Album Review: Willy Wonka Wuns Wild On The New Movie Soundtrack WONKA

Willy’s Whacky Owigins Sound Alwight

By: Jan. 12, 2024
Album Review: Willy Wonka Wuns Wild On The New Movie Soundtrack WONKA

Album Review: Willy Wonka Wuns Wild On The New Movie Soundtrack WONKA Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, welcome back to Bobby’s CD sandbox where we offer our broken-down breakdowns of new music releases. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

This week’s album entry in the BobbyFiles comes from the latest Wonka-vated film based on Roald Dahl’s timelessly eccentric chocolatier, Willy Wonka. WONKA is a new movie telling the origin story of the titular Candyman, and it is a bonafide musical with original tunes by Neil Hannon, and an orchestral score composed by Joby Talbot, with some familiar look-ins from Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, composers for the 1971 Gene Wilder vehicle WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. These fine bits of musical nostalgia are not just poignant trivia, they are important moments of familiarity that bring heartfelt emotions to listeners, binding the two films together across 52 years and conveying the notion that what we hear (& presumably see) in 2023 will lead into what is to come in 1971. If that reads back to front, well, that is the nature of prequels. But the music of WONKA, while meant for a new audience (principally made up of children), has been crafted to bring us all the warm, rainbow-fuzzy feels, and trust little Bobby, we would know. Within the Bricusse/Newley tunes, Hannon has contributed new lyrics apropos to this origin story.

From the very beginning, we are given PURE IMAGINATION (OPENING TITLES VERSION) - Opening with an instrumental of the Bricusse/Newley tune was not only touching and affecting from the git-go, but smart. To establish that familiarity for the listener draws us right in, no matter how cynical we may be. Much later in the album (cut 18), we hear PURE IMAGINATION sung by the latest young talent phenom, Timothée Chalamet, whose youthful voice is not the trumpet sound of OG Willy, Gene Wilder, but it is a heartfelt contemplative sound singing new lyrics (mostly). For this moment in WONKA, Hannon has made this a realization song showing Willy stepping onto the road of the Mr. Wonka we know he will become. The world he is headed for (willingly or not) is coming into focus. Yes, yes… Timothée’s voice has limits, but he is YOUNG and they are of non-effect here. Cut 14 is the other lift from the 1971 film, OOMPA LOOMPA, with Hugh Grant grumpily singing the back story of how WW pinched the chocolate beans from Loompaland, and he’s been sent to retrieve their one commodity. Hugh sounds fine, vocally but, ya know… grumpy, and given his interviews, where he stated he hated to process of being an Oompa Loompa for the film, it’s kind of fitting.

A HATFUL OF DREAMS is cut two on the album and it is all Hannon’s. This is a tuneful and rhythmically fun intro to Willy himself, and to Chalamet’s pleasant singing voice, yet another skill added to this young star’s talent belt. He has a lot of heart in his voice and he  makes you smile really big with this number. SWEET TOOTH is a novelty number with a quartette of comedy pros - 3 of Brittain’s Best, Patterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, and Matthew Baynton, and America's own Keegan-Michael Key. all singing about the joys of sweets and how they cannot be denied. This is the evil chocolate cartel trying to influence the law (Key) in order to bring down Wonka. A WORLD OF YOUR OWN is this film’s PURE IMAGINATION, a song of its very own to touch hearts with the message of love and chocolate. It is a lovely song where Willy. in his first chocolate shop. is creating an environment of escape and freedom to be a child or to free the child within you. There are puzzle pieces and pastiches from Broadway musicals past. rolled into a song tailored for the voice of this young star. All of Hannon’s songs are just that, in fact, tailored to this film, its cast, and its vision of young Willy Wonka just starting out. creating his dreams of sweets. and a finely tailored suit it is. All of his music is enjoyable and runs up and down the scale from hilarity to heartwarming. 

Wonka is not limited to the work of Neil Hannon or his music and lyrics, though: there is an orchestral score to enjoy, too.  With 43 composing credits on his current CV, Joby Talbot seems ideally suited to the task of bringing WONKA to life in the 13 instrumental cuts on the album.  A quick listen (or a luxurious one) to the Talbot contributions of the album indicates a composer with a knack for whimsy (essential to any Roald Dahl story but, especially, a version of Wonka).b Joby also has a tender ability to bring feelings to life through the music, which is exactly what a movie composer is in the room to do. Now, while Little Bobby hasn’t been off to the picture show to see WONKA yet (this weekend looks like the big occasion), hearing the instrumental cuts on this WONKA soundtrack is a pretty good indication that Joby is tugging on all the heartstrings throughout the movie. On a soundtrack, though, you have to be careful not to have the instrumental bits become easily dismissed.  How many of us get to the end of Disney soundtracks, when all the vocal tracks have been played, and shut the disc/stream off, just as the pretty music is getting its chance to shine?  Don’t fib: we all do it.

The WONKA soundtrack spaces Joby Talbot’s lovely, playful, and visceral compositions out with the vocal offerings, like a fine balancing act of storytelling from actors with that of the musicians.  It keeps the listener engaged and takes them through the Wonka journey in a cohesive chronological order, and all of Talbot’s songs are easy to listen to, all original, number by number (you know how some soundtracks are a collection of songs based on one theme that just keeps getting played over and over in different arrangements?  Not here, my angels).  Joby Talbot’s instrumental creations for WONKA make for a right-and-proper movie soundtrack - one you might even listen to if there were NO musical numbers featuring lyrics and The Chalamet Man.  Little Bobby really and truly hopes that Joby gets the recognition he deserves for his wonderful Wonka work, because, in the final analysis, Joby Talbot and Neil Hannon have accomplished the impossible. They have created a score in 2023 that marries to its 1971 progenitor (what? Bobby knows words!?) wonderfully, one that made this rainbow boy tear up a bit and really want to go see WONKA (one of the jobs of a good soundtrack - putting tushies in the seats) and for their magic, their musicality, and for making Bobby a little boy again, we give WONKA…

a healthy 4 ½  Out Of 5 Rainbows

Put This One In Your Amazon Stream: HERE

Grab It For Your Spotifies: HERE

You Can See And Hear Everything About WONKA On The Webbysite: HERE

Album Review: Willy Wonka Wuns Wild On The New Movie Soundtrack WONKA