Album Review

Black Panther anticipated for soundtrack

Let me start this off by saying this isn’t your average album review. Black Panther The Album Music from and Inspired By, also known as Black Panther: The Album, is no ordinary soundtrack. With the film’s score handled by Ludwig Göransson, the soundtrack album was given to someone else. Instead of melodic, moodsetting tracks, it is filled with actual singles created, and curated, by Kendrick Lamar. Yes, you heard that right. Kendrick Lamar.

That reason alone makes this the first soundtrack album I’ve actually listened to, and as a result, made me even more hyped for Black Panther’s February 15 release date. The album is filled with captivating tracks, all serving a different meaning and all, hopefully, foreshadowing key plot developments in the movie.

The first track, “Black Panther,” feels like a stereotypical, yet refined, pre-credits songs. It’s very minimalistic: a lonely piano, several scattered drums, and background noise accompany Kendrick Lamar as he raps about becoming a king, and how he needs to remember the people he’s representing. It isn’t a bad song, but it is immediately eclipsed by the second track on the album, “All the Stars,” featuring SZA.

As the album’s lead single, and as the movie’s promotional song, “All the Stars” had a lot of milestones to hit. It needed to be memorable, catchy even. It needed to have a radio-friendly beat, to have simple yet powerful lyrics, and to set the tone of the movie it represents. I think Kendrick Lamar and SZA really hit the mark, and went above and beyond in creating this tune. It’s super catchy, and has an interesting yet not too far-fetched background sound. What makes it even more interesting is that the chorus references Black Panther lore. “This may be the night that my dreams might let me know / All the stars are closer…” is a homage to Black Panther’s power: he can communicate with previous Black Panther spirits, the stars, and with the Panther God, Bast, in his dreams. I thought that was a pretty neat easter egg, which only further proves how dedicated Kendrick Lamar was when he made this album.

A bit further in the album is a song that I’m surprised isn’t receiving any airtime on the radio. “The Ways,” which is sung by Khalid, with support from Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd and Kendrick Lamar, is a lighthearted, modern love song. Its lyrics are simple, but what really sets it apart is the intricate backing. With a prominent hi-hat drum line and plucky, industrial notes, it is even more catchy than “All The Stars.” Khalid’s voice is smooth, and singing about young love is his forte. Swae Lee provides a differing, yet similarly smooth, voice in his chorus that blends seamlessly with Kahild’s and extends the mood throughout the the entire song. I can see this being the love interest introduction song of Black Panther, possibly paired with some slow-motion shots and a stunning background.

Skipping a bit more, we come to the end of the album, where Kendrick Lamar chooses to place his duet with The Weeknd, titled “Pray For Me.”  This song sounds like the perfect blend of Starboy and DAMN; The Weeknd’s stadium sound paired nicely with Kendrick’s evocative rapping flow. It’s a good place to end the album, and I can see this highlighting the end of the movie and a seamless transition to the credits. It’s on the shorter end, but I think it’s a fitting way to end this journey.

Kendrick Lamar went above and beyond in the production of Black Panther: The Album. With guest features like the aforementioned SZA and The Weeknd, along with Travis Scott, Future, and Aanderson .Paak, this album is a certified banger. If the movie is anything like this, I’m prepared to be blown away.