It's been a while since a soundtrack of original content felt real. Remember when you listened to a soundtrack and felt like it was created solely for the purpose of accompanying the movie it was titled after? Think The Bodyguard, 8 Mile, Shaft, Batman, Moulin Rouge. These days it seems as if nobody thinks an original soundtrack is worth anything due to the dramatic fall in album sales. But they're wrong.
Watching a movie with the perfect soundtrack only enhances the viewing experience. Take for example the recently released Suicide Squad. While the movie isn't exactly the greatest thing in cinematic history it does however display a real chemistry with its soundtrack. The most perfect thing about the movie is the points at which certain songs are brought in. Even having an original song with an all-star cast in the form 'Sucker For Pain' featuring Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, Logic, Ty Dolla $ign and X Ambassadors is a beautiful thing to see and hear. More directors need to insist on original audio content. The faith in soundtracks needs to be restored.
One director renowned for not cutting corners when it comes to soundtracks is Baz Luhrmann. Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, these are all movies with outstanding soundtracks mostly filled with original content. A man with an incredible creative vision who sees sounds, watching a Baz Luhrmann movie without music just isn't worth watching. Continuing his track record of releasing superb soundtracks, his Netflix series The Get Down is next on the agenda released via his own House of Iona label and Columbia Records.
With two versions available, the Deluxe Edition is by far the more superior. Consisting of 24 tracks, The Get Down: Original Soundtrack From the Netflix Original Series is executive produced by Luhrmann and hip hop icon Nas. From the moment you push play you feel like you're thrown into the mix. Met with subway trains, sirens and graffiti, Jaden Smith (as his character Dizzee) introduces The Get Down, and in a little over a minute listeners are already given an insight into what to expect with the other 23 tracks.
Including music from the show's main three characters – Justice Smith (Ezekiel), Herizen F. Guardiola (Mylene), Shameik Moore (Shaolin Fantastic) – you're offered a better understanding of the show and brought closer into the fold through soulful power ballads ('Be That as it May'), battle raps ('Get Down Brothers vs. Notorious 3'), and poetry ('This Ain't No Fairytale') – it's a nice touch having a constant narrative flowing through the soundtrack pieced together with soundbites and poetry instead of a compilation of random records.
While The Get Down is about the birth of hip hop it's also about the death of disco. So with that said it was only right that the soundtrack feature some disco cuts. But not just your bog standard disco, we're talking C.J. & Co.'s hi-hat happy 'Devil's Gun' and Donna Summer's fun and frolicking 'Bad Girls'. Also revisiting the past for a few funk numbers, Fatback Band's '(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop' blends into Sarah Ruba's 'Suga', but it's the inclusion of Garland Jeffreys' rock-tinged 'Wild in the Streets' that sets the soundtrack on fire. Originally written after hearing about a child rape and murder in The Bronx, the passionate despair heard on the 1973 song fits the struggle and strife that The Get Down portrays in its ongoing narrative.
The majority of the soundtrack contains fresh content recorded specifically for the movie. New music from the likes of Miguel ('Cadillac'), Christina Aguilera and Nile Rodgers ('Telepathy'), and ZAYN, Teddy Pendergrass and Grandmaster Flash ('You Can't Hide/ You Can't Hide From Yourself') is easy on the ear, as is the Leon Bridges cover of The Temptations' 'Ball of Confusion'. But it's Raury and Jaden Smith's 'Losing Your Mind' with its strong sense of hip hop soul that really stands out. Lyrically painting a picture of an enquiring mind while the psychedelic hook echoes like someone lost in their own headspace, this particular song creates an image of an early hip hop throw down, but in slow motion.
Other stand out content includes the two Michael Kiwanuka records – 'Rule the World (I Came From the City)' and 'Black Man in a White World (Ghetto Gettysburg Address)'. Taken from his new album, Love and Hate, each record has been remixed specially for The Get Down. Both featuring revered lyricist Nas, the soul piercing the speakers is painfully real, and while Nas' words on 'Rule the World' are from the perspective of Ezekiel - he voices him as an adult in the series - you'd swear he was talking from his own experiences on a record for his own album due to how similar their upbringing seems.
Closing out the soundtrack with one of the most powerful moments in episode one, titled 'Zeke's Poem (I Am the One)' Justice Smith says: "Then I seen the pool of blood, then I seen my moms was dead/ No motion in the commotion, I wasn't even sad, even when I learnt that the bullet was meant for my dad/ Vietnam made pops crazy, he was already half dead/ So why couldn't it have been him that they shot in the head." Over some heartfelt keys, a few painful chants and weeping strings, you're left with no choice but to be emotionally absorbed in the chilling moment that tells the all too familiar story of tragic loss in the black community.
Walking hand in hand with the series like a soundtrack is supposed to do, The Get Down is exceptional. Baz Luhrmann has done it again. Constructing a solid soundtrack with the right amount of original content and previously released music, it's an engaging listen. Telling the story through music is soul stirring. Full of memorable melodies, thought-provoking lyrical content and strong hooks, you're left with a clear vision of what happened during the early stages of hip hop's conception.