Steve Jablonsky Ruins MV/RC Music for the future with Your Highness

A bit dramatic, I know… but when you listen to the score for Your Highness and if you know the music that Zimmer’s studio (Media Ventures/Remote Control) has produced through the years, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

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Jablonsky, an acolyte of Zimmer’s, has had quite a few scores up to now. A couple of my favorites include Transformers, and The Island. Something that kindof comes with the territory of being one of Zimmer’s pupil is a shared sound, whether it’s the orchestrations, instrumentation, or the musical progressions this group uses, the scores all seem to have a very similar flavor. Sometimes they can break away from that stigma, and sometimes they can’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter if they’re doing what they’re getting paid for. But I digest.

This newest score from Jablonsky definitely falls within the realm of the Zimmer School sound, and the score is better for it! Who knew that 20+ years of musical development (some might say stagnation, but that’s kindof harsh) would culminate in the most perfect score? I’ll try not to spend my time comparing this to other MV/RC scores, but instead talk about this one.

Your Highness, from what I can gather and infer of the trailers, is a very funny looking movie about two brothers from a time of sword and sorcery on a quest to find a kidnapped princess (or maiden, but does that detail matter?). So what kind of music should it have? Well, if you said epic orchestral with some dulcimer, solo violin, big brass, familiar rhythmic motives (a la Kamen’s Robin Hood Prince of Thieves), some choral and vocal work, including a very appropriate, poorly sung love song… oh yeah, and some sweet synth work that sounds like its straight out of an early 90’s cutting edge score… these things are ingredients that make up the score to Your Highness.

The score opens with the cue “Let Us Quest!” combining the orchestra with synth worthy of Doldinger and Moroder, then enters the heroic brass theme, and then the sweet solo violin plays, along with the chorus, taking us through to the rousing acoustic guitar and the buildup to the action, quicker moving strings and brass stabs with a Pirate’s of the Caribbean vibe, and one of my favorites (and Stromenger’s too) ascending brass stingers.

The next cue “Isabel the Strong” makes great use of the woodwinds by playing a lovely melody over the orchestra, which is then taken up by a solo female voice. Quite lovely as one pictures the butterfly’s and little birdies fluttering around the maiden or some other heroine as the sunlight shines through her hair. Very quickly the tongue goes further into the cheek as the voice becomes a little stronger and the orchestra turns the saccharin up to 11.

The score is very effective in my opinion because it seems to play everything straight, mostly. Until we get to “The Greatest Most Beautifullest Love Song In All The Land” sung by Zooey Deschanel and James Franco. Zooey, a noted singer in various incarnations including an actual band is very able to accomplish the sweet maiden’s part. Only when Franco’s character enters does the beauty of this beautifully ridiculous song shine. I don’t know whether or not Franco can actually sing, but for sure on this recording he makes a valiant attempt, or rather his character does, giving this song the wink it needs to help me stomach the panpipes.

The score continues with the epicness and the sweetness throughout the rest of the cues. Another great cue is “Mean Knights and Horsies O’ My!” which contains the action music we’ve come to love, combining some very fast sounding strings and brass, with percussion-y pads, and Inception-like synths, all combining and morphing within the cue eventually bringing back the heroes theme in variation.

I’d love to have this score playing during a night of D & D, but I won’t say anymore about that in fear of letting my nerd show more than it already has.

In the cue “Here Come the Marteetee” Jablonsky does what any good Zimmer alumn should be able to do… combine an orchestral cue with some heavily distorted rock guitars, transforming the cue to a rock song. At about 1:10 in the track, he does it. The drums and guitar rock out with an orchestral accompaniment, with a face melting lick over the top.

I am in love with this score right now, and it’s making me excited to see the movie when it comes out… of course, I would have seen it anyway. I mean, come on… it’s got Danny McBride and James Franco together again in a comedic sword and sorcery, not to mention Natalie Portman as a bad-ass ranger type. Yes please, thank you! But back to the score… in using the things that came before, Jablonsky takes the epic sound and applies it to this movie in a very serious fashion, highlighting and making melodrama where there wasn’t any. I’m not sure a mickey mousing approach would have worked as well for me… but in saying so, it’s going to be hard to listen to future MV/RC scores that use this material in a serious film.

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