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Listen For The Real Hero of THE LEGO MOVIE

The LEGO Movie sets its tone from the very first frame, with a LEGO version of the Warner Bros. shield and the Village Roadshow ‘V,’ and it’s a clear indication that for the next hour and a half, everything will indeed be awesome.

But what gave me chills from the very first note, is the incredibly complex, yet playful score from Mark Mothersbaugh.

The score is a perfectly matched marriage of sound and vision that rarely happens on a big budget Hollywood film.  Then again, The LEGO Movie defies every convention of its very being, trading-in the franchised formula feel for subversive satire.

Of course, this isn’t new territory for Mothersbaugh.

He has carved out a career in film and television scoring post-Devo.  One might even argue some of the work was Devo, with the late Bob Casale working by his side on various projects at his company Mutato.

Mothersbaugh’s highest profile work can be heard in Wes Anderson’s films, including Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums and my personal fave The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  It’s quirky, like the films themselves, merging visual art with musical.

Mothersbaugh is the unseen character of The LEGO Movie, integrated into the film brilliantly by directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who worked with Mothersbaugh previously on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street).

A true geek’s dream, the film’s score plays both synthesized and orchestral, merging synth-pop groove into massive choral cliches.  Oh man, is this score fun.  Just give a listen to the Prologue alone to see what I mean…

Of course, it helps that The LEGO Movie has a vast array of locations and characters to play off of. Mothersbaugh gets to work in Western themes, Fantasy motifs and, of course, produce a theme song that’s strangely a self fulfilling prophecy in its current popularity – Everything is Awesome.

And one of the strangest additions to what essentially is a kid’s movie, is the introduction of a Darkwave/Industrial music theme to go with Batman.  With lyrics.  It’s an unexpected, and pretty subversive little joke that elevates the satire tremendously.  Batman’s girlfriend, “Wildstyle,” loves him for his music.  She’s the emo, goth chick our hero just can’t seem to connect with.

Clearly, the filmmakers are having a blast.

Like the film, there are some quick pop-culture references that fly by, and the musical score is no exception.  Listen carefully for the Nickelodeon game show theme from Double Dare and during the Star Wars cameo, that’s John Williams’ Jabba the Hutt theme.

For fans of Devo, much of the score is a return to Mothersbaugh’s older equipment.

According to a recent interview with the composer, the score started with a mix of old and new electronic instruments, and was crafted to resemble the plastic block feel.  He also picked through sound libraries of the past, while consulting with electronic colleagues like Deadmau5.  He then took the ideas and used an orchestra of 100 players and 40 choir members to bring it to life.

The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to The LEGO Movie is now available on CD and Digital Formats from WaterTower Music.  It is currently a Billboard charter, fueled by the hit single Everything is Awesome!

Mark Mothersbaugh’s next score can be heard in 22 Jump Street also directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.  It releases June 13th.

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