Concerning spoilers: I avoided mentioning story plots in this review, but I have to address some concepts which you may not want to know.
The most recent movie in the Marvel superhero universe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, has a sad story behind it. It is the sequel to Black Panther, in which actor Chadwick Boseman portrayed the role of the hero Black Panther. Sadly he had been battling cancer for many years, and he lost that battle in August 2020. That means that Wakanda Forever was faced with two problems. The first was how it would fit the passing of the well-beloved actor into the story for this new film, and the second was who would take over the mantle as the new Black Panther.
One known fact beforehand was that Ludwig Goransson had returned to compose the music for Wakanda Forever. His music for Black Panther was well received. Especially his use of authentic African influences and hip-hop elements made that score stand out, so much so that it won an Oscar. Naturally, I was curious about what Goransson would write for the sequel.
The album is off to a strong start with “Nyana Wam.” It is a gorgeous track containing outstanding African elements, including vocalist Baaba Maal, who has also returned for this soundtrack. The beginning of the track is surprisingly uplifting, but it becomes more emotional in the second half. The cue ends with a gorgeous theme from the first movie and is a worthy goodbye to the previous Black Panther, but more importantly, the actor who has portrayed him for many years.
In “We Know What You Whisper,” you can hear the chants of African warriors, reflecting the power of the Wakandians, but in the middle part of the same track you can also hear a hint of the new Wakanda theme in bell-like sounds. In the latter half of “Welcome Home,” you can find the first instance of a more detailed version of the new theme after superb chanting by Baaba Maal. The new Wakanda theme is more formal than the old one, with a slower and steady percussion foundation and a different melody.
After the theme’s introduction, it does not reappear until the track “Wakanda Forever.” That cue starts with the rare occurrence of the old Black Panther theme before loud electronic elements kick in. Afterwards, the electronic sounds transform into the melody of the new Wakanda theme, linking the new Wakanda and the reborn Black Panther, just as the previous Black Panther/Wakanda theme did. Especially when the African elements join in for support, the new theme sounds complete. If you listen closely to the notes, you can even hear some resemblance to the Killmonger theme, making the theme even more special.
After its reintroduction, the theme starts to appear more often. In “Blood for Blood,” the melody is dark and moody. In “Vengeance Has Consumed Us,” the theme sounds sad in a gorgeous orchestral variant before the triumphant finale kicks in with the old Wakanda theme. It is not the only place where you can hear the old version, as it also appears in the last track, “T’Challa,” hidden in a gorgeous acoustic guitar play.
The new Black Panther/Wakanda theme is not the only remarkable aspect of the film music for Wakanda Forever. Another fascinating concept in the music are the influences of a culture different from the African one, namely Central-American culture, which is tied to the antagonist Namor and his people. You can hear these influences in many tracks: for the first time in “Sirens” after impressive chanting by female vocalists and with percussion and other instruments from that region.
Namor also gets his own theme, which can be heard in “Namor.” The theme’s foundation is laid by many ominous-sounding noises performed on wind and percussion instruments that are tied to the Mayan culture. The melody is interestingly simple, with only three notes played on these ethnic instruments.
The Namor theme, together with all the other concepts, like the war chanting of the Wakandians, both Wakanda themes, and other Central-American and African influences, form the foundation of the score. They all perfectly reflect the events on screen. Especially in the music for the two action sequences, “Imperius Rex” and “Yibambe!,” all the elements are combined very well.
After all these different aspects of the score, I still have two things to discuss. One of them is the songs in the film, which are “They Want It, But No,” “Árboles Bajo El Mar” and “Con La Brisa.” All of them are beautifully integrated into the score for the movie. The second and last aspect I want to mention is the handful of emotional tracks. They are “He Wasn’t There,” Lift Me Up” and “Mama.” Their emotional effect is achieved by sad melodies and stunning performances of different female vocalists.
This review is one of the longer ones I have written about a single score. I would have laughed if someone had told me that before I watched the movie. The music was so different and less melodic than the first Black Panther, that I did not know what to write about it. But, after seeing the movie, it made more sense. Additionally, the extra knowledge about the plot made listening to the score again a fascinating experience and made me eager to write about it.
Many recent video game and movie sequels have music by composers who have written the music for the respective previous installments. Often there is little to write about because the themes, the instrumentation, and the overall feel of the music are often the same. This is different here. Wakanda Forever is a very different movie from Black Panther, and Goransson’s fundamentally different score reflects that brilliantly. In addition, there is much thought behind every cue, as was already the case with Black Panther, resulting in a different, but just as brilliant, score for Wakanda Forever.
Listen or buy
The highlights are in bold.
- Nyana Wam (3:59)
- We Know What You Whisper (2:35)
- Sirens (3:56)
- Welcome Home (2:10)
- Lift Me Up (Score Version) (1:08)
- He Wasn’t There (1:21)
- Namor (3:41)
- They Want It, But No – Film Version (4:13)
- Árboles Bajo El Mar – Film Version (6:29)
- Lost to the Depths (1:29)
- Con La Brisa – Film Version (2:40)
- Yucatán (1:41)
- Let Us Burn It Together (3:40)
- This Will Mean War (2:08)
- Namor’s Throne (2:14)
- Imperius Rex (7:40)
- Mama (4:42)
- Who Did You See? (3:12)
- Wakanda Forever (2:34)
- Blood for Blood (1:27)
- Yibambe! (7:24)
- Sink the Ship (3:51)
- It Could Have Been Different (1:53)
- Vengeance Has Consumed Us (4:04)
- Alliance (1:46)
- T’Challa (1:25)
Total length: 1 hour and 23 minutes
Hollywood Records (2022)