The Gaffer’s Elite: Credits Songs

Gaffer Gamgee

Ranking all things Middle-earth

After going through some of the most beautiful and emotional cinematic shots in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings last week, it’s time to switch back to the music category. We’ve all been there: screen fades to black and the score swells up to greet the text and title captions fade in and out. This is a slightly tedious experience during most cinema viewings, but when it came to the Middle-earth films, we fans were glued to our seats – not only to go through the names of the hardworking team behind them, but also to listen to the end credits songs.

Suffice to say, they’re all special in their own way; but like any other piece of music, there’s always one that precedes the other; the chills and emotions are stronger and run deeper. Which reminds me. After several posts from The Gaffer’s Elite, I’ve realised it would be much more exciting and suspenseful to leave the top choices last. Sure, you can always scroll immediately to the bottom to reveal the favourites, but at least I’ve tried my best.

And yes there are 7 songs listed below, even though there are only 6 films and hence 6 end credits songs; but you’ll see why in a minute.

  1. “Gollum’s Song” by Emiliana TorriniEmiliana Torrini Gollum's Song

    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

It’s a very James Bond type of song. It’s stirring, melancholic and slightly creepy. The perfect way to encapsulate the character of Gollum. I’m no music expert, but Torrini has got some sensational vocals, which turn this song into something otherworldly and enrapturing. For some reason this is perhaps the song I’ve heard the least. It’s beautiful and captivating, but somehow I could never fully embrace it’s attractive qualities. I’ll remedy that next time I see The Two Towers. I really can’t explain it, but listening to it conveys a strong nostalgic sentiment.

  1. “I See Fire” by Ed SheeranEd Sheeran I See Fire

    The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Undoubtedly the odd-one-out from the two trilogies. It’s more pop song than a fantasy film song. Still, Ed Sheeran proves he can sing – and rather wonderfully. As I said, I’m no expert when it comes to music and singing in general, but it seems to me that Sheeran packs a punch through his soft and calm vocals. In addition, the song’s got an addictive rhythm to it – those guitar strings are so catchy…

  1. “Song of the Lonely Mountain” by Neil FinnNeil Finn Song of the Lonely Mountain

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Reminiscent of a folk tune or a ballad, Neil Finn’s spin on the “Misty Mountains” theme rounds off the first Hobbit film with a fitting conclusion. It’s less Dwarvish and somber than the Armitage performance, but more uplifting and equally stirring. It’s a song that promises an exciting continuation to the journey undertaken. The beats are addictive and the chorus throughout is the cherry on the cake. All together now … Ay Yay Yay Ya!

  1. “Into the West” by Annie LennoxAnnie Lennox Oscars

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

This is the only song where the music, singing performance and lyrics could have matched the significance and emotional resonance of the story in The Lord of the Rings and its conclusion at the Grey Havens. It’s spot on. Annie Lennox has perhaps got the most powerful voice out of all the other singers from this franchise – capable of reaching astonishing tonal levels. Shore’s music captures the euphoric complexities of the Sea, whilst the lyrics bring a weight to the whole listening experience. It’s very Tolkienesque in its execution and strongly reflects the themes in his works. For many years after 2003, this was number one on my list; and whilst it did not decrease in power and beauty, my perceptions on other songs grew stronger and surpassed this timeless piece.

  1. “Use Well the Days” by Annie Lennox

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

I’ll admit it. I think this song is better than “Into the West”. Now, before my comment is branded as blasphemous, I still think the latter is definitely a more fitting, and no-less perfect, closing song for The Return of the King. Technically, “Use Well the Days” shouldn’t even qualify in the list, having been abandoned by the filmmakers for its lacking sense of closure. Whatever the reason, this is perhaps more of a tear-jerker than its successor. It instills hope and good fortune for the future, whilst at the same time acknowledging a heartfelt farewell. *sniff*sniff*

  1. “May it be” Enyaenya may it be

    The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

It’s December 2001 and you’ve just watched Frodo and Sam walk towards the gloom of Mordor in the distance. The screen fades to black and you relax in your seat thinking what a one-of-a-kind film you’ve just experienced. That’s when Enya’s song kicks in and envelopes you with its warmth and good-feel vibe. Enya is pretty much the quintessential solo musician. If we could listen to Elvish music and singing in the real world, it would be along the lines of Enya’s impressive discography. And the fact that it contains two verses sung in Quenya is nothing short of awesome.

