Note: I have tried my best to stay away from spoilers for the benefit of the people who have not yet watched the film, but I insist that even if you are not a film person, please do watch this movie. It should not be missed.
I am personally a Tarantino fan because of his ability to instill drama into otherwise bleak scenes. And I cannot stress enough that the soundtrack of his films aids in achieving the final result. The soundtrack of Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds was exquisite, and the fact that the music was not synchronous as such only added to the effect that makes Tarantino’s movies seem different. Django Unchained was no exception.
The film opens with a spaghetti western track called “Django” by Rocky Roberts and Louis Bacalov, which was originally written for a western film called Django. Here we first see our protagonist walking in the sourthern American heat, feet held by metal rings, while we see Tarantino’s classic dramatic credits. This track is closely followed by Ennio Morricone’s “The Braying Mule”, which only makes me love his music more, which makes it difficult to hear that Morricone expressed his displeasure at how Tarantino used his music in the film and would “never like to work with him again.” The thing about music in Tarantino’s films is that it is placed exactly after a scene of tension and/or action, which makes the viewer realize the intensity of the drama, and enjoy it. And so it is with another western sounding track composed by Luis Bacalov called “His Name was King”, the female vocalist of which has a really clear, and strong voice, and only adds to Django’s glory as he rides on a horse amidst black slaves, even though that was against the law. We first see Bromhilda in an antagonizing scene, interlaced with Django and Hilda running away from their master. This scene is accompanied by the the song “Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton. And this is where the music begins to take a nice, fresh turn. This song is indie soul by genre, lacks the previous western theme, and does not fit with the theme of the movie at all, and yet it only adds feeling to the conceptualization of Django’s need to free his wife.
Luis Bacalov composed music for the 1966 film Django, a movie that shares a lot of music with Django Unchained. “La Corsa” is only one such track. Without stepping on the story for the people who are yet to watch the film, the scene is a scene full of vengeance and anger, and the music reminded me of Kill Bill strongly. The next is again a deviation from the general theme of the movie, and is a folk rock song by Jim Croce called “I got a name”, the lyrics to which are really positive as the singer expresses pride for his family name. We hear this as Schultz and Django ride on a horse and towards the mountain after a deserved act of vengeance. The instrumentals, even after this point, remain strongly western and almost all have been a part of other film soundtracks as well. This includes “I Giorni Dell’ira” [Days of anger], taken from the film Days of Anger. The music is powerfully victorious and dramatic.
The next song is probably my favourite song off the soundtrack and so out of place with the setting of the film that it was very bold, much like what Tarantino always offers. This song is a western style rap song by Rick Ross called “100 black coffins”, and had specially been produced by Jamie Foxx [who plas Django in the film] for the film. Next is my favourite instrumental of the film – “Nicaragua” Jerry Goldsmith featuring Pat Metheny. The track is again glamorously dramatic, and I especially love the generous use of horns in the music. “Sister Sara’s theme” is too sentimental as Django’s wife is first seen by him after such a long time, and he is pained to see her suffer and not be able to do much about it as of that moment. Ennio Morricone, I repeat, has done a great job in creating the tracks that fit in with the most emotional scenes, and “Ancora Qui” is another such composition sung by Italian singer Elisa and has a very strong Italian feel to it, and the vocals are very moving and gave me goose bumps the first time I listened to it outside the movie.
In the movie, there is a musical gap of a while after this particular composition, something that I think was very well places because of the bleakness of the circumstances. That said, the next song changes the mood of the movie almost completely. This song is “Who did that to you?” by John Legend, and it is so jazzy and upbeat that you feel very hopeful about how the movie is going to turn out. Also, the lyrics of the song talk strongly of vengeance, a recurring theme of the movie and the soundtrack. And then there is another spaghetti western composition by Ennio Morricone called “Un Monumento”.
The movie finally closes with another western vocal track called “Trinity” by Annibale EI Cantori Moderni, a song which had such a catchy whistling tune, that I fell in love with it immediately. Plus, it came at a point in the movie when the story finally wounded up into what couldn’t have been a better ending.
Overall, the soundtrack was extremely surprising and varied, and is a definite treat to someone who would probably enjoy jazz or western-sounding music.