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Crazy Rich Asians
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • WaterTower / 64m

A romantic comedy based on a best-selling novel might not seem a likely place for a film which may well turn out to be something of a cultural turning point in Hollywood, but that’s exactly how Crazy Rich Asians is being received.  Incredibly (really, virtually unbelievably) it is the first American studio film in a quarter of a century to feature a predominantly Asian-American cast in a contemporary setting (the previous – and indeed only – one being The Joy Luck Club).  Jon M. Chu’s film stars Constance Wu and Henry Golding as a couple who fall in love and all the rest of it and has been very well-received by critics and audiences, with a sequel already in the works (so it definitely won’t be a quarter of a century till the next one).

While he is usually occupied with big action movies, I’m sure Brian Tyler relishes the chance to spread his wings and show that there is more to him than just that, and he’s done exactly that with Crazy Rich Asians.  He’s a rare composer in that he’s entirely competent – and indeed clearly loves – doing ultra-contemporary music (even extending to his EDM persona Madsonik) but also perfectly comfortable writing old-school orchestral music.  While most film composers find themselves having to master multiple styles, it’s rare to find one equally at home at the extreme ranges of those styles.

Brian Tyler

I mentioned The Joy Luck Club above – that film was scored by Rachel Portman and there is certainly something of her style in Tyler’s love theme for this film, which receives a concert arrangement at the start of the album.  He’s written these sweet, lovely themes before – my favourite being Standing Up – and this one has a memorable tune and a charming arrangement that marks it out as one of his best romantic themes to date.

While perhaps that style is not a surprise, the second track brings the prime example of the score’s second personality – “Text Ting Swing” is classic big band swing, the orchestra joined by drum kit, Hammond organ, sax and jazz bass.  While it sounds like it might be a standard, it’s a Brian Tyler original – not a style we’ve heard from him before but he pulls it off with enormous panache.  There are a few similar pieces dotted throughout the album – we don’t have to wait long till “Astrid”, which is another gem.  I particularly love the swinging jazz flute solo.  The witty “Shopping Spree” sounds like it could have been written by Henry Mancini.

Apart from the big band pieces, the rest of the scores is largely drawn from the love theme and even when it deviates from the melody, it rarely goes too far from the style.  The bustling “Arrival in Singapore” is lovely; a bit later, the brief “First Class” is another highlight.  “Hide the Jimmy Choos” is a rare track not just because it blends the score’s two main styles, but it is also a rare concession to an overtly Asian sound with the exotic wind solos and chimes.

Midway through the album, things do start getting a little more “serious” – “Choices” has a darker feel to it, the drama all of a sudden is more weighty.  “We’ll Get Through It Together” then introduces another aspect, which has a bit of a Thomas Newman vibe – rhythmic, stylish touches from various soloists.  Tyler uses this in a few subsequent cues too and it works well.  “Family First” is a genuinely poignant piece, with a little tension furthering the score’s dramatic flow.  A wonderful trio of cues ends the album: “Running Away” is an emotionally-wrought, sorrowful piece tinged with great regret, but of course that then finds a mirror image in the sweeping, gorgeous “Because of Me”.  Finally, “Jubilee Bop” reprises melodic material from “Text Ting Swing” and proves to be a rousing, happy conclusion to proceedings.

While I think the score would benefit from a slightly tighter album, Crazy Rich Asians is an impressive piece of work.  The romantic comedy genre is not an easy one for a composer to write interesting music in but Tyler has pulled that off – there’s nothing ground-breaking in the score but the love theme is a joy and the big band music is done remarkably well considering (as far as I know) the composer hasn’t done anything like it before.  As good as he is at the big action films, it is always nice when a composer branches out a bit and especially when he does it as well as Brian Tyler has done here; the first two cues in particular are going to get a lot of play-time from a lot of people, I’m sure.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Yavar Moradi (Reply) on Tuesday 11 September, 2018 at 21:48

    Surely the groundbreaking Flower Drum Song (1961) isn’t THAT forgotten yet, for only The Joy Luck Club to be mentioned as a prior important milestone in this matter?


  2. Jules (Reply) on Wednesday 12 September, 2018 at 00:33

    Good to see you’re back James, hope the past few weeks have been good to you!

    Dunno what review I was expecting, but it wasn’t this one. I’m really glad you covered this though, it would have slipped under my radar otherwise. Lovely music 🙂

  3. ANDRE>>Cape Town (Reply) on Saturday 15 September, 2018 at 17:31

    I mentioned your review, James, to a friend [also a film score collector] who was amazed that an album had been released due to the scarcity of TYLER music in the film. So, I sat through this Romantic Dramedy to check out the score for myself, especially as you mention a RACHEL PORTMAN influence. The film opens with Westernised Chinese Rock songs—and these songs so overwhelm the Film’s Soundtrack, that the orchestral score’s value is very much reduced. And there is so little underscore, that I’m also surprised an album was released. Maybe cues that were replaced with songs, made it on to the CD??? The movie’s location is Singapore, and the cityscape looks so magnificent that I’ll be checking out air-flights and hotels for a visit.