Soundtrack Review: tick, tick… BOOM!
Katie Jones reviews the tick, tick… BOOM! soundtrack.
Featuring the music of the celebrated Rent composer Jonathan Larson, tick, tick… BOOM! has it all – punchy belters, heartfelt ballads, and introspective dives into the mind of an artist struggling to realise his purpose. The soundtrack to the 2021 film, directed by fellow Broadway darling Lin-Manual Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield, is joyous in its capturing of the film’s spirit.
The album contains most of the songs featured in the film with one notable exception. Fans all over social media are up in arms at the exclusion of a Superbia medley. As it is likely the closest there will be to a production of Superbia, it is shame that a cheesy 80s synth medley of the workshop is missing. It’s disappointing more of the background music is not present. The track accompanying Susan’s dance performance early in the film is Larson’s song Rhapsody, it would have been great for that to exist as an additional bonus track. Speaking of bonus tracks, whilst Joshua Henry’s version of Green Green Dress works perfectly in the film, the inclusion of the original version featuring Garfield and Alexandra Shipp on the album is brilliant and provides space for the fun, frivolous song without it extending the runtime of the movie.
For fans of the 2001 tick, tick… BOOM! musical, this soundtrack may come as quite a surprise. The track listing is very different, featuring songs that were in Larson’s original one-man show that were cut for the musical and removing a couple entirely. Most of these changes really serve the pacing and storytelling. The cut song See Her Smile is beautiful but adds very little to the story that isn’t found in Johnny Can’t Decide. The reintroduced songs Swimming and Play Game work well and show another side of Larson’s writing. Play Game skilfully manages to walk the line between being incredibly cringy and an honest expression of his frustration at the state of Broadway.
detailed without verging on parody
There are several lyric differences across the three version of tick, tick… BOOM! some of which work, some really don’t. The most egregious of the changes made for this soundtrack is the complete gutting of Boho Days. The original is double the length of the new version, and features extended lyrics about Larson’s cats, and verses on gentrification. The way the song was integrated into the film is effective at bringing us into the world of the struggling artist, but the full lyrics could have featured on the soundtrack recording.
Garfield’s performance as Jon is detailed without verging on parody. Of the many recent musical biopics, his performance captures the artists intention with their lyrics with the greatest skill. It’s especially impressive considering this to be his first professional musical, giving a standout performance even amongst Broadway veterans. He’s certainly earned his Golden Globe and the Oscar buzz. The supporting cast performances are broadly great, although Come to Your Senses sounds very odd as a duet between Shipp and Vanessa Hudgens without the context of the film.
The moments in which the production aims to be sweeping and grand unfortunately fall flat and cheapen their impact (Sunday and Real Life), whereas when it pulls back and allows the songs to stand on their own merit (Why, Therapy, Louder Than Words), they are able to truly shine. Overall, the tick, tick… BOOM! soundtrack is a very good accompaniment to the film. The songs, whilst often lyrically simple, are beautiful in their sincerity, and tell a heartfelt and relatable story.