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Soundtracks, Soundtracks, Soundtracks: Les Misérables

Jan. 18, 2013by: Paul Huffman

There are many things that make a movie what it is. It all starts with a story (according to what every How-To book on screenwriting tells us), there is the director and his crew, there are the actors, who bust their asses to bring a vision to life. Then comes the wonderful world of post-production. What is one result of that? The music. Soundtracks enhance the movie going experience. They can make us cry, they can pump us up, they can make us remember the 80's. Whether it be a musical band or a composer, soundtracks help our favorite movies stay etched in our mind forever.

Les Misérables has such a long and rich history, and as I was walking out of the theater after having seen this film I was so happy that this installment ended up doing the story justice. The cast was chosen perfectly, and they carried the emotional weight beautifully while at the same time surprisingly performing these songs in a manner that left me floored. The music behind the tracks was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, with the lyrics penned by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Nate. I didn't expect this film to wind up being one of my favorite films of the year, but that it was. So scroll through to listen to and get an idea as to why. Purchase the soundtrack in its entirety here

1. I DREAMED A DREAM (ANNE HATHAWAY)

Anne Hathaway had a brief presence in this film, but this one track and her performance of it made her hard to forget for the rest of the film. Hathaway’s character wasn’t exactly in good shape before she was booted from her job, but to see her turn to prostitution and how much it broke her spirit was so damn heartbreaking. The lyrics tell us that all she had in her life was the fantasy of her life going a different way and the memory of the only thing that was keeping her alive in her daughter. This song was the first glimpse in these actors having to portray so much emotion while performing a song live, Hathaway set the bar and the other cast members followed beautifully.

2. ONE DAY MORE (LES MISERABLES CAST)

Ah, the classic track that pushed us into the third act. The reflection of everything that has led these characters up to this point, will Valjean finally lose his freedom after all these years? Will Cossette and Marius find a way to be together, at the expense of a heartbroken Eponine? Will the Thénardiers land their biggest payday yet thanks to the coming mayhem? Will the people find a way not be slaves again? The opening lines capture the feeling of the song perfectly “Another day, another destiny.” As the song rolls on we know these characters are about to run smack into whatever their destinies turn out to be, business indeed picked up.

3. SUDDENLY (HUGH JACKMAN)

Valjean found a reason to live after some soul searching, the desire to become a better man, to live a better life than he was living. But did he really have a concrete reason to go on until he found little Cossette at that sh*thole? He realizes in this Academy Award nominated track that in her, he truly found something to live for, something to protect, a promise to be kept in human form. Hugh Jackman was no slouch vocally, and while this may not have been my favorite performance of his personally in the film…the accolades speak for themselves. It also deserves recognition for being a totally new creation separate from the original musical, created just for the film.

4. ON MY OWN (SAMANTHA BARKS)

Where in the world did Samantha Barks come from? The woman is beautiful and has the voice of an angel with the acting chops to match it. Barks is new to the acting game but earned her stripes via the BBC talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’. This track, next to ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ is probably the track that most can relate to on an emotional level. Unrequited love is a pain that a lot of us have felt in love and what makes it even more tragic is in Eponine we have a woman who is amazing enough to have that love returned. Seriously, you didn’t Cossette following Marius into war did ya? No, you didn’t. I want to see more of Samantha Barks, give me more of my Samantha Barks.

5. EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES (EDDIE REDMAYNE)

The failed revolution is said and done, Marius has lost every single one of his friends in vein and I believe that if he didn’t have some promise in life in the form of Cossette he would have taken a plunge out of that damn window after he sang this little number. That’s the pain that Redmayne was able to express in his performance of this track. He was able to ask himself what their attempt at an uprising was all for, and whether the attempt was worth it. The day and the losses he suffered because of it is something that will haunt him for the rest of his life, which is another tragedy that a lot in the world unfortunately have to go through.

6. STARS (RUSSELL CROWE)

The only moment in this film that could justify Javert’s status as an antagonist is his lack of compassion towards Hathaway’s Fantine. The rest of the film Javert is so determined and so righteous in his own way that you can’t help but admire him. After Valjean escapes his grasp, this track is Javert’s vow that he will get his man, he truly believes that Valjean has committed a mortal sin and feels like there’s no choice but for him to go down. Crowe’s singing voice was actually quite impressive here, there were moments in the track ‘Look Down’ that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to wrap my head around Crowe, but by the end of that track I was hooked. With Stars, he had me on his side.

7. MASTER OF THE HOUSE (SACHA BARON COHEN & HELENA BONHAM CARTER)

Oh the much needed comedic relief that was needed to relieve us from the tragedy that was the character of Fantine, and that is exactly what we got with the Thénardiers. I wasn’t familiar with musical at all before seeing this film so these goofballs caught me completely off guard and I along with the rest of the packed house I saw the film with had a blast. What better way to perfect your pick-pocketing skills than luring in a bunch of drunkards with piss poor booze (literally) and something that I guess could pass for food. This was Sacha’s show more than it was Carter’s…but both were comedic gold and perfect casting.

