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Soundtrack review: Tyrant (Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna – 2015)


Soundtrack review: Tyrant (Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna – 2015)


“Tyrant” is a TV drama about the son of an infamous Middle Easter tyrant, who comes home from America and I sucked back into political and family drama. His father dies and his brutal and unstable brother takes charge of the country. The score was written by brothers Mychael and Jeff Danna, two composers I’ve been familiar with for many years. I always enjoy their compositions, both separately and together. I’m very drawn to their Celtic sound so it will be interesting to see how they deal with the Arabic influences of this story.

Middle Eastern instruments have also added a special and appealing flavor to a film score. Ever since the time of “Gladiator” I’ve been a fan of the duduk for example and I think I hear it on the mysterious and longing “It should have been you”. It’s hard for me not to like a cue like this one because it’s atmospheric and it gets me into my favorite reflective state. I feel the dust on my skin; I see the soft and thin materials of the clothing being rustled by the wind.

So the composers do a great job of setting the spectacular scenery of the story. I am there; I see it and I am fascinated by it. But the scenery is only the setting of the musical story. What about the people that populate this play? What about their feelings and emotions? The brothers Danna up the rhythm and make the music feel alive. The landscape is being slowly populated by different beings each with his own ambitions and desires. Action comes; then a fascinating love theme worthy of “1001 nights” caresses our ears in “Barry and Leila”. This theme is beautiful and meaningful and “Tyrant” already does enough to make me like it.

The entire score is beautiful and elegant as you would imagine a story set in a breathtaking setting. Still except the occasional bursts of emotion, Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna’s score spends most of the time in the background. It doesn’t grab the listener; instead it waits for him or her to come and grab it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just that the music keeps its distance most of the time and lets you admire it as you would a faraway mysterious land. That makes it a textbook “in the moment” score for me: this isn’t a composition I would intend to listen to again no matter when, but it is a score I enjoyed a lot when I listened to it and I’m sure the feelings would be the same upon a future listen.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 13 / 43

Album excellence: 29%


Tyrant Main Title Theme

It Should Have Been You

Barry and Leila

A Political Solution

Jamal’s Gift to Barry


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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