Musical Score Composed By: John Powell
Music By: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus and Jenny Lewis
Distributed by: Walt Disney Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The latest computer animated film from Disney features Bolt (John Travolta), a super-dog in every sense of the word. Each day holds an exciting new adventure for Bolt as he uses his uncanny superpowers to fight the forces of evil. At least, that’s the way it is on the set of Bolt’s television show. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Bolt that he’s not really a super-dog…he just plays one on TV. Growing up on a soundstage, Bolt has no concept of the real world. When his co-star Penny (Miley Cyrus) leaves the set with one of the show’s actors, Bolt mistakenly believes that she has been kidnapped by the show’s villain and sets off on an adventure to rescue her. Along with the help of two rather unlikely travel companions – a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (Susie Essman) and Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster obsessed with television, Bolt soon learns that he doesn’t need superpowers to be a true hero.
The soundtrack of Bolt features two original songs performed by John Travolta, Miley Cyrus and Jenny Lewis and musical score by John Powell. Miley Cyrus is a teen sensation, rocking the world in her role as Hannah Montana and producing albums that top the charts. Co-star John Travolta is no slouch in the music department, performing in Grease on Broadway and in the movies and Hairspray: The Movie. He also recorded an album in his youth which wasn’t quite bad as I remember it. The two perform a duet in the movie entitled I Thought I Lost You, a sweet song about love and the faith they have in each other. Jenny Lewis performs the only other song in the film containing lyrics. A former actress and now singer/songwriter, Jenny Lewis recorded four albums as co-founder and front woman of the band Rilo Kiley. She has recently gone solo, recording her first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, in 2006 and following up with a second album in 2008 entitled Acid Tongue. For the Bolt Soundtrack, Jenny Lewis performs Barking at the Moon, a song about finding hope and happiness with someone new.
English composer John Powell began his musical career as a child when he was trained to play violin. After studying at the Trinity College of Music in London, Powell expressed an interest in jazz and rock, performing in the band The Fabulistics. Upon leaving college, Powell began composing music for commercials before becoming an assistant to composer Patrick Doyle. In 1995, he co-founded Independently Thinking Music, a London-based commercial music house responsible for the creation of over 100 musical scores for British and French commercials and independent films. In 1997, John Powell moved to the United States and became a well-sought-after composer, creating musical scores for Robots, The Italian Job, the Bourne movies, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Shrek, Happy Feet and more.
One would expect that the Bolt Soundtrack would contain a musical score suited to an action film – after all, Bolt is an action hero. Thus, I’m not surprised to find quite a few action-based tracks on the album. John Powell creates a sense of action with edgy music performed on horns and strings interspersed with electronica and heavy with percussion. I listened to the Bolt Soundtrack before researching the composer and found that a couple of the tracks reminded me of something one might find on the soundtrack of a spy movie, a familiar sound that I had heard recently. In Scooter Chase guitars, percussion and horns combined with an electronic mix create a spy movie feel. The bongos and hard-hitting music of Saving Mittens clearly define an action scene with spy film tendencies. Of course, now that I know that Powell created the musical score for all three Bourne movies and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I completely understand why the sound was so familiar. Powell obviously knows how to create musical score that gives the listener a sense of subterfuge, danger and intrigue taking place within a scene.
But action is not the only fare to be found on the Bolt Soundtrack. John Powell has a very diverse musical repertoire and he shows it off in this soundtrack. Meet Bolt begins as classic animated fare, but ends with a classical piano that is totally unexpected. New York is a track with a very jazzy feel while Meet Mittens has an exotic, Italian flare to it. The RV Park begins as a beautifully sweeping orchestral piece that morphs into a twangy country composition.
I have yet to listen to a soundtrack from a Walt Disney animated film that wasn’t perfectly suited to its genre. The Bolt Soundtrack has everything one would expect from the soundtrack of an animated film and more. I thoroughly enjoyed the musical score created by John Powell and was completely taken by the beauty of the lyrics in I Thought I Lost You and Barking at the Moon. Walt Disney Pictures has been fortunate enough over the years to produce soundtracks that are as beloved to fans as the movies they were created for. The Bolt Soundtrack is just another in the long list of Disney successes.