  1. “The Last Goodbye” by Billy BoydBilly Boyd Last Goodbye

    The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

This is the key song upon which hinges the connection between the two special trilogies. It was an arduous task for the songwriters to try and craft a tune and a set of lyrics that are both a ‛goodbye’ as well as an introduction to the darker world in The Lord of the Rings; and boy were they successful. There’s also a nice significance in having Billy sing this song – considering his association with Rings and what he must have felt like to return to Middle-earth for yet another last time. The intermingling between the guitar and the violin, especially towards the third act of the song, is just superb. It’s almost impossible to describe the emotions behind such an elevated sense of beauty. How would YOU rank these songs? Share your thoughts below …

Next week we’ll be looking at favourite locations in Middle-earth.

This one’s going to be a chore 😀

Copyright of all images belongs to Warner Bros., MGM Studios and New Line Cinema

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14 thoughts on “The Gaffer’s Elite: Credits Songs

  1. Great list! I might nudge “Into the West” to the top, but it’s a close contest between it, “May It Be,” and “The Last Goodbye.” “The Last Goodbye” seems almost as much (or more!) about the actual film productions than about the stories. Probably too modern to really fit in Middle Earth itself, but beautiful on its own. I love that Billy Boyd sings it, especially after the amazing work he did with “Edge of Night” in “The Return of the King.” Interestingly, some of the most effective parts of “The Last Goodbye” seem to echo musical themes from “Into the West.”

    “May It Be” is probably the most quintessential LOTR film song, the most instantly recognizable (at least for those of us who were there when the first movie came out). It’s almost so obvious as to be easily overlooked. It’s so beautiful, though. Peaceful, a touch melancholic, but hopeful. Very much like what I would expect some Elvish music to sound like. And it perfectly caps the ending to Fellowship, when both the characters and audience are sad after so much hardship, but we want to be hopeful for the future. The music both acknowledges the tragedies that have happened (Gandalf dying, Boromir falling and then dying, the Fellowship sundered, Shadows growing, an amazing film ending…) while giving us that hope and encouragement we need to go on.

    I wasn’t even aware of “Use Well the Days”! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. It’s quite beautiful, and the lyrics are gorgeous too. “Into the West” is probably the better choice for ending the films, but I wish there was a way for them to use this song also, if only to get it more exposure.

    “Song of the Lonely Mountain” is great too. That “ay yai yah yah” is great, and always conjures up the strength, suffering, and yearning that seem part and parcel of Dwarven culture. Granted, that’s also part of Elvish culture, but the song expresses the Dwarven side of it quite well.

    “I See Fire” is a fine pop song, and I do like it, but yeah, it doesn’t quite fit the tone of the stories. They probably should have replaced it with something more fitting and left “I See Fire” for an extended soundtrack.

    I’ve always thought “Gollum’s Song” was under-appreciated. Back when we first heard it, my friends were all confused as to why anyone would want a song from Gollum’s perspective, and why get a woman with an unusual voice to sing such a strange, sad tune? But even though it seemed like an odd idea, the song always spoke very strongly to me. It’s so mournful and melancholy, so sad and desperate; a sinful soul crying out for help in the darkness, hoping to be heard. It’s a beautiful expression of Gollum’s soul, probably as the way only Iluvatar can see it. Not that it justifies Gollum’s evil actions, but it shows just how much pain and loneliness he suffered as a result of them. Makes me reflect on my own sin and its consequences, and of how Christ did hear my cry.

  2. Great post! I like the song “Into the West,” because the lyrics are great, but I cannot stand Annie Lennox’s voice. When I saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform RotK live with the movie last summer, the soloist they had sing the song was much, much better than Lennox. I believe that same soloist was also chosen by Howard Shore himself to sing the song at an awards show at which he was honored. Enya’s “May it Be” is still my favorite, with “The Last Goodbye” at a very close second.

    • I know others who, for some reason, don’t like Lennox’s voice. I can’t say I’m a follower of her music but the songs I’ve heard her sing are rather good; combining her voice with Into the West was fantastic imho 🙂

  3. Into The West will always be my favourite, always end up in tears listening to it. It’s just such a beautiful song. Never heard of Use Well the Days until you mentioned it! I think they were right to use Into The West instead, but Use Well the Days is a great song 🙂
    I loved Song of the Lonely Mountain, it’s just so catchy and it has so much strength to it. You can imagine a whole group of people cheering and singing to it.
    I’m going to be honest, The Last Goodbye has yet to grow on me. But then I wasn’t so sure about Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire when I first heard it, so I won’t be surprised if it eventually comes one of my favourites.

    • I had similar reservations for Ed Sheeran’s song; and still do, to a certain extent; but admittedly the song has grown on me. The Last Goodbye was an instant success with me and has become a wonderful listening experience 😀

      • The Last Goodbye did bring tears to my eyes in the cinema to be fair, but I think I just need to give it a fair chance and rewatch BOTFA a good few times before I can compare it to Into The West. I’ve watched ROTK so many times I’ll have to replace the DVD soon!

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