Music Composed by: John Debney
Movie Genre: Family, Fantasy, Musical
Movie & Soundtrack Release: 2020
Label: Lakeshore Records
Available as a digital stream/download only
___ SPOILER ALERT ___
“Rich in melodies and feelings and exceptional as an approach and performance, the music of John Debney comes to remind us the value of the music that has a personality, something that makes it memorable in the ears and eyes of the movie’s viewers.”
Have you ever wondered what a fairy tale movie would be without its music? It would be a shadow of a fairy tale, a story that would not be worth narrating and correspondingly watching. Because the big-screen fairy tales are completely dependent on their music. The elements of fantasy, magic, the unexpected and the adventure dress up the words of the narration through the musical notes. And then the fairy tale gets wings and takes off. It comes alive before the viewer’s eyes and generously hands out emotions. An excellent example of a fairy tale movie is the Netflix movie “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”, since its elaborate soundtrack perfectly outlines such a fantastic cover and such a magical content that it makes the viewers believe what they see. Oh yes, believe! Nothing less than that. The most important thing in cinema and a burning ambition of every creator, since the creation of cinema. That their creation gets believed. You may have not realized it, but good music is a powerful tool, the most convincing one for the conditions that every scene of a movie presents to us.
They say that well begun is half done and this is also true for the musical beginning of a movie. It enters us into a new film world, while at the same time preparing us for what will happen along the way. It delimits the musical frame within which the music will move. The information that is given by the music at the beginning of a movie is of high importance, because it defines the codes on which it will subsequently be based. Let us use the example of the track “By the Fire with Grandma/Jangle’s and Things” (#1). Christmas bells, flutes, African percussion instruments, choir and an orchestra interacting with all the above, ooze a sensitive warm and charming festive atmosphere. The pages of the book “The Invention of Jeronicus Jangle” start being riffled and the fairy tale comes alive before the viewers’ eyes. As the pages are getting three dimensions, the camera is digging into them and we find ourselves in the world of the greatest inventor that has ever existed, Jeronicus Jangle. The moment that the camera is landing in front of the store of Jeronicus Jangle at 02:29 of the above track, an African orchestral explosion is taking place! The percussion from Africa that the composer John Debney chose to use, were not at all coincidentally selected. In a movie with all the main characters being played by Afro-American actors, the selection of percussion from Africa attempts a link to its characteristic musical culture. While listening the track “By the Fire with Grandma/Jangle’s and Things” (#1), you actually believe that the words of the fairy tale are coming into existence, are coming alive. Listen to the track and ask yourself, can you think of a better musical introduction?
A recent invention-toy of Jeronicus Jangle is a little metallic talking bullfighter. The music that accompanies his coming to life and meeting with the inventor’s family is found in the tracks “Don Juan Comes to Life” (#3) and “Don Juan Meets the Family” (#4), where a musical perfume of Spain prevails, as evidenced by the castanets. The music’s atmosphere remains the same in the next track as well, “Don Turns Gus to the Darkside” (#5), but here something interesting is happening. The musical depiction of Don Juan continues with the appearance of a Spanish dance, as Don Juan is trying to convince the apprentice inventor of Jangle, Gustafson, to steal the book with all his inventions. The dance becomes the additional touch in order to make his words more appealing. He employs with it all his satanic persuasiveness in order to convince Gustafson to steal something that does not belong to him. Subsequently there will follow a song about “borrowing indefinitely”, as he calls the theft of the book, and, in order to finish this astonishing “performance”, we will have a dancing Spanish delirium that is found in “Borrowed Indefinitely Pt.2” (#6). The more Don Juan is trying to persuade Gustafson for an illegal action, the more the Spanish element is getting intensified in the music. From a simple Spanish atmosphere at the beginning, it subsequently becomes a dance, then a song and finally a dancing delirium! The devious and mean Don Juan is given away by the music, when, at the end of “Don Turns Gus to the Darkside” (#5), the violins tell the truth about his intentions.
