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Black Widow
Album Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway

Orchestrated by:
Shane Rutherfoord-Jones
Mike Ladouceur

Additional Music by:
Max Aruj
Steffen Thum
Steven Davis
Sven Faulconer
Dieter Hartmann

Vocals by:
Diana Artashesyan
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Hollywood Records/Marvel Music
(July 9th, 2021)
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Commercial digital release only, with high resolution options.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you desire conceptual highlights from an ambitious and often enjoyable score by Lorne Balfe, whose commendable application of Russian tones is matched by a reverence for vintage Media Ventures action flair.

Avoid it... if you expect the poorly arranged album presentation to correlate with what you heard in the film.
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WRITTEN 8/29/21
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Black Widow: (Lorne Balfe) Never mind that the titular character perished in a fall during a previous movie in this franchise, for the Marvel Cinematic Universe exists to insert solo character movies wherever convenient in their larger narrative. The Black Widow character proved more popular with audiences than Disney and Marvel had anticipated, leading to more appearances for actress Scarlett Johansson in these films than planned and culminating in 2021's solo debut, Black Widow. Targeted for a summer 2020 release, the film was delayed more than a year to wait out the pandemic and take its chances in theatres. Disney ultimately streamed the film simultaneously, however, prompting Johansson to sue the studio for using a release tactic that harmed her profits from the venture. Rather than vanquishing enemies with lawyers in the story of Black Widow, she instead prevails using her fists and feet, revealing for audiences her origins story and establishing the character's sister for inclusion in additional Marvel adaptations in the future. Oddly like The Incredibles, she's part of a super-hero family of lore in Soviet Russia and beyond, and her mission is to free her loved ones while taking down the program that steals girls to develop them into Black Widow female assassins. Not surprisingly, the film was an immense popular success despite consisting of a series of rather stock action sequences. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed increasingly consistent development of musical themes in its soundtracks, most of that positive outcome owing to Alan Silvestri's work on the ensemble cast films. The spin-off movies have often allowed a variety of other composers to dabble in this pool of opportunity, and director Cate Shortland landed veteran Remote Control Productions graduate Lorne Balfe for his first Marvel venture, though purists are quick to point out that the composer had contributed additional music to the wretched, Hans Zimmer-produced Iron Man score of 2008 that had primary credit go to Ramin Djawadi. Balfe's career had ascended in the late 2010's to the extent that his work is more symphonically and melodically satisfying than his earlier jam sessions with Zimmer's gang. There is an increasing amount of intelligence in his music around the start of the 2020's, Black Widow one such notable improvement.

Early reports from 2020 indicated that Balfe had little time to write Black Widow, as he had been a relatively late replacement for Alexandre Desplat. Film score enthusiasts were largely disappointed by this switch, for it was the second time in recent years (after Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) that Desplat had departed a major pop-culture franchise late in the production process. Desplat refused to reveal publicly why he left the project, and Balfe meanwhile claimed to have ample time to write for the score despite a condensed schedule that saw his music recorded as the final sessions in London before the pandemic lockdown prevented full ensembles in the room at once. The delay of the movie ultimately allowed extensive tinkering with those recordings for much of a year, though the work remains largely organic. He managed to record with a 118-member orchestra and 60-voice choir slanted towards male tones, adding electronic embellishments and the typical Remote Control sound of electric strings. The trailer for the movie had utilized a Russian-styled adaptation of Silvestri's franchise theme to popular effect, and Balfe opted to continue this technique despite intentionally avoiding stereotypical Russian instruments like the balalaika. Instead, the composer adopted vintage Zimmer methods for generating Russian tones, making Black Widow something of a love letter at times to Zimmer's Media Ventures era of masculine Eastern European muscle, highlighted by The Peacemaker. The male choir is key to resurrecting this sound, though Balfe also confessed to striving for basing the melodic elements off of Russian folk music from circa 1910, studying the works of Prokoviev and Stravinsky for this assignment despite no formal classical training. Though Balfe does access chord progressions associated with Russian music generally, he doesn't necessarily succeed to the extent that James Horner did at the task, but the result is still reasonably effective. Most of the score for Black Widow in the film doesn't really espouse a Russian influence, and with Balfe replacing the use of a balalaika with an acoustic guitar, there's almost a Latin flavor to some passages. Perhaps most importantly, the score comes across as independent of the Silvestri mannerisms and character for the remainder of the franchise, though Balfe was acutely aware of the concept's existing music when devising his own themes.

