Get Electrified By Electra’s “AC/DC” from the Musical “Starlight Express”

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I spent the entire Saturday listening to musical soundtracks composed by the great Andrew Lloyd Webber. Perhaps due to the recent news of a live-action film being made that will be based on the 1981 musical Cats. Songs from another Webber musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, also came up on my Spotify playlist at the same time. This prompted me to listen to the entire live recording of the NBC live production that happened this past spring.

Spotify introduced the soundtrack to a 80s’ musical named Starlight Express while listening to various musical soundtracks. I didn’t know that this musical existed until the recommendation popped up. Though, I should have known about it beforehand because I was aiming to be a professional musical theatre actress in high school and tried to be a musical theatre nerd. But, no one mentioned this musical in high school and even in college.

But, what is Starlight Express?

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Vaporwave: A Genre That Goes Forward by Moving Backwards

Neon lights accent the various billboards and signs around the city. Hits from the likes of Chicago, Lionel Ritchie, and Steve Winwood softly streaming from multiple speakers all around with electric guitars blazing, a drum kit faintly pulsing, and an electronic keyboard acting as the leading performer in the piece. As you continue walking, you detect the passing smell of a woman’s perfume, was that the scent of Calvin Kline’s Obsession or perhaps, it was Yves Saint’s Laurent Opium?

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since these sights, smells, and sounds from the heart of the 80s were part of our lifestyles. Once the 90s brought in grunge rock, modern fashion, and less dramatic design styles, it was expected that we would ultimately forget the 80s or have our children grumble how old-fashion and tedious that decade was. That isn’t the case with Vaporwave: a new genre that has brought back the sounds and feel of a retro decade.

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Hark Back to the Vibrant Fantasy World of the 80s with “Loved By the Sun”

Do you have a soundtrack or two that you have fallen in love with? Perhaps so much that you have replayed it over and over over a long period? That is the case with Tangerine Dream’s “Legend” soundtrack, my new beloved earworm.

I have seen the 80s’ fantasy movie “Legend” only once or twice. The version I have seen was the Director’s Cut, which features Jerry Goldsmith’s orchestral works. The movie had two soundtracks: the European release had Goldsmith’s orchestral score, and the American release contained an electronic, pop-sounding score composed by German band Tangerine Dream. The reason for the change was that test audiences didn’t enjoy Jerry Goldsmith’s score.

One track from Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack, “Unicorn Dream”, was transformed into a love ballad for the US version’s ending. “Loved by the Sun” resulted from this transformation with the song being performed by rock band Yes’s frontman Jon Anderson. He also wrote the lyrics.

“Loved by the Sun” starts off with a quiet duet between an electric guitar and a synthesizer with two functions: starry sounds and synthesized deep bass. The duet continues on while Anderson begins the first verse softly. He continues to sing as the instruments build up the song’s emotion with an increase in volume. Some drums, a choir, and the trumpet function from the synthesizer are added in. This build up spills out in full energy at the final chorus with every instrument and voice’s volume raised to heighten the passionate message in the lyrics: “that legends teach us to love for goodness’ sake.”

My favorite part comes at the end, around the 4:15 mark, when the key changes from major to minor. The change begins when Anderson’s sings his note; a note that doesn’t resolve the phrase into a final cadence but instead slipping into the relative minor key. The song stays in the minor key till the end, as it fades into the instrumental piece “Blue Room”, which is another minor tune.

“Loved by the Sun” is a quiet piece. It doesn’t feature many instruments; only the synthesizer and electric guitar serve as the primary players. But, as Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Or, in layman terms, simplicity is beautiful. The song serves its purpose well: a gorgeous yet simple love song to support the movie’s romantic happy ending.

Here is the US version’s ending with the song playing along: