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Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Album Cover Art
Regular Album
Target Exclusive Album
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Co-Conducted, and Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
William Ross

Co-Conducted by:
Gustavo Dudamel
Labels Icon
Walt Disney Records
(Commercial Albums)
(December 18th, 2015)

Walt Disney Studios
(Promotional Album)
(December 21st, 2015)
Availability Icon
Two commercial releases exist, one the regular, widely available album and the other an exclusive product of Target stores in America. The musical contents of the two albums are the same; the Target version has specific packaging elements. The "for your consideration" awards promo was made available digitally a few days after the commercial album releases and could be heard or downloaded through Disney's official awards site.
Winner of a Grammy Award. Nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... no matter your expectations, even if you demand a powerfully melodic and excitingly complex piece of grand artistry from an era of greatness that only John Williams in top form could deliver.

Avoid it... on the quickly pirated "for your consideration" awards promo unless you absolutely require fifteen or so minutes of additional material and film variants of a few (but not all) cues in poor audio quality.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 12/28/15
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: (John Williams) Regardless of your lingering, nostalgic affinity for the Star Wars franchise from its heyday in the early 1980's, you have to marvel at a concept that now sees much more money spent on its marketing and ancillary products than on the production of the film itself. The $200 million cost of creating 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh episode of the cinematic series, was eclipsed by the combined fiscal force of television advertisements, action figures, video games, and other brand plundering by Disney, the constant promotions on television almost equaling actor Harrison Ford's staggering $25 million base salary in cost. To imagine that Ford was paid only $10,000 for the original Star Wars film places the evolution of the concept in perspective, though most of the astonishing merchandising and spin-off savaging and draining of the famed universe rests in its 2012 purchase by Disney from George Lucas. Upon that transaction, Lucas, despite holding a ceremonial title as a consultant on the new films, was largely shut out of the process of The Force Awakens and the plethora of auxiliary films planned for the galaxy far, far away. The original story concepts devised for episodes VII - IX by Lucas were discarded entirely, a source of lament for the creator, eventually reworked by director J.J. Abrams and franchise veteran Lawrence Kasdan into a script for The Force Awakens that is highly derivative of that of A New Hope, the Galactic Empire, Death Star, Darth Vader, the Emperor, and the Rebellion simply replaced by the First Order, Starkiller, Kylo Ren, the Supreme Leader, and the Resistance but their functions largely the same. One senses that tremendous frustration must exist in the inhabitants of that galaxy, with endless threats from fascism and that pain-in-the-ass Skywalker family yielding endlessly repetitive angst and suffering. The parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope are so shameless as to ruffle the feathers of some critics, but audiences didn't care; satisfying execution of the plot overcame its numerous fallacies of logic (even for the fantasy genre) to garner the film over a billion dollars of earnings in its first two weeks of release. With grosses like that, who cares how derivative the idea has become or how much you have to spend on crew specialists to combat the combined weight gain of original actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Anthony Daniels?

