Harold Faltermeyer’s “Top Gun Anthem” is back in thunderously heroic form with Top Gun: Maverick, an album where emotional, 80s-esque songs both old and new come together and join sides with Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe’s unapologetically grandiose action style to overall create a thoroughly entertaining sequel soundtrack that very nearly reaches the high heights of the first film’s.
Here we are at last. Top Gun: Maverick was one of the hardest hit films of the COVID-19 pandemic, having been delayed multiple times throughout 2020 and 2021 until finally arriving now, almost two years after its original pre-pandemic-assigned release date. I’ve been as excited as any to finally see it, both for the film itself and of course for the score. Speaking of which, the score has also had a bit of an interesting timeline, especially composer-wise – while initially announced as a Harold Faltermeyer (the composer for the original Top Gun, and of that iconic Anthem) and Hans Zimmer collaborative effort, it’s slowly gained additional composers until now the front cover credits not only the above two but also Lorne Balfe and Lady Gaga, with I imagine several other co-composers sadly also going uncredited (as per the RCP way). While it is slightly concerning that a film like this should have so many composers (the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” springs to mind) I remained very eager to hear what was in store, especially with Faltermeyer himself still on board. Now that it’s finally out, this long-awaited soundtrack album features a mix of both song and score, with the actual score runtime coming in at just under thirty minutes. A little short perhaps, but then Top Gun always was more about the songs (bar the incredible Anthem cue anyway), so without further ado, let’s dive in.
Main Titles (You’ve Been Called Back To Top Gun) opens the album, and within just a few seconds Faltermeyer transports you right back to 1986 as those iconic Top Gun synthesizer and keyboard notes start playing, just as they did during the opening credits of the original movie. For the first minute or two it’s essentially the Anthem without the electric guitar, playing in hopeful, uplifting form while also enjoyably indulgent in the musical spirit of the first film. This indulgence however then reaches fever pitch at eighty seconds in, as the electric guitar finally arrives and the full Top Gun Anthem theme starts to play. It’s as proudly upbeat as it always is, but that doesn’t stop you practically fist-pumping the air once those opening notes arrive. The Anthem doesn’t stick around for too long here as the cue then ends at just over two and a half minutes long, but it’s still one hell of a rendition, and a pretty perfect way to open a Top Gun sequel score to boot. Naturally then there can only be one follow-up track to play, and you guessed it; it’s Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone. Sitting at the number two position on the album it pretty firmly fans the nostalgia flame that Main Titles sparked, and it’s still the boppy, optimistic & very memorable 80s-esque song you remember it as, sounding pretty much exactly like the original (it’s unclear whether this is a simple remastering or a fully fledged new version, at the moment I’m leaning toward the former).
Darkstar features the first glimpse into Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe’s side of the soundtrack, with loud, increasingly frenetic strings and low-pitched, drawn out brass notes evoking that very RCP-esque musical style right in the first couple of seconds. As the cue continues the instrumentation then starts to build, with the aforementioned brass and strings becoming louder and more intense with several sporadic notes from the Top Gun Anthem interspersed between, evoking a dramatic though also quite heroic tone throughout the three minute track. Great Balls Of Fire (Live) then reprises the Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer-written song that Anthony Edwards’ Goose of course enthusiastically sang in the first movie, this time performed by Miles Teller & cast together with a rather upbeat piano backing. You’re Where You Belong/Give ‘Em Hell then opens with what sounds like the backing notes from Lady Gaga’s new song for the film Hold My Hand, forming a slow, rather solemn but also slightly hopeful strings-based tone for the first half of the cue. For the back half however things start to pick up speed, with foreboding strings and brass slowly building until a reluctantly grandiose orchestra then briefly appears just before the track draws to a close. I Ain’t Worried by OneRepublic then brings back the optimism, with upbeat electronic beats and hopeful vocals fueling the fast-paced pop song throughout its two and a half minute runtime.
Tense strings open Dagger One Is Hit/Time To Let Go, with powerful brass notes fueling the increasingly ominous Zimmer/Balfe-style action until a loud crescendo is reached right on the sixty second mark. Sombre strings then take over for the remainder of the piece, driving home a particularly sorrowful mood together with a quietly gentle rendition of the Top Gun Anthem that only gets more and more downtrodden as the cue continues, all the way through its five minute runtime. Tally Two/What’s The Plan/F-14 then starts where the previous track leaves off, with moodily foreboding electronics and low-pitched brass occupying the first minute or so. After this though the music then starts to pick up, with the rapidly upbeat compositional style of earlier cue Darkstar reprising in a now even more uplifting manner with several notes from the iconic Anthem also interspersed between. This all then builds over the course of the cue’s final few minutes, coming to a particularly loud and emphatic crescendo just as the four minute runtime comes to an end. The Man, The Legend/Touchdown then closes out this trinity of action cues, with a few gentle notes from the Anthem playing during the opening seconds until the full theme then bursts heroically into the fray at the one minute mark. From here on the mood of the track of course elevates considerably, with hopeful, upbeat strings playing both notes from the Anthem and several from Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand in optimistic tandem.
With the album overall starting to draw to a close, Penny Returns (Interlude) brings the score back down from its action high with a gently romantic, strings and piano-heavy style, and additional, hopeful brass and vocals that join the fray in the back half of the piece. Notes from Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand also seem to play sporadically through this piece, which then lead pretty seamlessly into the full song as it conveniently appears next up on the album. Gaga evokes a very optimistic, rock-esque style here that shines very brightly throughout the just under four minute song, overall working very well in tandem with not only the other songs on the soundtrack but the score too, seamlessly seguing in from the previous track and delivering a particularly emotional penultimate cue. This isn’t of course the end though, as the composers have one final treat in store before the album bows out; a brand new recording of Harold Faltermeyer’s Top Gun Anthem. It really is the cherry on top of this already thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack, and Faltermeyer’s iconic theme finally gets to play in full, uninterrupted, lengthy and proudly heroic form on the now pretty well-known electric guitar. My only criticism of this frankly fantastic finale is that I just wish it was longer, coming in at only two and a half minutes long versus the original Anthem’s four. It does partly make up for that by being loudly, unapologetically epic throughout, perhaps even beating the original in terms of pure, fist-pumping-the-air musical brilliance, but being even just a little bit longer would have been nice.
Overall though, Lorne Balfe, Lady Gaga, Hans Zimmer and Harold Faltermeyer’s soundtrack for Top Gun: Maverick is a thoroughly entertaining and incredibly nostalgic musical experience from beginning to end. The composers knew exactly what reminiscent buttons needed pushing here, with the opening Main Titles cue building up and then practically exploding with the Top Gun Anthem we all know and love right at the very start of the album. Reprising Danger Zone was also a welcome addition (though Cheap Tricks’ Mighty Wings would’ve been appreciated too) and the new songs, while not perhaps as standout as the originals (which let’s be honest, is to be expected) certainly hit hard emotionally, with Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand in particular being the star of the show there. Score-wise, Faltermeyer reprises his brilliant Anthem to expertly emotional effect throughout the album, and Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer lend a hand with their now pretty well known thunderous action style which overall actually works very well in tandem with Faltermeyer. Perhaps it would have been nicer if the score side of things had leaned into a more 80s synthesizer-esque style instead of the modernised brass & drums approach, but the action is still good all the same (Darkstar being a dramatically epic example of this) so no love lost there really. All-in then, there’s a lot to love with the music for Top Gun: Maverick, and many a standout cue for Top Gun fans.
Just can’t get enough of that Anthem.
Standout Cues: 3. Darkstar/12. Top Gun Anthem
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