Listeners expecting to hear preexisting franchise themes in Black Widow will be pleased with Balfe's care here; he has proven himself conscientious in applying concept themes in other franchise assignments, and that consideration persists here. While his tone is certainly much different from Silvestri's, he supplies a hint of the main Avengers theme early in the action of "The Descent" before a full payoff as Natasha Romanoff takes off in a jet to rescue the group at the end of the film. More intriguingly, he was cognizant of the prior Black Widow motif that had featured in several prior films, especially Avengers: Endgame. This idea (a four-note phrase followed by a three-note resolution) was applied by Balfe a few times in Black Widow, but not with particular prominence compared to his new ideas. In fact, don't expect to find this material featured on the album release for the score, a point of contention about the music more generally. Balfe operates much like Zimmer in that he writes concept suites that may or may not make the film in some edit. Typically, what you hear on screen is one of many variants on these initial ideas, and with the concept suites often comprising the bulk of the soundtrack albums, fans will have difficulty matching what they hear on album with what accompanies the film. This issue is especially pronounced with Balfe's duo of The Tomorrow War and Black Widow, the latter album containing extensive music not heard in a similar form in the movie while important cues and mixes from the film are absent from the album. As such, this review will touch mostly upon what Balfe chose to include on the album, but be aware that about half the music on that product (and many of its best highlights) are not utilized in the picture. Most prominent among these are the various vocalized renditions of folk-inspired themes for the Romanoff character. For both these passages and those better matched with the Red Army, Balfe generated Russian lyrics inspired by 19th Century Russian poets. The resulting solo female vocals on the album are as intimate as they are orphaned from the film, supplying interest if not slight bafflement as to their quantity. Balfe's thematic development in Black Widow is ambitious but, in true Balfe form, not always transparent. His ideas tend to be strong but poorly enunciated over the course of a full score, Black Widow no exception.

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Average: 3.27 Stars
***** 30 5 Stars
**** 40 4 Stars
*** 38 3 Stars
** 28 2 Stars
* 15 1 Stars
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Black Widow Track Order Conundrum
Sam - September 25, 2021, at 9:51 a.m.
1 comment  (234 views)

Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 79:47
• 1. Natasha's Lullaby (3:24)
• 2. Latrodectus (2:40)
• 3. Fireflies (3:13)
• 4. The Pursuit (2:53)
• 5. The First Bite is the Deepest (3:05)
• 6. Last Glimmer (4:19)
• 7. Dreykov (3:34)
• 8. You Don't Know Me (2:01)
• 9. Yelena Belova (3:36)
• 10. From the Shadows (3:44)
• 11. Hand in Hand (2:46)
• 12. Blood Ties (2:54)
• 13. Whirlwind (3:28)
• 14. Arise (2:13)
• 15. Natasha's Fragments (1:55)
• 16. A Sister Says Goodbye (4:14)
• 17. I Can't Save Us (1:51)
• 18. Red Rising (3:57)
• 19. The Betrayed (5:38)
• 20. The Descent (2:05)
• 21. Faces to the Sun (1:51)
• 22. Natasha Soars (2:19)
• 23. Last Love (1:59)
• 24. Into the Past (4:55)
• 25. Broken Free (3:09)
• 26. A Calling (2:10)

Notes Icon
There exists no official packaging for this album.
Copyright © 2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Black Widow are Copyright © 2021, Hollywood Records/Marvel Music and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/29/21 (and not updated significantly since).
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