With the diluted Star Wars concept already spread across video games and television cartoon series, the famous music of John Williams for the universe, although intact in its own branding duties, had already taken a hit in its mystique. Part of this diminishment over time is due to the maestro's own scores for the three prequel films of 1999 to 2005, music of extremely high quality, no doubt, but not achieving the classic status of the original trilogy of scores. After a busy 2005 that featured a somewhat discombobulated Revenge of the Sith score, Williams slipped into semi-retirement, returning only occasionally for feature projects of his choice as his health allowed. It was largely assumed at the conclusion of the prequel trilogy that Williams was finished with the concept due to his advanced age, and fans were appropriately jubilant that at least he had retained enough of his health to participate in those projects. Amazingly, after battling heart conditions in his 80's that sidelined him from his conducting duties and a collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, he managed a triumphant return once again to Star Wars in 2015 with largely only the assistance of orchestrator and conductor William Ross, with whom Williams has maintained a long collaboration. To experience a new Williams Star Wars score thirty-two years after Return of the Jedi is nothing less than stunning, especially considering his laborious process of writing by pen and paper sans all the technological aids available to composers of younger generations. Williams wrote and recorded nearly three hours of music for The Force Awakens, its sessions spread over a lengthy, five-month period and the bulk of which resulting from the composer's own orchestrations. Ross conducted most early sessions but Williams stepped in himself as an hour of his music was dropped and the final two hours of material solidified. Interestingly, promising Venezuelan conductor (and emerging composer) Gustavo Dudamel, winner of several conducting competitions over the previous ten years, was asked on a whim by Williams at the sessions to conduct the opening and closing credits sequences for The Force Awakens. In a departure from the previous Star Wars scores, Williams compiled a collection of 90 orchestral and 24 male choral voices mainly in Los Angeles for this project, choosing not to employ the London Symphony Orchestra for practical concerns. Two cantina source songs needed for the film were bypassed by Williams, Broadway composer Lin-Manuel Miranda instead taking the lead on those wackier recordings.

While it is not uncommon for a fair amount of a score from any composer to experience significant alterations in post-processing editing of both the film and the soundtrack's album, Williams' music for the prequel scores were almost absurdly manipulated for both. Fortunately, while there was significant micro-editing exercised in The Force Awakens, some of it by Williams' own particular choices in the case of the album, there is refreshing synchrony between film and album in a larger sense with this project. Sure, there are the three seconds snipped here and there, alternate recordings dropped in somewhat blatantly, and a few trackings that betray their origins elsewhere in the picture, but compared to the prequels, Williams enthusiasts have to be pleased by the general reverence with which the maestro's music was treated here on screen. The effectiveness of Williams' score in context is outstanding, a better connection to the musical narrative of the original three soundtracks achieved while also exhibiting the increasingly frenetic complexities of the prequels. The quality of writing in The Force Awakens, regardless of the inevitable debates between fans and music collectors regarding the placement of this theme or that, is stunningly accomplished, a reflection of Williams at his prime. The orchestrations alone are worthy of review, in part because of the composer's knack for applying tried and tested classical and film music techniques in remarkably fresh and effective ways. But also of interest is the clear difference in the performance tone of the score due to its recording outside London and without some of the accents of the prequel scores. Mainstream ears will note that the prequels' choral and electronic embellishments, outside of the deep throat-singing for the emperor-like villain of this entry, are gone, leaving The Force Awakens as more of an original-trilogy style of score. While you hear Williams employ harp and woodwinds in ways few composers do in the younger generation, the goldmine of discussion in this score should result from the brass, which is a definite, distinguishing characteristic of this new trilogy. While Williams' strings retain much of the same character as they always have, the brass players in Los Angeles feature a much darker, more abrasive tone, especially in the French horns. Gone is the warmth that you encounter from the London horns, replaced by a gritty edge simply due to the difference in the actual model of horns preferred by these new performers. Expect to hear this change in the villain's theme and the many muted performances by horns and trumpets (the latter in triple-tongued duty as usual).

