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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • Sony Classical / 2015 / 46m

Geriatrics the world over flocked to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2012, making it a surprise smash hit.  It was an endearing film about a bunch of British retirees moving to India, finding the place they were moving to didn’t quite live up to its name and – of course – finding out various life-affirming things about themselves.  Much of the outstanding cast, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, return for the sequel, with a bit of an American presence added in the form of Richard Gere and David Strathairn.  Given the fairly complete journeys the characters went on in the first film it’s hard to imagine there is much more to say about them, but I’m sure the film will be pleasant enough.

In his long and glorious career, Thomas Newman had never previously scored a sequel to one of his own films, but incredibly after this his next two scheduled films also both come into that category (the next James Bond film and Pixar’s Finding Nemo follow-up).  His music for the first Marigold Hotel was highly entertaining, mixing an Indian flavour into his typically colourful palette of sounds and producing a lovely film score which made for an album with very high replay value.  For the sequel… it’s more of the same.

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

After a very brief scene-setting bit of bhangra, “Second Best Exotic” reprises the first score’s brilliant main theme with the Hollywood strings mixing exquisitely with the Indian winds and percussion.  It’s got such a joyful spirit, so much life teeming through it – a really splendid creation.  Each cue is a bit like that, really – as is customary for Newman, many of them are rather short, but feature a distinctive idea which is fully developed.  There’s the playful pizzicato “Needs Then Knees” followed by the darker “Chai” then the soulful energy of “Catnip”, with vocals joining a kaleidoscopic array of percussion.  It’s quintessential Thomas Newman really, energetic and creative and highly listenable.

I love the romantic, youthful “Nimish and Abhilash”, vocals and percussion, this time sitar too, yearning strings shimmering away in the background.  “Already Gone” has a driving thrust running through it, leaving quite an impression despite its brevity.  “Soft Hiss of Treachery” features a trademark sweeping string theme, this time with an edgy underbelly as suggested by the cue title.  The busy “Sagai” bustles with energy and feeling and is followed by the terrific “Mumbai”, the composer again injecting vocals to lend a really authentic feel (even if at no point does it sound like anything other than a Thomas Newman composition).

“Aaina” is absolutely magical, a self-contained music box lullaby with a real sparkle in the air.  At the other end of the scale, “Scorpions” is a fast-paced piece of multi-layered (kind of) action with a Bollywood feel, arrestingly distinctive.  “The Wedding” is predictably impressive, a slow burner in some ways which seems to emerge and get warmer like the sun rising on the horizon.  When it does it’s just gorgeous.  The penultimate cue “Life Piled On Life” is another delightful piece before the lengthy end titles cue “Map of the World” brings the album to a colourful close.

Dotted through the score is a handful of Indian songs (not by Newman) which aren’t really to my taste – but even after programming them out there’s still nearly 50 minutes of Newman music here which is quite delightful.  He doesn’t stray at all from the territory of the first score, but it’s very much an extension rather than a rehash so there’s no need to feel that if you have the first then you don’t need the second.  The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is every bit as good as the first one was and it’s great to hear this wonderful composer excel once again, showing that just because it’s lighter fare it doesn’t mean it can’t be very satisfying.  It’s music that’s just full of sparkling life and it’s wonderful.

Rating: ****

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  1. Ian Simpson on Monday 23 February, 2015 at 21:14

    If anything I slightly prefer this one to the original- I think the tracks have greater variety while maintaining a similar feel.

  2. Atlanta Bob on Monday 9 January, 2017 at 03:24

    Listening to Second Best Exotic. Great song. Great review of the music! – Bob