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Turning Red
  • Composed by Ludwig Göransson

The latest straight-to-streaming Pixar movie, Turning Red is another bold and different movie from the studio, in which a young Canadian girl of Chinese heritage discovers that when she’s angry she turns into a giant red panda. And she’s angry quite a lot, but not when she’s listening to her favourite boy bands or playing with her friends. The film is set in the early 2000s and features a few songs for a fictionalised boy band in the movie, written by Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish. If early 2000s boy bands are your thing, then you will truly be able to fill your boots. The highly eclectic score is by Ludwig Göransson, who as well as his film and tv music work has served as an arranger and producer of pop music. That side of him is evident in parts of the score, which sound like backing tracks from early Britney Spears songs. I was going to write something about the timeless elegance Randy Newman gave Pixar when he defined the sound of their earlier movies until I realised that he did that a quarter of a century ago and I must keep up with the times.

Mixed in with the Britney backing tracks is some James Bond-type action music (perhaps coincidentally, though with this composer’s track record perhaps not, at times it is actual James Bond action music since the main motif running through it comes from David Arnold’s Casino Royale). Like those early Newman Pixar scores, ideas tend not to stick around for long – it is fast-paced and very flitty. But unlike in them, in less skilled hands this leads to a huge sense of incohesion (which apparently is not a word, but surely should be). My favourite parts of the score are those when Göransson uses his “Chinese” elements – while I’m not too sure how long film composers will get away with this type of cultural misappropriation, I do like the sweet bamboo flute main theme and it’s quite fun hearing the cartoony sounds and synthetic “ethnic” textures, which remind me of watching Hong Kong Phooey when I was a boy. I don’t know – the composer was hired to write music for a film, not music for an album – sometimes film scores just don’t work out of context. It’s certainly not unambitious, but it’s hard to imagine who exactly would want to sit down and listen to this on an album. I do know that I don’t, ever again.

Rating: * 1/2 | |

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  1. Rory (Reply) on Wednesday 23 March, 2022 at 21:06

    Admittedly this wasn’t something that was really high on my must-hear list, but it is dismaying to know it didn’t land for someone else. Göransson has showed off some great producing chops on his work with Childish Gambino, so it’s a real shame if this one was a dud.

  2. Momo (Reply) on Saturday 26 March, 2022 at 03:39

    It’s too bad the score doesn’t present itself well on the album. I thought there were a couple very effective moments when I was watching the film (especially for the emotional come-down after the climax)