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Soundtrack review: Orange is the new black (Gwendolyn Sanford, Brandon Jay And Scott Doherty – 2015)


Soundtrack review: Orange is the new black (Gwendolyn Sanford, Brandon Jay And Scott Doherty – 2015)


I only started watching “Orange is the new black” recently. It seems fun and I will catch up with it. The show is a comedy / drama about a classy girl who has to do some time for smuggling drug money. Her adjustment to prison life and the colorful characters she meets there make for a fun watch. The score gets a release now, in time for season 3 and I was very curious about it. The mood of the show isn’t easy to capture in notes and I couldn’t wait to hear what composers Gwendolyn Sanford, Brandon Jay and Scott Doherty did with it. I think it’s fitting that three composers got together for this one since it’s a show about camaraderie and different personalities.

The beginning of the score is not exactly my cup of tea. I have a hard time focusing on and enjoying a light, feel good score with a lot of guitar strums or grooving vocals in the background. They are fun in some moments (like “Bra and panties”) but the sound can lose me pretty fast. I need a deeper cue to keep me invested in this score. “Everybody loves Dayanara” is the first slightly more moody cue of “Orange is the new black” but it’s still contained and light. Then again, this is the mood I saw in the first few episodes of the show so I understand the composers’ choice. It just doesn’t make for a very exciting standalone listening experience for me. If I hadn’t watched the show at all I would have gotten frustrated by the music.

Since as the score progresses I see no trace of depth or emotional pieces I can focus on enjoying the parts that are interesting musically, even if I can’t establish a connection with them. I liked the different strings improvisations in “Alex in the dryer”. The strings (guitar, bass and others) are dominating this composition but unfortunately they are my least favorite instruments to hear on a film or TV score. It’s not that “Orange is the new black” doesn’t sound good, it’s just that it doesn’t work for me. It works in context and it will please fans of the so called “Americana” sound but I was looking for something else.

I understand the appeal of a cue like “No no yes no no” with its clapping, cheering and smooth base line and it represents a welcome break from the stringy overall sound. I like the emotion I finally hear midway through “Boil and bubble”. But these are just scattered moments in a score which overall just didn’t do it for me. This is not a sound I am particularly fond of. I will of course enjoy this composition in context.

Cue rating: 67 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 0 / 68

Album excellence: 0%

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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