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Soundtrack Review: 'Supergirl Season 1'

Although Season 1 may not be great, Supergirl: Season 1 Original Television Soundtrack is up, up and away.

Review by Matt Cummings

When CBS announced in 2015 that they would enter the superhero television party and produce Supergirl, audiences were concerned whether a network known for attracting older procedural audiences would actually know what to do with it. More specifically, would they screw it up and totally miss the central themes behind the character? Sadly, the answer was yes, as most audiences backed away by the end of its first season. CW, smartly realizing what it could do with a slightly-damaged product, brought it onboard (a small matter since CBS owns CW) and the early result sees a vastly improved Season 2. One thing that was never in doubt was Composer Blake Neely's Season 1 score, which - like its titular hero - flies to new and different heights, establishing itself as an Übermacht incarnate.

When the Kryptonian Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) escapes the destruction of her planet, she's raised by a kind American family and taught to hide her powers. But when her foster sister Alex is nearly killed in a mishap in National City, Kara saves the plane but still refuses to don the cape. During the day, she works for media mogul Cat Grant, but soon Kara realizes she can no longer live a sheltered life, when the head of a super-secret agency recruits her and The Martian Manhunter to protect the city's citizens from metahuman threats. Although she eventually accepts her family's legacy, Supergirl must juggle various human relationships on her way to becoming the planet's savior, alongside her older cousin Superman.

Supergirl is a very different score for Composer Neely, sounding more like Rachel Portman's Cider House Rules in parts than his Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow offerings. And that's refreshing. There's piano, flute, and oboe pairings that work very well for the subject matter, adding a lighter touch to what was usually unwatchable teenage angst. It made those moments go down a lot better, and I give Neely a lot of credit for taking such a different path from his other shows. Those also offer some really great moments, but they would not have worked with the brighter, cheerier world of National City. I honestly wouldn't have guessed that Neely was responsible here, because the sound is so different.

But anyone worrying that you might get shafted of hero pieces will want to hear A Hero Emerges, Fighting Vartox and Under Attack, which are given a chance to spread their wings. Much like the final track Theme from Supergirl, there's plenty of big moments that allow you to imagine Manhunter and Supergirl battling against Producer Greg Berlanti's expanding metahuman universe. Even a track like Strange Visitors from Other Planets kicks a serious amount of hero butt, as does Alex Brings Kara Back. But there's also some genuinely tender music throughout as well, such as How Does She Do It?, which I found myself revisiting only because it's far too short (1:48). Harnessing Anger might sound like it should be more authoritative, but it too is a powerful orchestrated ballad that works very well next to Do It?

Based on my other reviews of his recent Arrow and Legends scores (which you can read HERE and HERE), it's easy to see just how much Neely has grown as a composer. He not only clearly understands these characters but finds new and innovative ways to orchestrate them. He's expressed in interviews the desire to give Supergirl her own voice, and that's exactly what he's done. I don't think he could have done that when CW took a bold move to produce Arrow after such a productive run of Smallville. Much like the network that employs him, Neely is boldly pushing new frontiers and the effect is pure joy.

It's great to see Neely branch out to make Supergirl: Season 1 Original Television Soundtrack such a refreshing score. His efforts here are definitely worth your time and hard-earned cash, and you might even find yourself flying high as you travel with Kara into a far-better Season 2. Let's hope Berlanti's brilliant introduction of Superman gives Neely some additional avenues to explore, as I'm very impressed with this freshman effort.

Supergirl: Season 1 Original Television Soundtrack is now available on CD and digital download.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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