand out. The first one to step onto the podium is track 2: Royal Talon Fighter. As soon as the cue begins we are thrown into the African land of Wakanda, with drums beginning almost immediately. These then transition into one of the themes for T’Challa (the Black Panther), a pretty epic piece of music that brings an army of brass with it to represent the new leader of Wakanda. The theme like most of the score is a great blend of African drums and superhero-sounding music. Then just before the cue ends we are treated to a soft, slow rendition of the villain theme for the movie; Killmonger‘s theme. It hasn’t been given a chance to shine yet, but it is a great theme for a great villain.
The next track of interest is Warrior Falls. It begins with African chanting that then transitions into the main theme for Black Panther; a slow building piece that moves from soft choirs to grandiose heroic brass, with more African chanting dotted throughout. The theme is unlike any superhero theme I have heard before, which is more than likely the reason why I think it is so great. Unfortunately, like the villain theme in the track previously the theme is cut off before it can really shine, but what I did hear I liked a lot.
Killmonger’s theme is the next great on this album. Now I am no expert on this style of song, but I’m pretty sure his theme is a blend of orchestral hip-hop and rap-style music, which is traditionally associated with songs (and a fair amount of it appears on Black Panther: The Album, the songs made for the film). This was a fantastic idea, as like the theme for Black Panther himself, this is new and different and frankly sounds extraordinary. The combination of this and choirs gives off a dark-yet-down-to-earth feeling about Killmonger, which pretty much is his character in the film. It is a great villain theme that well represents the big baddie.
Now Busan Car Chase is a cue that I was a little disappointed by. I went to see Black Panther in the cinema before I heard the score, and this track in the film blends one of the songs created for Black Panther with the score by Goransson. All-in this made for a pretty awesome and epic cue to go along with a great car chase scene, but I assume because of music rights or something along those lines the blend of song and score isn’t included on this album. This strikes a pretty major hit to the track, which only includes the second half of the car chase music (which was rather lackluster). It has also cut off a pretty epic rendition of the Black Panther theme that was present in the film scene, so all-in this cue is a shadow of its former film version glory. It’s such a shame as I remember the film version being the standout music, but I guess you can thank the idea of getting different people to do song and score for that.
Wake Up T’Challa for the most part is a return to more traditional superhero music, with a five minute hopeful piece that slowly builds up with low choirs until the last minute where it explodes with an epic rendition of the Black Panther theme, African drums and all returning. This then leads quite nicely into the big battle music of the score, beginning with The Great Mound Battle. It begins with a return to Killmonger’s theme before heading into Black Panther’s to start off the big battle. The blend of African and superhero is stronger than ever with this and the next track, Glory To Bast. Here we finally hear the Black Panther theme in its full glory, and it is epic. Instead of being held back just before it gets good like in previous tracks it is allowed to really go for it, and what a great piece of music it is. The rest of the track is mostly battle music with some African drums and chanting thrown in here and there, all-in being a pretty great track. The fight is then drawn to a close with A King’s Sunset, a much more African piece with drums and chanting to mark the end of the battle and the start of a new era in the film.
Spaceship Bugatti begins with a soft version of the Black Panther theme before moving into more music of the superhero variety, which then builds up into a grand finishing piece to close the film. We are then treated to United Nations/End Titles, a fantastic seven minute end credits suite that summarizes all the best parts of the score. The full Black Panther theme is here again, along with parts of Killmonger and Glory To Bast. It is an epic track to end a pretty epic score.
Overall Black Panther is a very refreshing album. It excellently blends superhero and African music to create something pretty special, and definitely something unique. The main Black Panther theme is a good example of this, I just wish is that it was longer and used a little more in the film. The theme also sounds a tad villainy at times, which is slightly odd. Speaking of which, Killmonger has a fantastic villain theme which is very different to Black Panther’s, and is all the better for it. The rest of the score was great, but the lack of the song/score blends used in the film is a tad disappointing. Without the songs some of the score sounds lackluster. I do also think that the African style of music is used ever so slightly too much, and the score could’ve done with a bit more superhero to boost the really epic feeling it very nearly had. This problem was particularly present in the action scenes (namely the car chase and final battle) as some of the music felt a bit flat against what was happening in the film. A bit more brass would have helped a lot.
Despite this however, Black Panther is for the most part a great score that breathes some fresh air into the superhero music genre.
Standout Cue: United Nations/ End Titles