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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Titanic - James Horner - Soundtrack Review

Let’s talk this week about „Titanic”. Wikipedia created a new genre for this movie, and describes “Titanic” as an “epic romantic disaster film”. Before Cameron beat himself with “Avatar”, “Titanic” was the most successful movie ever.

The movie

"Titanic" is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. Incorporating both historical and fictionalized aspects, the film is based on accounts of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as members of different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage. Here is the trailer:

With an initial worldwide gross of over $1.84 billion, “Titanic” was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark. A 3D version of “Titanic”, released on April 4, 2012 to commemorate the centennial of the sinking, earned it an additional $343.6 million worldwide, pushing the film's worldwide total to $2.18 billion.

I was from the beginning a huge fan of Cameron’s movies. I love his “Terminator”-movies, consider “Abyss” as a highly underestimated movie, and for me, “True Lies" is Schwarzeneggers’s best movie. I remember sitting with my friends at an age of 25 together and watching “Aliens” for the first time. What a great movie, what a great music, and what a great cast! I already discovered Horners score on my website.

With “Titanic”, some critics thought this will be James Cameron’s personal disaster because of the budget of over 200 million dollars. I also read that Cameron already spent 100 million without shooting any scene of the movie. Some journalist began to write articles that this upcoming fiasco will end Cameron’s career, and then “Titanic” became the biggest and most successful movie ever even though all people know how the movie will end: “Titanic” will sink!

I can remember when I saw the movie for the first time in a movie theatre in Germany without a break, I was highly impressed by it: three hours emotions and great special effects. My mouth dropped open when I saw the sinking scenes, and when Leonardo died, the woman behind me began to cry, and she cried until the ending of the movie!

I saw the movie three times in theatres, my brother 11 times when he was living in the US to practice his English, and we all agreed that this movie is one of the best entertaining movies we ever saw. Of course, the love story is a stereotype, but come on, who really expects from a Hollywood movie a realistic view on life? You want to cry, and you want to have a movie that pushes you beyond with its emotions, and “Titanic” is doing all of this in a perfect way.

The music

James Horner worked again with James Cameron, and with “Titanic” Horner composed one of the best selling soundtrack albums in history, also because of the fact that there was no single available to buy Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. People had to buy the whole soundtrack, and I suppose Horner became finally a millionaire because of this clever strategy.

“Titanic” was selling over 30 million copies, and became the highest-selling primarily orchestral soundtrack ever. 2012, Horner released another soundtrack album “Back To Titanic”, and there is only one reason to buy this CD because you finally have the beautiful piano music for the drawing scene on it.

I am not a big fan of the soundtrack. “Titanic” is again an example for the fact that in highly successful movies you normally just have average musical scores, no idea why this is mostly the fact. But James Horner won the highly deserved Academy Award:

Jim Cameron originally intended Irish singer Enya to compose the music, and put together a rough edit of the film using her music as temporary soundtrack. Enya declined, and Horner entered “Titanic”. Horner composed the soundtrack having Enya’s style in mind, and that is the reason, I do not like most of the score. Enya is a nice artist, but her style is not suitable for an orchestral score. Horner hired Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø to perform the wordless vocals.

I did not know that Cameron did not want to have a song sung over the ending credits, but Horner disagreed and recorded the song with Dion, and then Cameron changed his mind. Funny to imagine that if Horner would have followed Cameron, one of the most successful movie songs would never exist. “My Heart Will Go On" ended up winning the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Horner won the Oscar for the score. Horner really deserved an Oscar for music, but please not for “Titanic”, his other scores are far better.

I just want to recommend a few tracks: “Southampton” and “Leaving Dock” are the tracks when the “Titanic” went to sea. These tracks contain all of the weaknesses of the score, imagine, Horner would have composed this track in the style of “Braveheart” without the vocals and the synthesizers! “Rose” is a beautiful version of the love theme, but I still prefer the piano only track from the second “Titanic” CD score edition.

The best parts are the action tracks because there is not much Enya music in it, especially “Hard to Starboard” is a great piece of music. Here you can see what Horner can achieve with a full orchestra. The track is composed for the scene when the Titanic hit the ice, most of the track is wonderfully dramatic and shows Horner’s sense for drama.

Track 9 and 10 are composed for the sinking, the most dramatic parts of the movie. “The Sinking” begins wonderfully with the strings, “Death of the Titanic” is more dramatic, but I have no idea why Horner uses these highly atonal parts from 5’10, this is not good music, this is often just atonal crap.

Best track for me is “An Ocean of Memories”. This is such a lovely piece of music for a wonderful scene. With a “Hymn to the sea” the albums closes.

The music is quite popular. Find here a version from a concert in Vienna:

It was not my intention to write again such a long post, but I hope you enjoyed reading it. As I said, my website is highly subjective, but I want you all give something to think about and not just say always positive words about soundtracks.

Find here the famous song:

And a piano version of it:

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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