The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby
Hans Zimmer & Steve Mazzaro (2017)

 

Why You Should…
If you’re game to hearing arguably the most energetic and hyperactive Remote Control score in a long while, a sense of wild rush in every note.

Why You Shouldn’t…
If its lack of subtlety or emotional passages irks you, despite turning a more than competent product.

Release Date: 24th March 2017
Composer(s): Hans Zimmer & Steve Mazzaro
Length: 66:11
Recorded By/At: Geoff Foster, Laurence Anslow & Tom Bailey at Air Studios, London.
Label: Back Lot Music

Additional Information:
Additional Music: 
Conrad Pope
Conducted By: Gavin Greenaway
Orchestrators: Oscar Senen & Joan Martorell
Mixed and Mastered By: Nathaniel Kunkel at Remote Control Productions, Santa Monica
Orchestral Soloists: Guthrie Govan (guitarist)
Sheila E. (percussionist)
Tina Guo (cellist)
Phil Todd (saxophone)
Nicholas Bucknall (clarinet)
Satnam S. Rangotra (percussion)
Disco Violins- Leader: Perry Mantague-Mason
Leader of 2nds: Emlyn Singleton
Funk Brass- Funk Brass Conductor: Matt Dunkley
Librarian: Ann Barnard
Choirs :
London Voices- Co-Choirmasters: Ben Parry & Terry Edwards
Conductor: Ben Parry
Jazz Choir Metro Voices- Jazz Choirmaster: Jenny O’Grady
Jazz Choir Conductor: Matt Dunkley
Gospel Choir Gospel Choir Contractor: Edie Lehmann Boddicker

“What The World Needs Now Is Love” 
Performed By: Missi Hale
Written By: Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Produced By: Hans Zimmer

Dreamworks Animation has safely distinguished themselves from their animation counterparts, the infamous Walt Disney & Pixar merger and the anime Studio Ghibli vehicle with a far more quirkier output of films. The latest cog in their locomotive is Tom McGrath’s THE BOSS BABY, a loose adaptation of Marla Frazee’s eponymous children’s picture book, anchored amusingly by Alec Baldwin in the titular role. A frequent fluctuation of cast members troubled the project beforehand, with Kevin Spacey being attached to star, before being replaced by Steve Buscemi. Finalising its release schedule against an array of admirable similar efforts in the medium, The Boss Baby explores a narrative in which a covert dispute between babies and puppies is taking place, staging the titular character’s motivations for infiltrating an unassuming family’s life and upsetting their firstborn child’s perceived harmonic balance within the household. With a depth of vocabulary that lies on par with most adults for a child, and an impeccable formal dresswear, the Boss Baby requests young Tim Templeton’s help in stopping a rival company, Puppy Co. from taking the upper hand by unleashing cuteness unrestrained from a new breed of puppies upon the human population. The mixed reception proves the animation medium isn’t infallible, but far more interesting is the theory of the film being a satirised jab at Donald Trump, mirroring his peroxide blond hair and demeanour in the process (never mind the voice actor having brilliantly lampooned the politician in several SNL comedic skits after the 2016 Presidential Election…) Having been engineered in Dreamworks’ studios of course, means that contemporary phenomenon Hans Zimmer has a considerable form of involvement in the original score, co-composing with Steve Mazzaro. Far more intriguing, and welcomed is Conrad Pope’s involvement- the root of their association is unknown, but the respected orchestrator and composer’s craftsmanship shines brilliantly in this product.

The structure of The Boss Baby focuses on hyperactive, manic rhythms and meters undulating abruptly into softer, familial atmospheres. The sheer overload of steroid- induced mania and fast-paced string and brass work is undoubtedly its greatest asset, and the various pastiches thrown towards several genres is also noteworthy. However, it’s also the score’s Achilles’ heel, with an occasional inconsistency that disrupts the fluid listening experience at awkward junctions. The main concept theme is undoubtedly Zimmer, with a 10 note idea swinging off the musical staves like a monkey from a chandelier, first introduced at the outset of “Survival of the Fittest”. Often, it’s relegated down to 2 note refrains, as heard in “Arrrggh”, a flexible idea that is sledgehammered in for memorability- recall Michael Giacchino‘s similar approach for Jyn Erso in Rogue One the prior year. This primary theme dominates the score, induced in Mexican brass riffs, hand-clap textures, tom-toms a la Lalo Schiffrin, jazz piano with doo-wop vocals and swing rhythms, accompanied by a fluster of wah-wah pedal activated guitar surfs, and the like. This has to be the most creatively rewarding Remote Control score in a long time, at least to such a formidable extent, that one can’t help but extend a comparison to Zootopia. Where the latter score suffered in terms of a clear narrative backbone, The Boss Baby succeeds in spades. And yet, despite this abundance of admirable content, it doesn’t quite click as well as Zimmer’s prior efforts in the animation medium. Not every score has to be a downright iconic masterpiece like The Lion King, or an underrated effort such as The Prince of Egypt, but nearly all off his previous animation scores have had one strong, indisputable aspect to them- a well of emotional resonance. The Boss Baby for the most part is absent of this, save for the outstanding “Love”, a dreamy, gentile cue which screams of Pope’s subtle mastery. “I Wish You Were Never Born” offers a lovely variation of the Baby’s theme with wistfulness, and sul ponticello violins.

Elsewhere in “Baby Brother”, a downright parody of Sergei Prokofiev‘s “Dance of the Knights” in its deep, bass enhanced E-minor stomp, filled with harpsichords, strings and brass, inoculating a theremin and delineating the Baby’s theme to add to his unexpected arrival into Tim’s life. “Welcome to Baby Corp” engages in The Monkey King– inspired low throat singing as a drone, with mildly schizophrenic string arpeggios in the treble region, before a choral burst throws the listener into a Latin piano shuffle with accentuated woodwind flourishes. Ska elements are explored in “Super Colossal Big Fat Boss Baby”, and swashbuckling shades of awesome creativity are heard in “Arrrggh”, and “You’re Fired”, to mark the newly found brotherly bond between the two children. The final theme to contend with is that for the villain, Francis E. Francis in “Francis Francis”, a 4 note motif highlighted and complemented by noir jazz and organ solos, with an unusually deep and ominous bass region. The brilliance is loud and clear for all to hear, with a satisfying palette of raucous entertainment. It’s especially satisfying to see Mazzaro gain more prominence with this assignment, proof that Zimmer’s methodology always has its merits. Only its lack of subtlety and limited emotional connectivity render it a star away from the highest rating- filter through and create a suite for personal listening pleasure.

Rating: ****

 

Track Listing:
(all music except for where noted written by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro)

1) Survival Of The Fittest (2:24)
2) Baby Brother (3:58)
3) Welcome To Baby Corp (3:12)
4) You Can’t Get Away From Johnny Law (2:11)
5) We Can Buy A Bouncy House (3:18)
6) Super Colossal Big Fat Boss Baby (1:11)
7) Barfmitzvah (2:11)
8) Toodaloo Toilet-Head! (4:02)
9) I Wish You Were Never Born (2:53)
10) Puppy Co. (3:27)
11) You Want To Hug Me, Don’t You? (3:20)
12) Arrrggh (2:01)
13) Francis Francis (4:19)
14) You’re Fired (4:28)
15) Upsies! I Need Upsies! (1:44)
16) Love (5:17)
17) Go Get Yourself A Horse (2:19)
18) What The World Needs Now Is Love – Missi Hale (4:15)*
19) Cheek To Cheek (From the Motion Picture “Top Hat”) – Fred Astaire (5:01)*
20) (Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again – L.T.D. (4:40)*

Awards:

Nominations:

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