While Blake Neely has the responsibility of scoring all the CW superhero shows, his Supergirl (2015) soundtrack evokes the primary color daydream of vintage Supergirl comics, while also carrying the poignant horn notes of John Williams’s Superman the Movie (1978) score, and the sublime depths of Hans Zimmer’s more recent musical interpretation of the fallout of Krypton’s explosion into pop culture. Rather than borrowing from Jerry Goldsmith’s 1984 Supergirl movie soundtrack, or the pop tracks of Smallville–Kara’s most recent live-action appearance on the small screen–Neely sourced more serious material. Which is not to say that the soundtrack, or the show that it scores, does not have humor in it, because it does—just that Neely seems to take the Supergirl concept as a serious myth, not mere wish fulfillment, and like a choir director, creates an ambiance in which belief in Supergirl can grow.
If you’re not familiar with the Supergirl TV show, it’s a marvelous thing all on its own that borrows from not only the DC Comics source material, but classic situation room science fiction television, such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Ultraman. Much of the show takes place in one of two sets, Catco and the DEO, both of which are stages from which to involve the viewer in not only exposition, but discourse that masquerades as exposition in which the characters discuss relevant political topics like immigration, prejudice, assimilation, cultural identity (and the loss of it), and the use and abuse of power to serve the greater good, as represented in season one by the Machiavellian Aunt Astra and the Utilitarian Supergirl. In Supergirl, hero and villain alike have noble causes, and it is this complexity of theme that underlies the show and which Neely has adeptly captured with his score. Overall, it’s a wonderful collection that you’ll love to have on your shelf, as it ranges from moving and meaningful instrumental work to less successful, but still beautiful, musical cues.
Despite excerpts being overplayed in commercial branding for the show, the show’s overture, “You will Do Extraordinary Things,” remains one of my favorite pieces of soundtrack on The CW, and it perfectly fits the exhortative nature of the character by being to viewers a call to arms: get ready, you’re going to be inspired. This musical introduction sets the tone, with high-flying horns and a march of strings or a synth equivalent of them, that despite the dangers that Supergirl faces, there will be hope.
The second track, “Meeting Jimmy,” uses some peppy woodwinds and piano keys to tiptoe into rom-com, and my only problem with this witty and graceful track is that it is much too short. Not that the writers’ room ever gave Neely much more than two minutes at a time to advance Kara and Jimmy’s romance, so we may be able to chalk this beautiful failure up to the limitations of the material.
In “Fighting Vartox,” the score shakes with the kind of force with which you’d expect from a collision of two alien DC Comics juggernauts. Packed with percussion, and with even the strings marching on tympanic feet, the listener hears the music being bruised and torn. For me, this piece began after the heavy metal influence in the first ten seconds or so, but I can see how that section would draw in a different demographic than me, as well.
One of the more comical pieces in the album, “Catty Questions,” owes a HUGE debt to John Williams’ “Lex Luthor’s Lair” from Superman the Movie.
This is a wonderful example of a soundtrack composer providing an Easter Egg commentary on an episode, as suddenly parallels are struck not only between Cat’s office and Lex’s lair, but also between the power relationships of domineering boss (Lex Luthor, Cat Grant) and stumblebum assistant (Otis, Kara). Neely takes a moment to wring all the comedy from this moment that he can, that Kara is working for a woman who in many ways is her antithesis. This was another funny piece of music that was much too short, and it shows just how much Neely can bring to the material if you’re paying attention.
The bulk of this album, though, consists of moving segments like “Alex Brings Kara Back,” “Heroes Find a Way,” and “World’s Finest,” that range from being positively gleeful and euphoric to adding an element of trepidation.
In my own personal musical catalog, I own three kinds of music: music I don’t play; music I do play; and, the most revered, music that I play when I’m writing. Blake Neely’s Supergirl score has moved into that short list, and I highly recommend it to everyone. While currently the CD is only available as a limited edition of several thousand pieces, if you can’t find the CD, you can also buy it on iTunes and other digital music marketplaces.