Gustafson’s betrayal strikes Jangle and he loses his inspiration. He tries but constantly fails. Year after year, fewer and fewer customers turn up at his store. The passage of time is symbolized in the music by lively violins at 00:50 of “Betrayed/Time Passes” (#7), an idea which is not at all original but always successful. Jangle not only stomached the betrayal but he must also tolerate the success of Gustafson, thanks to the book that he stole and that made him rich. The turn of events breaks Jangle’s hurt more and more every day and the bitter realization of the unpleasant situation in which he finds himself is highlighted by the sound of a mourning bell, a little while after the lively violins of the above track.
Jangle’s granddaughter, Journey, travels to meet her grandfather and her impatience is coming to a head! In “Journey Travels to Grandfather” (#10), the music highlights the psychological makeup of the little girl with string instruments that move rapidly, giving a sense of natural movement, and make the viewer believe that these lead the little girl to her grandfather’s store. The idea of the acceleration of the music in order to bring more speed to the sequence of events in a movie is the oldest one existing, but it never loses its great effectiveness. A time-tested recipe of musical success.
Every Christmas, Gustafson implemented one idea out of Jangle’s invention book with flying colours. The music from 01:08 of “Goodnight Journey/Storybook Interlude” (#12) refers to this, but it is not the typical accompaniment for someone that met success in the favorable sense of the word. It is not euphoria, generosity and kindness that gave birth to talent, but Gustafson’s twisted nature and megalomania.
The curious Journey discovers her grandfather’s old laboratory, when, along with his assistant, little Edison, they find a robot that was hidden. The only part missing in order for it to function is its mechanical heart. Its placement inside the robot and the faith that this can function, in combination, will bring the robot to life, which will start not only moving but flying as well. In the track “Flying with Buddy” (#14), the music unfolds all the following conditions, gradually reaching the peak: Journey’s curiosity, the robot’s discovery, the hesitation to approach it initially out of fear, their communication with it, its hovering in the air and finally the hovering of everyone together at the same time and the bedazzlement of little Journey and Edison. From 05:02 onwards the orchestra takes its performance to the next level with successive peaks, as the company of three is in the air. The flying theme at 06:20 amazes, but you have not yet heard it in its most impressive version. A challenge for every composer in order to prove his talent is the composition of music for a flying scene. And here, John Debney writes wonderful music, that conveys to the viewer the feeling of the unexpected excitement that the characters of the movie experience. A good appetizer for more impressive musical moments that follow.
Gustafson has run out of ideas and decides to do what he knows better than anything, to steal. This time, his target is Jangle’s robot, that he presents to his prospective customers. The imposing fanfare at 01:12 of “Once an Apprentice” (#16) defines him and his entrepreneurial stature, since he has been proclaimed toymaker of the year for the last 30 years. It is not the first time that we hear it, since an appearance of it had preceded at 01:32 of “Goodnight Journey/Storybook Interlude” (#12).
Journey and Edison have gone to Gustafson’s factory to get back Jangle’s robot. The guards are chasing them, while they were about to destroy the robot in the toy crusher. The presaged end of the robot is expressed by nightmarish peaks of the choir, scattered in the adventurous moments of “The Crusher (with Choir)” (#17). The Spanish turn of the music towards the end of the track signifies the appearance of Don Juan, who is discussing with Gustafson in his office. In order to escape the guards who are after them, Journey and Edison enter the huge air shaft, having no alternative since a fire has broken out behind them. They must cross the fan that lies at the end of the air shaft but a certain speed is needed so that it does not crush them. Jangle, who has arrived at the factory, will help with that. More than any other track of the movie’s soundtrack, “Air Shaft Adventure” (#18) is the most exciting one. John Debney masterfully serves the needs of every moment of these five minutes that the track lasts, while at the same time composing one of the best film music tracks of 2020! The orchestra is notable for its inflections, which make the arrival of adventure more enjoyable, whereas suspense remains undiminished until the last seconds, with a finale that literally takes your breath away, since until then, the rescue of the little heroes has not been assured. The wonderful flying theme that preceded is repeated with a richer instrumentation at 03:40 of the track.
