“Chicken in the Pot”: A brilliant ‘Solo’ soundtrack by John Powell

I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story two times in the first 24 hours of its release–it was a day that I’ve long looked forward to. (SEE MY REVIEW HERE)  As I’ve established many times Star Wars for me is an intellectual vacation destination. Some people like to go to the beach and lay out on the sand under a powerful sun to relax, others like to visit other countries and sip mixed drinks from their hotel bar. Personally, I enjoy visiting that galaxy far far away in the movies, music and video games that have sprung from the mythology of Star Wars. There is so much imagination in that vast entertainment option that I find my mind can rest there and enjoy the world they have created. Real life has plenty of challenges and as readers know who read here often, I have a grip on reality that is far more intense than what the average person cares to endure, so I don’t mind sharing some of my little secrets for dealing with excessive amounts of stress, and Star Wars does it for me, especially on the creative side of things. When a new movie comes out on Blu-Ray I enjoy the making of the movies far more than the actual stories because that’s what I most enjoy in Star Wars is the vast creativity those projects generate. And among all the elements that are positive from Star Wars movies is the music, so when a new film hits that I like a lot I usually get the soundtrack at the very first opportunity. It is my favorite part of any good movie I enjoy is listing to the soundtrack of the film, and that is certainly no exception with Solo: A Star Wars Story. John Powell did a great job with it and I have found myself particularly obsessed with one particular part of that musical track, a song called “Chicken in the Pot.” It is the weirdest bit of music that I’ve heard in many years and I just love it.

I loved Solo: A Star Wars Story the first time, but I found the second time even more enjoyable. On that second time I was listening to the soundtrack in the car on the way to the theater and that track 8 song came on and it reminded me of the original cantina song from the original A New Hope soundtrack that has been used so many times over the years for everything that exhibits weirdness in these films. But this was different even for a Star Wars movie, the sound is clearly classic almost Frank Sinatraish only with an eerie female chorus of varying pitches singing in an alien language. Further, in the actual movie when that scene is up our heroes are about to meet the gangster Dryden Vos at his luxury barge and there are lots of exotic people at the bar where these singers are performing. One is a woman of some alien species singing with this strange little guy providing base in a jar of liquid. It was a really unique scene I thought that was spectacularly environmental. It was so weird that it took me a couple of viewings to register it, and I was so happy it ended up on the soundtrack. That is just the kind of music that a place like the new Disney World Galaxy’s Edge is going to need for the fans who participate in their new Star Wars experience next year. John Powell pulled that one out of somewhere to create a new level of creative brilliance.

What makes music like that work is the context, its rooted in our classic Hollywood musicals, but it is certainly distinctly alien. It also nearly sounds like the music is being played backwards which is a hint into the character of the main villain Dryden Vos who appears quite pleasant when he first meets people but if you peel back just a few layers of his behavior he is absolutely brutal—in the calmest fashion possible—a strange mix of contrasts. What’s bold about this new Solo: A Star Wars story is that they are exploring how all these crime syndicates function in the great mythology of the greater Star Wars galaxy, such as the Crimson Dawn and the Pike Syndicate. Its like stepping away from the politics of a film like All the President’s Men and getting to know the details of The Godfather, or even Scarface, which gets into the details of the boots on the ground thugs that are often used for the greater advantages of the top-level politics. The plots are compelling because they are rooted in reality. In the case of Star Wars Dryden Vos is kind of regional player. Everyone is afraid of him, but he’s very quick to suggest that he’s just another small fish in a very big pond. In that scene where we meet Dryden for the first time it’s that music that introduces him. Nothing is as it seems, but yet it’s all right there in front of you.

This is now the second Star Wars film that does not have John Williams scoring it, although he did play a part of the John Powell soundtrack, which is obvious. I was worried about this part of the Solo film experience, but now that I’ve had a chance to listen to the soundtrack a few hundred times over the last 48 hours I am quite happy with it. Music is what sells these stories to our subconscious and we are truly in new territory here with these movies. Very few people really think about what it takes to make a film but it’s always on my mind with regard to projects like this. Hollywood as a whole is a dying culture yet there are people working in it that are brilliant in what they do, like the people who work at Industrial Light and Magic, all the musicians that score all these big movies—people like John Powell out there who are bringing the classics of tomorrow alive today within the context of the film industry. I admire filmmakers in how they employ thousands of people who on something like a Star Wars movie are the best in the business, from the unsung producers who set up everything on these complicated shoots to the people like Powell who get to put their name on a major part of the creative process. I look at each one of these as a small miracle of capitalism that they even happen. If they are financially successful, then more people get to work on a new movie, and I really hope Solo: A Star Wars Story is successful financially so that our culture can get more of these movies. If we get more movies than I get more soundtracks that make daring music like John Powell did in Solo: A Star Wars Story, specifically the track “Chicken in the Pot.” I could listen to that all day long, and if there are many more of these Star Wars movies, there will be quite a collection of unusual music that will emerge from them.

I think we all benefit from these explosions of creativity. As I was watching this latest Star Wars movie on the two occasions within 24 hours of each other on opening day, I saw a lot of happy people buying Star Wars merchandise and enjoying themselves with their families. If that is all that came out of Star Wars, I think that would be enough. But there is more, a lot more and the platform of Star Wars gives some of our most creative people a place to experiment and sometimes those results produce something so unique, like “Chicken in the Pot.” That takes life and elevates its potential by expanding our imaginations in positive ways which advance our species in ways that are so far, immeasurable.

Rich Hoffman
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5 thoughts on ““Chicken in the Pot”: A brilliant ‘Solo’ soundtrack by John Powell

  1. I, too, love the song Chicken in the pot. However, the version on the soundtrack is distinctly different from the one in the film. Most notably, the backup singer is pitch shifted DOWN lower that the lead singer in the film, while it is pitched higher than the lead on the soundtrack. I want the film version released in full as I prefer the down pitched version (though both are great). Any idea on where to find it?


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