HONORABLE MENTION: IN MY LIFE/A HEART FULL OF LOVE (AMANDA SEYFRIED, EDDIE REDMAYNE, SAMANTHA BARKS)
Extra Tidbit: If you had to pick a favorite track from this film...like something that someone forced you to play on repeat for the rest of your natural life, which track would that be?
Source: JoBlo

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1:41PM on 01/18/2013
I actually loved the Thenardiers. Their scene was done perfectly. Loved the bargain between them and Hugh. (sasha stealing his hat makes me laugh every time)

Now I do think several key songs are missing on this and also...this is not really a good soundtrack to listen to. You need to see the performances with these voices. Hearing the voices, you might as well go with a pro stage version recording.

I actually loved the Thenardiers. Their scene was done perfectly. Loved the bargain between them and Hugh. (sasha stealing his hat makes me laugh every time)

Now I do think several key songs are missing on this and also...this is not really a good soundtrack to listen to. You need to see the performances with these voices. Hearing the voices, you might as well go with a pro stage version recording.

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1:39PM on 01/18/2013
Russel was visually impressive. But his best vocal parts aren't included on the soundtrack. (arresting fantine, the scene where Valjean lets him go)

Russel was visually impressive. But his best vocal parts aren't included on the soundtrack. (arresting fantine, the scene where Valjean lets him go)

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9:32AM on 01/18/2013
I too think Crowe was very weak for his vocals but his performance as Javert was well done. As for Cohen and Charter, I didn't care for them either. They felt flat and forced and lifeless and the finale scene with those two at the wedding was a waste.
I too think Crowe was very weak for his vocals but his performance as Javert was well done. As for Cohen and Charter, I didn't care for them either. They felt flat and forced and lifeless and the finale scene with those two at the wedding was a waste.
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8:29AM on 01/18/2013
I could not disagree more with this write-up. There is nothing impressive about Crowe's vocals and Cohen and Carter's version of "Master of the House" is a travesty compared to ANY stage performance you can find on YouTube. This was one of the most disastrous stage adaptations I've ever had the misfortune to witness (see Hullk's writeup as Badass Digest here [link] to fully understand how it fails as a film). In terms of the music, only Crowe, Hathaway and Banks have the pipes to pull off ">
I could not disagree more with this write-up. There is nothing impressive about Crowe's vocals and Cohen and Carter's version of "Master of the House" is a travesty compared to ANY stage performance you can find on YouTube. This was one of the most disastrous stage adaptations I've ever had the misfortune to witness (see Hullk's writeup as Badass Digest here [link] to fully understand how it fails as a film). In terms of the music, only Crowe, Hathaway and Banks have the pipes to pull off the songs... of course, most of the songs are lousy.

[link]
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1:41PM on 01/18/2013
Crowe has the pipes to pull of the songs? most of the songs are lousy?


Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but....everyone on this site is now stupider for having read yours.
Crowe has the pipes to pull of the songs? most of the songs are lousy?


Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but....everyone on this site is now stupider for having read yours.
2:17AM on 01/18/2013
As a lifelong fan of the musical, I enjoyed the film even in spite of its flaws, and went to get the highlights album. Thing is, there are some glaring omissions, such as Do You Hear the People Sing (essentially the theme song of the musical), Lovely Ladies, Who am I (an integral moment in the plot) and A Little Fall of Rain (probably my favourite song from the musical) - I wonder if the full, almost through-sung soundtrack will be released. The soundtrack doesn't work as well without the film
As a lifelong fan of the musical, I enjoyed the film even in spite of its flaws, and went to get the highlights album. Thing is, there are some glaring omissions, such as Do You Hear the People Sing (essentially the theme song of the musical), Lovely Ladies, Who am I (an integral moment in the plot) and A Little Fall of Rain (probably my favourite song from the musical) - I wonder if the full, almost through-sung soundtrack will be released. The soundtrack doesn't work as well without the film to go with it as the singing was recorded live on the set, so there's background noises and sound effects and things like the random girl moaning "ohhh Santa!" during Master of the House. It's also definitely a valid point that some of the singing is not great, especially when taken without the acting. With all due respect to the guy, I think I've had more fun mimicking Russell Crowe's stoic, head-cold tone than doing Bane impressions. Samantha Barks portrayed Eponine in the 25th anniversary concert at the 02 arena, so she's had experience playing the character and I was very relieved that she was cast over someone like Taylor Swift. I think my favourite track on this album is Eddie Redmayne's rendition of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" - he was outstanding in the film, and managed to give a performance that was gut-wrenching but brilliant-sounding at the same time.
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