The successful outcome of the robot’s rescue will incur Gustafson’s wrath, which will be expressed in the music with a militaristic march at 00:52 of “Real Inventor” (#19). The selection of this approach has a double reading: the overwhelming and imposing feeling oozed by a militaristic march indicates Gustafson’s determination and obsession to do anything in order to get back the robot. At the same time, it prepares the viewer for the arrival of the police to subsequently arrest Jangle.
The daughter of Jangle and mother of Journey, returns after many years to her father’s store. Their highly charged dialogue results to happy tears. Together they rebuild the robot and Journey finds them in the morning. Now that they all believe that the robot can function, this is actually happening. The music accompanying all these emotional and at the same time happy moments of family warmth and love lies in “I Love You So Much” (#22). Sensitivity and happiness are the music’s ingredients here, in yet another track that stands out. Pay attention to 02:56, where a mysterious flute will instantly change the music’s mood. It is the moment of waiting, before the robot comes alive. A little doubt rises for a while, but soon the return of joy by the music gives us the message that the robot is functioning again. The track “Jingle Jangle Score Suite” (#12) that you find in the album with the songs of the movie is a wonderful potpourri from musical moments of the movie, which is heard in the closing credits.
Timeless, magical, rich and adventurous, the soundtrack of the movie “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” is a very satisfactory sample of how skillful a composer can be when he sets to doing music for a musical, where songs are usually the only focus and he has to cover the musical gaps of the story. Rich in melodies and feelings and exceptional as an approach and performance, the music of John Debney comes to remind us the value of the music that has a personality, something that makes it memorable in the ears and eyes of the movie’s viewers. Yet another soundtrack that works as a proof that John Debney is one of the best composers that write music for movies nowadays!
01. By the Fire with Grandma / Jangle’s and Things (4:11)
02. Jeronicus Workshop (1:19)
03. Don Juan Comes To Life (1:04)
04. Don Juan Meets The Family (1:31)
05. Don Turns Gus To The Darkside (1:37)
06. Borrowed Indefinitely, Pt. 2 (0:28)
07. Betrayed / Time Passes (3:02)
08. Ms. Johnston (1:41)
09. Hello Buddy (1:39)
10. Journey Travels To Grandfather (1:30)
11. Jessica’s Picture (1:40)
12. Goodnight Journey / Storybook Interlude (1:46)
13. Journey Shows Her Gifts (2:48)
14. Flying With Buddy (7:31)
15. Buddy’s Been Taken (1:49)
16. Once An Apprentice (1:41)
17. The Crusher (With Choir) (1:41)
18. Air Shaft Adventure (5:06)
19. Real Inventor (1:20)
20. Kiss For Ms. Johnston (2:00)
21. Why I Came (1:48)
22. I Love You So Much (3:59)
23. The Real Thief Revealed (2:13)
Total Time: 53:33
The Album (by Atlantic Records):
01. This Day by Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose (3:33)
02. Borrow Indefinitely by Ricky Martin (1:49)
03. Miles and Miles by Marisha Wallace (2:33)
04. Not The Only One by Madalen Mills (2:00)
05. Magic Man G by Keegan-Michael Key (3:32)
06. Square Root of Possible by Madalen Mills (4:04)
07. Over and Over by Forest Whitaker (3:07)
08. Grandpa Me Nie’ (Asew Jingle Jangle Remix) [feat. Mic Flammez] by Bisa Kdei (1:41)
09. Make It Work by Forest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose (3:50)
10. This Day (Reprise) by Jingle Jangle Choir (2:54)
11. This Day (feat. Kiana Ledé) by Usher (3:48)
12. Jingle Jangle Score Suite by John Debney (3:47)
The tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters
Score Rating: * * * *