Soundtrack Review: Joyful Noise
As Joyful Noise was being made, director Todd Graff attended gospel conventions around the USA, watching choirs both large and small perform (sometimes to sold-out crowds of 18,000), which helped to provide an authenticity to the film. Composer and music producer Mervyn Warren who has known Graff for over a decade started writing and arranging the music for the film in 2009 after an early version of the script was finished, and the clear use of songs and music to tell the story shows careful planning.
I listened to the soundtrack to Joyful Noise actually for the first time a few days shy of seeing the film. It is a practice that I oftentimes avoid, only because sometimes it makes the film seem predictable or it doesn’t live up to the soundtrack. One thing that I liked about Joyful Noise is that it does live up to it. Surprisingly for films these days, the full soundtrack it seems (all 47 minutes) is present in the film – musical numbers are watched in their entirety here. In fact, the film is so music-centric that there are even more songs (sung partially) in the film that aren’t even on the CD – often it can be the other way around. Another interesting note is that composer Mervyn Warren is seen in the film making a cameo as the choir’s pianist.
I personally love listening to this CD – of course, you aren’t going to go out and buy this soundtrack if you aren’t into Gospel style music and arrangements. But for those who are, this is one of the most worthwhile recent soundtrack releases to buy – the whole thing is worth hearing again and again, without seeming boring or old.
There are 12 tracks on the soundtrack, including a score suite, several classic songs, and five new ones written for the film. Among them, composer and lyricist Mervyn Warren wrote I’m Yours for the film, while Dolly Parton wrote three songs to be used – Not Enough, He’s Everything, as well as the ballad From Here to the Moon and Back.
The goal for the film was to take songs from pop, to rock, to R & B, to country, and give them gospel arrangements as well as allowing them to take on faith-based undertones. The new arrangements by Mervyn Warren of some classic songs all work well, including a beautiful slow version of the spiritual Fix Me Jesus performed in the film and on the CD by Queen Latifah. There is a nice mix of songs here, from the classic spirituals, to songs like Michael Jackson’s hit Man in the Mirror, Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed, and even a slight variation into country sounds with the original song From Here to the Moon and Back.
The CD is one of my favourite song-centric soundtracks for a recent film. Along with the other songs I’ve already mentioned, gospel singer Kirk Franklin wrote In Love for the film and performs it as well. There is also a track sung by gospel singer Karen Peck (Mighty High), and an amazing rendition of the Billy Preston song That’s the Way God Planned It sung by young soloist Ivan Kelley, Jr. All of the songs on the CD are featured in the film either sung by the main choir, or in the case of these, by their competitors at the ‘Joyful Noise’ competition.
One amazing point in both the film and on the CD is the Higher Medley track. It begins with Sly & The Family Stone’s I Want to Take You Higher, before transitioning to Yeah! (made popular by Usher), then to Chris Brown’s hit Forever, and finally finishing with the Stevie Wonder classic Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours. The transitions here are flawless and amazingly well sung. This five and a half minute track is definitely a great high point as the second to last song on the disc.
After all of the songs, the final track here is Joyful Noise Suite by Mervyn Warren, which is the one score (instrumental only) track on the soundtrack, and it provides a nice tone-down bookend to finish off the CD. I’ve heard the whole 48 minute soundtrack several times through, and definitely consider it a worthy edition to my collection.
The Joyful Noise soundtrack was released digitally and in the USA, (by Watertower Music), on January 10th 2012, and into Canadian stores, (by Sony Music Canada Inc.), on January 24th.
The soundtrack has 12 tracks and runs for 48 minutes, 7 seconds. It features both classic and original songs, as well as one score track composed by Mervyn Warren.
You can read our movie reviews of Joyful Noise here.