Where the magic happens

Photos by Jennie McKeon

Welcome to La La Land.

The soundtrack to this romantic musical movie is spellbinding, magical, bewitching — all the adjectives you’d expect. But, if you came expecting traditional show tunes, it might surprise you.

I remember leaving “La La Land” thinking, "Was that a musical?" There were definitely songs and dances — all the right ingredients— but it didn’t feel like one.

I didn’t feel annoyed, as I have during other musical movies, such as “Mamma Mia!” That’s how I know they did this right.

Part of this non-musical musical feeling stems from the movie’s co-stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who — though they sound lovely — aren’t known for their vocal ability. Stone's raspy, barely there voice and Gosling’s deep, speech-like vocals, however, make nice counterparts — no coincidence on the director’s part I’m sure.

Then again, the movie was such a smash hit, I’m sure every cast or crew member’s mother had to clear out the trophy case. The music alone received Best Film Music at the 70th British Academy Film Awards; Best Original Score and Best Original Song at the Golden Globes; and Best Original Song and Best Original Score at the 89th Academy Awards.

The movie starts off musically heavy-handed with the upbeat opening track “Another Day of Sun,” accompanied by a colorful dance number held on a traffic-ridden street in Los Angeles. “Someone in the Crowd,” another cheery number, follows shortly after, featuring women dancing in the loveliest, flow-y dresses I’ve ever seen.

While these songs are prime candidates for the soundtrack to the next sunny Florida day, I’m partial to the others. I adore the ironic lyrics and whimsical music to “A Lovely Night.”

We’ve stumbled on a view

That’s tailor-made for two

What a shame those two are you and me

— “A Lovely Night”

I think my boyfriend, Will, and I channeled this playfully antagonistic story line in our photo shoot. We attempted to imitate Stone and Gosling’s pose on the album or movie cover, but failed on both counts. Dancers, we are not.

I live for the somber, minimalistic piano tracks such as “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme” and “City of Stars.” But, I also enjoy the jazz undertones on this record, particularly flaunted in the horn sections of “Herman’s Habit” and “Summer Montage/Madeline.”

Then, there are the sweeping masterpiece songs like “Planetarium” that are made to round out the cinematic experience. This is where the magic happens.

“City of Stars” is the song most associated with the movie, with three versions on the soundtrack. It’s an incredible backbone for the film, especially when considering its simplicity.

The record also includes John Legend’s “Start a Fire,” as Legend makes a cameo in the movie. While it’s not my favorite Legend song, it suits the movie’s plot line of new jazz competing against the classics.

What I love most about this soundtrack is how easily I picture scenes from the movie. In my head, I'm dancing among the stars like in the planetarium scene.

City of stars

Are you shining just for me?