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Rio 2 by John Powell

Rio 2

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Rio 2 (Soundtrack) by John Powell
Rio 2 (Soundtrack) by John Powell











Rio 2 (Soundtrack) by John Powell

Rio 2
Composed by John Powell
Lakeshore Records (2014)

Rating: 8/10

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“If the score’s opening and ominously frequent usage of the word “Featuring” in the tracklist becomes frightening, fear not as the JOHN POWELL you came to hear is right around the corner and the artists along for the ride have been incorporated well.”

Rio ... Grande!
Review by Richard Buxton

Despite making a large dent in the box-office and receiving a generally warm critical response, 2011’s RIO was a largely forgettable and formulaic production that did little to stand out from the many anthropomorphic animal adventures that queue up for release each year. Its failings were hardly unique and were not quite enough to derail the film to the point of it being unenjoyable, but there was still a sense that RIO was just another run-of-the-mill animated stop-gap before the year’s bigger releases, and it was a feeling that coursed through the entire film. Despite emphasis on the film’s exotic Brazilian setting, RIO could have taken place just about anywhere and had similar results. There was a lack of conviction behind the film’s Latin American setting, and at times this extended even as far as JOHN POWELL’S score. That’s not to say that POWELL’S score was not at times excellent, but on the whole it failed to fully ignite in the way many have come to expect his works to. If his score for RIO 2 is anything to go by, the film’s geographical focus has increased significantly.

RIO 2 sees the colorful cast swap the streets of Rio de Janeiro for the splendor of the Amazon rainforest, resulting in a vibrant and hued musical migration. RIO 2 still retains many of the traditional Powell-isms heard in the first score, but it is immediately apparent that greater emphasis has been placed on the Latin flavour, right down to the shuffling percussion and frantic whistling that transform the iconic “20th Century Fox Fanfare” (1). This intoxicating vivacity continues directly into the next cue “Batucada Pagode” (2) which features the understated rhythmic vocals of singer-songwriter CARLINHOS BROWN who also featured on the first film’s score.

If the score’s opening and ominously frequent usage of the word “Featuring” in the tracklist becomes frightening, fear not as the JOHN POWELL you came to hear is right around the corner and the artists along for the ride have been incorporated well. “Over the Falls” (3) is a teasing creep upwards into orchestral cacophony that is thrillingly unpredictable in a way only JOHN POWELL can be, while “Breakfast in Rio” (4) is the score’s first full foray into the returning main theme from RIO that echoes the delightfully playful sentiment of the first score’s opening cue, “Morning Routine”, in its earlier moments. The main theme is heard on a number of occasions throughout, and while it never quite reaches the soaring highs of RIO’S “Flying”, its various transformations are consistently thrilling. “Breakfast in Rio” (4) launches from playful into a painfully short brass rendition all in its opening 40 seconds, while its performance in “Escorted to the Clan” (10) is RIO 2 at its most sweeping and romantic. The theme threatens to take full flight in “Romeo and Juliet’s Unfortunate Demise” (19), but never does so in the way you will no doubt be craving come the final few cues. The spotlight is at times shone upon the alternate major theme instead, most notably at the climax of “Escorted to the Clan” and the in the second half of “Battle for the Heart of the Forest” (18). Acting as the heroic alternative, this theme is captivating, but lacks the charm of the RIO’S main theme. The alternating combination of these two themes results in the penultimate track shining as the pinnacle of the score, with the following cue finishing as a close runner-up. Both are ever so slightly let down by curiously low-key finales that tend to wither out rather than erupt as would be expected.

Aside from these two central themes, RIO 2’s charms range from the tremendously eclectic and at times curiously Bond-esque “Red Bullies” (15) - Bond + Powell almost certainly being the dreamiest of dreams for some people out there - to the carnival of “Traveling Family” (6). Cues such as “Up Carla’s Monkey” (11) tend to drag the score down momentarily, but in the long run are mostly drowned out by the effervescence of the rest of the score. Instrumental group UAKTI lend the score an extra level of Brazilian authenticity on almost half of score’s cues, though you suspect JOHN POWELL could achieve musical authenticity when writing for an orchestra of toothbrushes.

There’s no denying that almost all eyes are on the upcoming score release of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, but in the meantime RIO 2 is a firm reminder that JOHN POWELL is nowhere more at home than in animation. This is not a score that stands out particularly from JOHN POWELL’S exceptional resumé, but it’s still a tremendously fun ride and signals the merciful return of film music royalty.

Rating: 8/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 20th Century Fox Fanfare (Rio 2 Samba Version) 0:24  ***
2 Batucada Pagode (Featuring Carlinhos Brown) 1:36  ***
3 Over the Falls (Featuring Milton Nscimento) 3:39  ****
4 Breakfast in Rio 3:08  ****
5 Fireworks on the Roof (Featuring (UAKTI) 1:27  ***
6 Traeling Family 1:59  ****
7 Sideshow Freaks( Featuring UAKTI) 3:09  ***
8 Stalking the Ferry 2:07  ***
9 River Boat to the Loggers (Fearuring Carlinhos Brown and UAKTI) 2:59  ***
10 Escorted to the Clan (Featuring UAKTI and Barbatuques) 5:41  *****
11 Up Carla's Monkey (Featuring UAKTI) 2:16  **
12 Spider Invite (Featuring UAKTI and Barbatuques) 2:46  ***
13 Humans are Longer Than They Told Me (Featuring UAKTI) 2:23  ****
14 Tongue-apult to Blu's NIghtmare 2:08  ***
15 Red Bullies (Featuring UAKTI) 3:19  ****
16 Tantrums Lead to Explosions (Featuring UAKTI) 3:43  ***
17 Lollipops are Bad for your Teeth (Featuring Milton Nascimento, UAKTI, and Barbatuques) 3:55  ***
18 Battle for the Heart of the Forest (Featuring UAKTI and Barbatuques) 4:46  *****
19 Romeo and Juliet's Unfortunate Demise (Featuring UAKTI and Barbatuques) 3:53  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 56 minutes  


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