The slightly more brutal tone of orchestration suits The Force Awakens well, and casual ears tuned recently to Howard Shore's unyieldingly oppressive applications in his Middle Earth scores may not notice Williams' subtle shift darker. More obvious to those listeners will be the composer's thematic tendencies, for better or for worse. You witness countless criticisms of The Force Awakens that revolve around the notion that Williams failed to write themes for the picture that you can retain in your memory after the conclusion of the film, and such comments are cheap and without perspective. Only A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, two truly transcendent, classic scores atop the "best of" lists of all time, contained game-changing themes destined to be heard in sports arenas for decades to come. While The Force Awakens, like the four previous scores in the franchise, does not reach those heights, it's arguably closer than all the others. Between the two primary new themes in The Force Awakens, you have material that is not only short and memorable in the case of the villain but flowingly lovely and inspirational in the case of the new heroine in ways that compete with the love theme from Attack of the Clones in terms of tonal majesty. Williams' ability to manipulate the level of tonality in the harmony of chords supporting his themes remains unchallenged in cinema today, no other composer capable of expressing so much dynamic range of emotion with the same set of progressions. He is the master of anticipatory bass enhancement to a theme, holding back the bass region's harmonic resonance during a theme to denote anticipation, turmoil, or immaturity in the story, the melody sounding seemingly unresolved except in specific instances of unison performances deemed worthy of resolution. Likewise, Williams has created a stable of motific ideas for this franchise based on minor-third progressions, and don't be surprised if you hear shadows of the Imperial March (essentially constructed wholly out of that progression) in the themes representing those connected to Vader by lineage. In some cases, it might entail ascending minor thirds rather than the descending variety more famously associated with the franchise, but such is the need of a hero's musical response. Also vital in a general sense of thematic attributes in The Force Awakens is Williams' better ability in this continuance of story from the original trilogy to apply those films' themes to more naturally satisfying and frequent ends. Expect to hear much more due influence of A New Hope, in other words.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.18 Stars
***** 1,016 5 Stars
**** 506 4 Stars
*** 233 3 Stars
** 111 2 Stars
* 66 1 Stars
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Good Work
Uday Patil - July 9, 2017, at 5:08 p.m.
1 comment  (1231 views)
Rather disappointed
Electone_Guy - December 1, 2016, at 10:30 a.m.
1 comment  (1402 views)
Here's what the plain artwork also could have looked like...
heidl - May 18, 2016, at 7:31 a.m.
1 comment  (1797 views)
Analysis and Appreciation of SW: The Force Awakens
Ed Chang - April 10, 2016, at 8:06 a.m.
1 comment  (1788 views)
What a deaf people who comment...   Expand >>
Spock - January 23, 2016, at 12:42 a.m.
2 comments  (3080 views)
Newest: March 3, 2016, at 7:25 p.m. by
This website is run by stupid people.   Expand >>
Donald J. Trump - January 12, 2016, at 7:06 p.m.
3 comments  (4658 views)
Newest: October 31, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. by
Mitchell Kyler Martin

Track Listings Icon
Regular Commercial Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 77:42
• 1. Main Title and the Attack on the Jakku Village (6:25)
• 2. The Scavenger (3:39)
• 3. I Can Fly Anything (3:11)
• 4. Rey Meets BB-8 (1:31)
• 5. Follow Me (2:54)
• 6. Rey's Theme (3:11)
• 7. The Falcon (3:32)
• 8. That Girl With the Staff (1:58)
• 9. The Rathtars! (4:05)
• 10. Finn's Confession (2:08)
• 11. Maz's Counsel (3:07)
• 12. The Starkiller (1:51)
• 13. Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle (2:01)
• 14. The Abduction (2:25)
• 15. Han and Leia (4:41)
• 16. March of the Resistance (2:35)
• 17. Snoke (2:03)
• 18. On the Inside (2:05)
• 19. Torn Apart (4:19)
• 20. The Ways of the Force (3:14)
• 21. Scherzo for X-Wings (2:32)
• 22. Farewell and the Trip (4:55)
• 23. The Jedi Steps and Finale (8:51)
Disney Awards Promo Tracks   ▼Total Time: 68:07

Notes Icon
The slipcase packaging of the commercial albums contains a note from the director about the score, along with extensive photography from the film. The Target-exclusive album is identical but adds new cover art and two trading cards. Some pressings contain a paper insert advertising Star Wars concerts set to debut in 2016. The Disney promotional album is a digital product with no official packaging.
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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 Star Wars: The Force Awakens are Copyright © 2015, Walt Disney Records (Commercial Albums), Walt Disney Studios (Promotional Album) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/28/15 (and not updated significantly since).
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