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Titanic
The boat sank, not Horner's score. -Isaac Engelhorn (12/5/2001)
Note: This is much more than a review. It is an essay on why all people who claim to support film music should at least acknowledge the importance of this score and what its success has meant for us as film music fans. In this essay, I will address my feelings regarding James Horner's situation as a man who more often than not, will use music that is not his or music that he has already written to support other films.
Track List:
  1. Never an Absolution 3:03
  2. Distant Memories 2:24
  3. Southhampton 4:02
  4. Rose 2:52
  5. Leaving Port 3:26
  6. "Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch" 4:31
  7. "Hard to Starboard" 6:52
  8. Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave 3:57
  9. The Sinking 5:05
  10. Death of Titanic 8:26
  11. A Promise Kept 6:03
  12. A Life So Changed 2:13
  13. An Ocean of Memories 7:58
  14. My Heart Will Go On 5:11
  15. Hymn to the Sea 6:26

Total Time: (72:33)

Composed by:
James Horner

Orchestrated by:
James Horner,
Don Davis

Conducted by:
James Horner

I realize that it's taken much longer than it should have to actually review this CD. Chances are that if you are reading this review or have ever seen the movie (which about everyone has at this point) that you most likely own this disc already. This only goes to show just how popular this score and what spawned it have become, and just how infamous the legacy of Titanic is. Now though, that legacy will forever bear the name "James Horner" in the minds of many, though most pop fans who know of this album seem to always think of Celine Dion.

The popularity of this music simply cannot go unnoticed. This is the single highest-selling score album of all time, and it is so for a reason. Many detractors of this score seem to be missing one key thing that it takes to recognize good music, at least where this CD is concerned: an unbiased ear. Not unbiased *towards* the composer or music, but in this case *against*. How many people have you noticed on various soundtrack message boards or chat rooms across the internet raving about how "bad" or just plain "awful" this score is? The truth of the matter is that Titanic is a landmark score in not just the history of film music, but in the history of all music, and deciding to turn your opinion sour on the subject is going to do more than simply make you not enjoy an emminently enjoyable piece of work; it gets far worse than that. Don't get me wrong, I believe that this as music could have been improved on in certain ways and I probably would not have even considered it a classic before it gained unprecedented popularity, but now that it has, all people *should* be able to admit that it is even more than a phenomenon. It is a timeless classic among classics. Such a work that could inspire this kind of a popular response can only do good things for us as film music fans, yet despite this fact, many people have turned their backs on the sheer notion of even liking Titanic, which I personally think is incredibly sad, and only makes me understand all the more why people who are not fans of film music may look at us funny when they find out that we are.

If you have read only a little of my website, you know that I consider myself a huge Horner fan. This is true of the Horner *before* 1999, but not after, which is something you should keep in mind from now on. Because of this, there is one thing that I can say that is negative about this score regarding its popularity: It has made Horner lazy. Of course many, many people in the film music community have considered him lazy and boring for years, but in my opinion, this only started to become true after the man had achieved the success that rarely comes to any man, much less a composer of orchestral music! Anyone interested in the subject of Horner's borrowings knows that the man has been responsible for some major ones over the years, but it wasn't until Bicentennial Man in 1999 that he finally dove off the deep end and completely forgot about "composing" and decided that music that already exists would always be fine for what it was that he was trying to do, and despite the fact that he has always done it well, it is hard to say that the way he goes about supporting feature films nowadays is ethical. This is the real problem I have with Horner: he could borrow and borrow to his heart's content if he were to announce publically that he no longer cares about new music and is just going to go about arranging existing music. We know this isn't going to happen, but it's never too late to give up on Horner. I have no doubt that he will *someday* realize that he's going to go down in history as "the late 20th and early 21st century composer who borrowed all the time". I look forward to that day, believe me. I just hope that it happens sometime before he retires so he can mend his ways and write more classic original material.

Another thing that bothers me about certain attacks on Horner are that they are attacks on his talent rather than his character. I personally think that James Horner is devoid of morals, but I know for a fact that he has more talent than a good 95% of the rest of film composers out there. This is, after all, the same man who gave us Star Trek II, Krull, Brainstorm, Aliens, Cocoon, Battle Beyond the Stars and many other classics that any fan of film music would care to mention. How then, can anyone claim that Horner has no talent? Like I said, he has more talent than 95% of the other composers in Hollywood; his popularity is proof of that. It's his system of ethics that needs worked on. Just keep that in mind so that the next time you decide to insult the man, you have good reason to and are not insulting him for the wrong reason.

Now that I've finally gotten out of rant mode, I can finally say that Titanic is one of the best film music compositions of 1997. Just so everyone knows, this score is a perfect showcase of just how Horner likes to score his dramas: with elegant simplicity. To be honest, I would not want a huge, complex score for a movie such as this. The film wasn't really complicated after all, and it is my belief (and it always has been) that Horner is the single finest orchestrator in the business. Yes, he uses the most common chord progressions frequently, but it has been stated, and is true, that Horner isn't really in this to make a spectactularly new and innovative score, he's in this to support the film. It is his job, so if you don't like that, tough, but at least admit that the man knows what he's doing.

The synth style of the music itself has been another topic of controversy. Personally, I don't mind it, but if you or someone you know doesn't like it, you should just keep in mind that it is all a matter of taste, and that one man's opinion is a valid as the next. I have read dozens of posts on various soundtrack message boards debating the effectiveness of the synth, and have seen all sorts of different viewpoints from all different angles. Like I said, it's about taste. That's all there is to it.

The song at the end, "My Heart Will Go On" is certainly the single track most responsible for the sales of this album. Though I like the song, I've tired of hearing it (and who hasn't), but it is not the song itself that makes me worry completely about the state of music today, it is "popular culture's" regard for it. As far as most are concerned, the song exists because Celine Dion exists, and they have no idea who is truly responsible. I saw a special program on VH1 while flipping through channels recently that listed the "top 50 soundtracks of all time". As you may have guessed, when Titanic was reached the only name mentioned was Celine Dion's. No composer mentioned whatsoever. One can only hope that all of those pop junkies who bought the album at least noticed a couple of words on the front cover. These words are *not* "James Horner" or "Titanic"; the words are "*composed* and *conducted* by". This at least gives some indication that the music featured here was at the very least more than the standard that these people are used to. This is "real" music, not just sound quickly whipped together to please people. It did please people, but as I've already mentioned, it supported the film above all else. That, friends, is my opinion. Just because many are biased against Horner, the effectiveness is still dependent on peoples' taste. We know that the populace actually knows little of film music, even though they hear it almost constantly. The film in this case is incredibly reliant on its score to provide people with raw emotion, much like Glory, another score who's effectiveness depends upon the opinions of the people who hear it, much like *any other film score ever written*!

If I were to have reviewed this when it was initially released, I probably would have given it an 8.0 or an 8.5 rating because I liked it a lot though I didn't feel that it would be a classic, but as just a short space of time has proven, it is a classic and it always will be. For that, this score deserves no less than a 9.5 rating. If you think that's unfair, take a look at Roger Ebert's review of the rerelease of the film Star Wars. He gives it four out of four stars and critics *hated* that movie when it first came out. Time and popularity change opinions of various things and Horner's score for Titanic is no exception. Some opinions of this have gone down while others have gone up. Count mine in the latter group.


Titanic is Copyright 1997 Sony Classical. Produced by James Horner. This review is written by and is the property of Isaac Engelhorn and does not reflect the opinions of Tripod.