Soundtrack Information

American Beauty

American Beauty

DreamWorks Records

Release Date: October 5, 1999

Format: CD

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Track Listing

1. Dead Already (Thomas Newman) 3:17
2. Because (Elliott Smith) 2:20
3. Free To Go (The Folk Implosion) 3:31
4. All Right Now (Free) 5:29
5. Use Me (Bill Withers) 3:42
6. Cancer for the Cure (Eels) 4:44
7. The Seeker (The Who) 3:24
8. Don't Rain On My Parade (Bobby Darin) 2:55
9. Open The Door (Betty Carter) 3:12
10. We Haven't Turned Around (Gomez) 6:28
11. Bali Ha'i (Peggy Lee) 3:10
12. Any Other Name (Thomas Newman) 4:09
  Total Album Time: 46:21

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Review: American Beauty

by James Barry May 10, 2003
3.5 / 5 Stars

By and large, the film score enthusiast looks upon the compilation soundtrack album with great disdain, often even disgust. "Why all these songs?", he asks. Where's the rest of the score (this is assuming there's any score on the album to begin with)? How do record companies get off marketing a soundtrack to a film that actually features very little music from the film?

Well, folks, it makes money. We film music lovers are a minority indeed, whereas pop culture has proven time and again that it is a majority. Rock music is more accessible to John Q. Public than Thomas Newman ... but to my ears, they get along quite nicely on this little disc.

When I heard that there would be a release featuring just Newman's score in a few weeks' time, I was thrilled, and I am looking forward to it. Still and all, if there had been no score release, I think that the seven minutes of score on this album represent the best in the film, and represent the complete score pretty well. "Dead Already" is catchy as all get out, and gets the album off to a rousing start. Its driving minimalist percussion fit the film perfectly, and a smile crossed my face every time some variant of this theme started playing. "By Any Other Name" could be called soothing, almost new age - it passes without incident, but is still quite beautiful.

As for the songs, they are generally not at all unpleasant, and most of them actually had some role in the film. Three that top my list are Elliott Smith's rendition of the Beatles' "Because" which took awhile to grow on me. Still, it gives me the creeps a bit, but it was quite a way to start the end credits roll. "Free to Go" makes me glad to be alive, despite lyrics that might be trying for another reaction; it's got an up-beat feel to it that I quite enjoy. Finally, having Free's "All Right Now" is reason enough for me to keep this album around even after the score's been released. It's an oldie, but a goodie. One minor disappointment is that with a trailer campaign that made such genius use of "Baba O'Riley" by The Who, it is unfortunate that they didn't include it on this album.

All in all, we soundtrack lovers made out quite nicely with this whole deal. Not only is there to be a score release, but the song album is quite enjoyable as well. Give it a listen.

Review: American Beauty (score)

by Dan Goldwasser December 13, 1999
3.5 / 5 Stars

Thomas Newman has just received a Golden Globe nomination for his score to American Beauty. In what has to be wonderful timing, Dreamworks Records is releasing a score album in January - just in time for all the voters to check it out separate from the film. A unique film, American Beauty showed us the darker side of suburbia, and that not all is how it seems. If you haven't seen the film, what I'm about to say won't ruin it. If you've seen the film, you know that Kevin Spacey's character dies. He tells you this at the very beginning of the film, and the main title track is appropriately titled "Dead Already".

This main title truly shows off the scoring approach to the film - a lot of percussive and rhythmic phrases, in this case performed by vibraphones and guitars. Much of the score is unique compared to some other Thomas Newman scores - the closest one it comes to is Unstrung Heroes. But there are some parts that deserve plenty of notice - and it's those parts that I'm sure you'll be noticing as well. First up is the very somber and atmospheric "Mental Boy", in which Newman showcases his abilities for simple piano themes, but in this case it is truly a moving melody. It makes another reprise in "Angela Undress", and is just as powerful there. In the film, of course, it works wonders. The title track, "American Beauty" is played over video footage of a garbage bag caught in a wind vortex, and while it fits under the typical Thomas Newman shtick (soft piano and "holding" strings) and might not be powerful on it's own, this has to be one of the more moving pieces of music I've ever heard when accompanied with the images and narration which appear on screen. Truly a film score which works amazingly with the film.

There are also plenty of tracks which highlight the percussive tone in the main title: "Bloodless Freak" and "Weirdest Home Videos" have the vibe thing going on, while "Root Beer", "Choking the Bishop", and "Spartanette" have a very high timber guitar and percussion thing going on, which is rather hard to explain - you have to hear it. "Any Other Name" reprises the themes we heard in "American Beauty", and "Still Dead" brings us back to a more "peppy" and energetic verion of the main title reprise for the final epilogue.

Running about 37 minutes long, this album really didn't need to be any longer - it was quite enjoyable as is. American Beauty looks like it might do rather well at the Golden Globes, and come Oscar time, I'm sure it will do rather well then as well. In the meantime, go pick up this album (and the other album with the songs). I'm sure you'll be pleased you did.

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