Film scores

Soundtrack review: Creed (Ludwig Göransson – 2015)

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I am very amazing happy to be able to write this intro. This feeling right here is why I consider Sylvester Stallone one of my favorite actors and film makers: he’s created characters that I’ve been watching for dozens of years and I am still hungry to see. I can’t get enough of Rocky Balboa stories. I grew up with this character and, just like Sly, I like to check in on him every now and then. I know all his life and I want to know what he’s doing. Lately, he’s been training Apollo Creed’s son and I can’t wait to see what happens. The Rocky franchise has provided some iconic scores and my favorite is still Vince Di Cola’s powerful composition for Rocky IV. This time Ludwig Göransson takes the scepter from Bill Conti and Di Cola and I wish for the same amazing impact Lorne Balfe’s new take had on the Terminator music: new themes as well as nods to the old ones… I am so happy to be reviewing a current Rocky score…

The opening of the score surprises me a bit. It has a “Sicario” vibe going for it and that uncomfortable and murky echo gives me chills before it morphs into a tender piano theme. “Juvy” is short but manages to take me through an entire palette of emotions. I can’t help but think of the Rocky franchise music legacy. Bill Conti was the melodic and spectacular one while Vince Di Cola brought the grit and motivation needed for training. Ludwig Goransson explores the quiet reflective moments of the story. I can just smell the cold early winter’s Philly air when I hear the vocalizations from “Meeting Rocky”; they make me think of the street corner band from the first Rocky movie. This cue is so intimate and powerful that it instantly brings a wave of nostalgia over me. It makes me remember my own formative winters, my college winters with all the discovery and comfort feelings they brought. The music travels familiar paths inside me and I want to play it while I read my college diaries. This cue shoots instantly towards the top of my best of the year. This is also one of the moments when the movie voiceover works like a charm. Welcome back, Rock!

The composer gives nods to the original themes in the music first with his own take on the idea of redemption. It’s a violent and inspirational cue that breaks the reflective mood of the score. I don’t know how he did it but Göransson somehow made the music sound very Philadelphia authentic, based on what I learned about that city from this movie franchise. There are gritty moments, there are a cappella vocalization and the entire mood makes me think of brotherly love. The music is mostly contained and intimate and brings one of the sounds that are most comfortable and dear to me. Listening to this music that feels like real life makes me anticipate the movie even more. The alert moments feel real and easy to connect to; I can related to the flow of the score because nothing is exaggerated or superfluous: this must be one of the most real and honest scores I’ve heard in years. The moody piano vibes and the slow paced romance motifs make me think that this composer is much more musically mature than I would have expected.

I love the sound of “The Sporino fight” because the musical pulses make me think of breathing and punching. I feel like I’m inside the rink. It’s just another example of the treasures you will find in this score. But then again when you will listen to “Creed” you will get more than a score. Often I listen to a film music album, I like it or not, I write about it and move to the next. Ludwig Göransson’s composition felt more like a life experience in a familiar city I haven’t visited for years rather than a simple album. I lived, I loved, I fought, I felt, I doubted myself and ultimately I won during this rich and memorable hour. I had moments when I felt alone, moments when I got very emotional and moments when I knew just what path to follow. Just as Adonis Creed had Rocky in his corner, I had Ludwig Göransson’s music to guide and inspire me. What’s even better is how this score fits in the legacy of “Rocky”. With the inserts of Bill Conti’s theme sprinkled throughout the score, with the way the piano motifs feel and with the choir in “If I fight, you fight (training montage)” which is the son of “Gonna fly now”, this score couldn’t have been part of any other franchise and wouldn’t have worked for any other movie. Do not miss it!

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 49 / 59

Album excellence: 82%

Highlights:

Meeting Rocky

Conlan (Redemption)

Grip (Interlude)

First Date

Moving in with Rocky

Breathe (Interlude)

The Sporino Fight

I Got You

Rocky is Sick

Caught in the Shadow

If I Fight, You Fight (Training Montage)

Boxing Shorts

Conlan Fight

You’re a Creed

You Can See The Whole Town From Here

End Credits – Creed

Creed Suite

About the author

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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