Album Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 (Soundtrack) (2011)

I really don’t think I need to explain how much The Twilight Saga generally sucks, with the exception of the film soundtracks.  Though the books and movies are embarrassingly bad, all of the soundtracks have managed to be great collections of indie pop/rock music.

This winning formula is implemented in the saga’s fourth soundtrack, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1.  As with the other albums in the series, this disc is another compilation of delightful music which I’m not embarrassed to admit listening to (wish I could share the same sentiment about watching the films).

The album starts off with Endtapes by Welsh rock band, The Joy Formidable.  While the pop sound doesn’t really impress me (particularly lead singer, Rhiannon Bryan’s high-pitched, slightly shrill, vocals), the track is still a lively start to the album.  Australian brother/sister duo Angus & Julia Stone offer up their mid-tempo track, Love Will Take You.  I’ve heard a lot of the Stone’s music (especially since moving to Australia, where they receive significant radio play), and though this pop song doesn’t sound like their usual blend of indie rock/folk music, their vocals still fit nicely around the relaxed sound.

One of the big ballads (and lead single) from the soundtrack appears next with It Will Rain.  I’m not a big fan of Bruno Mars’ music, but I do see why this song was such a hit; the powerhouse vocals and sweeping sentimentality (“Cause there’ll be no sunlight/If I lose you, baby/There’ll be no clear skies/If I lose you, baby/Just like the clouds, my eyes will do the same if you walk away/Everyday, it will rain,rain, rain”), make the overwrought ballad an easy target for actual fans of the Twilight saga (and when I say “actual fans” I mean people other than myself, who genuinely enjoy Edward and Bella’s love story).  The same thing goes for A Thousand Years, the second single from the album.  The track is another ballad, this time by pop singer, Christina Perri.  The piano-based melody and Perri’s vocals are pretty enough, but the sappy tone and saccharine lyrics (“ I have died everyday waiting for you/Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you/For a thousand years/I’ll love you for a thousand more”) are too cheesy to actually be enjoyable.

A truly romantic song lies in Turning Page.  This understated ballad is highlighted mainly by the piano and a few quiet strings, and the beautifully warm vocals of Sleeping At Last (which consists of sole band member, Ryan O’Neal).  This song definitely spiced up Edward and Bella’s dull honeymoon scene; the romantic lyrics seemed far more romantic than anything that actually happened between the two characters.  Again, the lyrics are on the sappy side, but I actually find them a bit more believable in this song than in the others (“If I had only felt the warmth within your touch/If I had only seen how you smile when you blush/Or how you curl your lip when you concentrate enough/Well I would have known/What I was living for all along”), and the track is easily one of my favourites on the album.

The disc isn’t all ballads, however.  American rock band, The Features, offer up their incredibly fun and energetic rock song From Now On, while the surprising addition of a rap song appears withTheophilus London’s pleasant hip-hop number, Neighbors.  English rock duo, The Noisettes lend their appropriately loud and frenzied track, Sister Rosetta, which plays in one of the few intentionally funny scenes in the film (while Bella tries to frantically figure out which lingerie to wear for Edward on the night of their honeymoon).  Meanwhile, I Didn’t Mean It by The Belle Brigade is another catchy rock song, which features a stellar guitar riff and plenty of rockstar-esque yelping from lead vocalist, Barbara Gruska.

The rest of the album takes a step back in tempo from this point on.  Indie band, Cider Sky is responsible for atmospheric, synthesized sound of Northern Lights.  The light pop song and hushed vocals are quite nice, making the track a clear stand out.  Requiem On Water is an enjoyable track, if not a bit odd, due to the lead vocalist in Imperial Mouth’s childlike voice.   Speaking of odd, I have never quite warmed up to the spanish language track, Llovera, by Mia Maestro.  Though the piano and strings are lovely, the irritating way in which Maestro trills through the song always guarantees me skipping it.

You may recall Iron & Wine’s song, American Bird, Flightless Mouth being on the first Twilight soundtrack, and it’s reintroduced on this album, though this time labeled as the “wedding version”. Both versions  are fairly similar, except this time around, the melody is stripped back to an almost acapella rendition, save a few tinkles of the piano during the verses.  A “new” version of the song seems completely unnecessary, but I won’t complain much, as I enjoy listening to Sam Beam’s voice, and will take any chance to do so.

However, the best ballad on the album belongs to one of my favourite singers, Aqualung. Cold is a duet between Aqualung and singer-songwriter, Lucy Schwartz, and is a hauntingly beautiful ballad.  The sparse lyrics leave more room for the sound; Matt Hales (Aqualung) and Schwartz’s voices are layered over one another in a breathtakingly gorgeous round, while the lush orchestration of piano and strings play throughout.  Honestly the song is just stunning, and is absolutely the best song on the entire album.

The disc ends with a piece from the film’s score, Love Death Birth.  Composer Carter Burwell returns to the series after having only scored the first film (the other movies were scored by Alexandre Desplat and Howard Shore), and some of the same musical elements he used before return during this piece.  The song is split up into three separate movements, each piece reflecting the emotions of “love, death and birth”.  A flowery arrangement of strings and piano mostly make up the composition and it ends up being a nice way to tie up the end of the album.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 soundtrack is an excellent collection of music.  Though the album is a bit ballad heavy (which should honestly be expected for a “romance” movie soundtrack), the handful of truly beautiful ballads and the fun, upbeat songs definitely make the album worth listening to.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track List
1. Endtapes – The Joy Formidable
2. Love Will Take You – Angus & Julia Stone
3. It Will Rain – Bruno Mars
4. Turning Page – Sleeping At Last
5. From Now On – The Features
6. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
7. Neighbors – Theophilus London
8. I Didn’t Mean It – The Belle Brigade
9. Sister Rosetta (2011 Version) – Noisettes
10. Northern Lights – Cider Sky
11. Flightless Bird, American Mouth (Wedding Version) – Iron & Wine
12. Requiem On Water – Imperial Mammoth
13. Cold – Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz
14. Mia Maestro – Llovera
15. Love Death Birth – Carter Burwell

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