O.J.: Made in America

Musical Score By:  Gary Lionelli

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                A documentary created for ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series, OJ Made in America explores the life of O.J. Simpson from the beginnings of his football career to the Nicole Brown Simpson/Ronald Lyle Goldman murder trial and subsequent acquittal and his conviction of yet another crime thirteen years later.  The parallel theme running through this documentary is race and celebrity and the culture of Los Angeles during this time period.  The film was released as both a five-part miniseries and in theatrical format.

                The musical score of O.J.: Made in America was created by three-time Emmy-winning composer Gary Lionelli who has been creating music for both film and television since the late 1980s.  Some credits include Monsters, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush, Ted Williams, Stonewall Uprising, Luck, Least Among Saints, Last Days in Vietnam and more.

                The O.J.: Made in America Soundtrack begins with a noir style, jazz trumpet accompanied by piano.  This is followed by Family, which features what sounds notes on a childís music box accompanied by a darker string undertone.  Verdict also has that dark undertone, accompanied by percussion.  Infamous features that sad horn accompanying the low registry strings and piano.  In fact, quite a bit of this score features low registry violin strokes accompanied by dramatic piano pieces.  More positive moments in O.J.ís life are met with romantic piano themes. 

Thereís a break from the orchestral style of music with He Got a Motorcade, which features synths, reverb and altered string notes, perhaps speaking to a somewhat altered state of mind.  This electronic theme is featured as background with reverb and synth notes added to later tracks which feature darker moments in Simpsonís life.  Trial is a rich, albeit too short, track featuring a somber violin solo accompanied by piano.

I wasnít exactly enthused when I received this soundtrack for review.  I know that O.J.: Made in America received Academy Award recognition as best documentary, but the subject matter annoys me.  But, whatever I feel about O.J. Simpson and his legacy must be put aside here so I can produce a unbiased review of the music created for the documentary.  If I knew nothing about the subject matter of this project, I would say that Gary Lionelli used quite a diverse pallet when creating this musical score.  The drama of events is certainly apparent in the score.  Having never seen the project, I have no idea whether the music was used to set the tone or to speak about the man himself.    However, I did find the soundtrack to be quite an interesting listen. 

My problem with the score would be the lack of cohesion.  One minute itís positive, the next ominous, the next a love story, the next a dangerous liaison.  I think that may be the fault of the project itself and the possible jumping back and forth in time frames, but when not accompanied by the visuals of the film, this just serves to make the listener confused as to what they are listening to or what sort of scene the music might represent.  I think this is one of those cases in which the music works perfectly for the film, but has no business being sold as a soundtrack.


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