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.
“Gollum’s Song” by Emiliana Torrini
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.
“I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran
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…
“Song of the Lonely Mountain” by Neil Finn
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!
“Into the West” by Annie Lennox
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.
“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*
“May it be” Enya
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.
“The Last Goodbye” by Billy Boyd
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