Ranking all things Middle-earth
Welcome to another installment of the Gaffer’s Elite. Last week we outlined the top cinematic battles from Middle-earth. This time, we’ll be looking at the songs.
I have had to limit myself by listing only appropriately termed songs. As much as they are beautiful, no melodies featured as background music in the films have been named – perhaps for another post …
These are songs specifically characterised by being vocal compositions sung by a character or an ensemble during the films.
Now if only they’d recorded the Elves singing “O Tra la la lally…”
**Updated: Includes Éowyn’s Lament. Big thumbs up to Denzel Caragos for jogging my memory!**
1. Misty Mountains – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Need I say more? I’m pretty sure the vast majority of fans will name this as one of their favourites. But in case someone disagrees, here’s why it takes the top spot. The deep-throated, Dwarven-themed tune emits the essential qualities of the Dwarvish race: proud, loyal, majestic, tough and solemn. It is the perfect composition that signals the start of a unique adventure whixh poses the ultimate danger; and successfully conveys this through its brooding tone throughout.
2. Elendil’s Oath – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Somewhat akin to Richard Armitage’s deep-voiced recital, Viggo Mortensen delivers his ancestor’s Oath in an emotional rendition, whereby the newly crowned King of Gondor promises the renewal of better days. The words flow profusely and intertwine with Howard Shore’s symphonic notes. And to top it all off, it is sung in the sophisticated and musical elvish language of Quenya.
3. “To the bottle I go!” – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
There’s nothing better than a quiet pint at the end of a summer’s day, in the Green Dragon. This is undoubtedly the quintessential pub song fit for friends and reunions. Its hearty and comedic tune is sure to lift anyone’s spirits.
4. Éowyn’s Lament – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Who could have thought Miranda Otto could sing so well – and in Old English? Channeling the spirit of Rohan (and the evocative world of Anglo Saxon England), the lament for Théodred is a standout moment in The Two Towers. Poignant, stirring and powerful, this is one of the most exquisite of sung pieces conceived in these trilogies.
5. “The Man in the Moon” – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Another pub song here: Jimmy Nesbitt was born to sing (and perform) this tune. Aided by the chorus of Dwarven companions, you can’t help but clap and stamp to the rising crescendo and upbeat rhythm.
6. “Blunt the Knives” – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Yet another one of those hearty songs that simply compels you to join the fun! Fast, catchy and fun, combined with the dynamic and colourful visuals, I’m pretty sure this scene from the film would make Professor Tolkien proud.
7. Edge of Night – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
From lively songs to a melancholic tune, highlighting the emotional narrative of The Lord of the Rings. Billy Boyd proves he can sing beautifully: giving this outstanding sequence the necessary amount of gravitas to emphasize the recklessness of the Steward of Gondor.
8. The Green Dragon Song – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Similar to the “Hey Ho! To the bottle I go!” tune sung by the hobbits, this piece is equally enjoyable, but lacks the essence of the other. Perhaps it’s the intentional non-synchronised lines between Pippin and Merry at the “but you’ll never find a beer so brown”; which seems to weaken the rhythm of the tune. Nonetheless, it is a pleasant song that provides the necessary warmth to the gloomy atmosphere prior to the coming of the storm.
9. Gollum’s Song – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Even twisted and lonely creatures like Gollum have time to perfect the art of singing. In a gloomy cave deep beneath the Misty Mountains, Bilbo was witness to Gollum’s first rendition of a rather charming – if creepy – tune. A similar composition surfaces in The Two Towers as the pitiful creature enjoys a feast of fish in the Forbidden Pool. In both cases, the tune is dark, rhythmic and intriguing: turning into something amusing and comedic thanks to Andy Serkis’ performance and not-up-to-scratch vocals. Try singing this tune whilst attempting a Gollum impersonation. Guaranteed you’ll freak people out.
10. “Down, down, down to Goblin Town” – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
At least Gollum can manage to sustain a tone here and there; yet the same cannot be said of the Great Goblin. Barry Humphries was adamant that his lack of singing abilities should be channeled to his on-screen CGI character – a wise choice, in my opinion. The Great Goblin’s voice screams out in the cavernous spaces of Goblin Town – transforming the whole performance into a brilliantly horrendous series of screams and shrills. That said, I simply love this tune. The goblins joining into the fray as part of the chorus is pretty neat. Accompanied by some exciting visuals, this is a wonderful scene that always manages to bring a smile. (Pity it ends off with something akin to a rock song …)
11. Treebeard’s Song – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Perhaps boring for some, but that is ultimately the intention. We all know Treebeard is a loving creature who’s Middle-earth motto of not being hasty is reflected in his dialogues and, in this case, singing choices. What appears to be a slow, drawn-out, recital is actually a lovely and nostalgic tune – especially when taking into consideration the context in which it is sung, and the Ent’s fruitless search for the Entwives.
Next week, Middle-earth’s most beautiful cinematic shots…
Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros. Studios, MGM Studios and New Line Cinema
13 thoughts on “The Gaffer’s Elite! Songs”
I was a little surprised that Aniron, In dreams, and May it be weren’t on the list. It might be surprising, but I listen to “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way.” a lot–mostly on Mondays. That is the cartoon though, so does that count?
Ah! Thanks Toni, that’s for another upcoming post for ‘Credit songs’ 😉
Looking forward to it.
Billy Boyd: Last Goodbye!
Good choices! I had completely forgotten about Treebeard’s song.
What do you mean by “no melodies featured as background music in the films have been named”? That’s not entirely true. Each of the different, individual themes (or leitmotifs) of the soundtracks have been given names by Howard Shore and Doug Adams (see the soundtrack liner notes and Adams’ wonderful book, The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films).
Hey Andrew, what I mean is that tracks like “Anirion”, the music playing during the fall of Gandalf in Moria, etc will not be included. This post is entirely focused on songs sung by the characters in the films only.
Nice! Will you be adding Eowyn’s lament for Theodred in another post?
Eowyn’s Lament! How could I forget that! Thanks Denzel … adding this now
I was very disappointed that the extended version of AUJ did not include more of dwarves singing ‘… away ere break of day …’. Very atmospheric.
Another great list! My favorites are Misty Mountain and Edge of Night. Both incredibly poignant and powerful.