To understand the international appeal of Game of Thrones, the fantasy show's soundtrack album For The Throne achieved a rare double in the UAE.
For one thing, it arrived in the country with an official album launch at Comicave at Dubai Outlet Mall on May 17 – the last artist to receive such an honour was the late Michael Jackson with the release party of his 2014 posthumous album Xscape at the now defunct restaurant Qbara.
Another local achievement for Game of Thrones was that it managed to attract a relatively large crowd to the pop culture collectibles store for an associated panel session during Ramadan.
Such an idea would seem ludicrous if it was for any other programme or artist for that matter, but fans of Game of Thrones are a dedicated lot and many arrived to the session with snacks to make up for the day of fasting.
As part of the esteemed panel that included Dubai based music producer Mohammad 'Rayan' Bailouni, television composer Reiner Erlings, Saudi Arabian media executive Mashal Waqer and Jordanian filmmaker Razan Takash, we delved into the dubious world of 'inspired by' soundtracks and agreed that For the Throne was more than a cash grab.
A unified sound
A lot of that had to do with the key personnel behind the album. Keen in releasing a modern counterpart to the show’s original ethereal soundtrack by composer Ramin Djawadi, the show’s creators David Benioff and D B Weiss tapped pop music beat-maker Ricky Reed to executive produce the project.
Working without access to the closely guarded scripts of the final season (which concludes on May 20 in the UAE), Reed assembled an all-star and eclectic cast of talent ranging from RnB singer The Weeknd, rappers Travis Scott and Joey Bada$$ to singer-songwriter Maren Morris, alternative rock group The National and Muse frontman Matt Bellamy.
Despite the various nature of the songs, Reed ensured all the tracks exuded the chilly and fraught atmosphere so central to the appeal of the show.
That's why the soundtrack doesn't sound scattered at all and why it feels like a genuine endeavour as opposed to just a way make money. With him being the only constant in the whole creative process, the album's was able to sound relatively unified and complimentary to the show.
Songs of note
With nearly all the songs declaring their Game of Thrones credentials through subtle references to the show, listeners had the stimulating task of gleaning their own insights on what the songs mean.
For example, when it comes to Maren Morris's haunting acoustic opener Kingdom of One — with lyrics such as 'lost souls, feed the crows/Hell's fire keeps you warm' — Waqer states the track epitomises the shape-shifting nature of the character Daenerys Targaryen.
“That song was pretty strong,” she said. “It is not just an ode to the whole season but to her as well because of the way she changed throughout the show.”
Takash said she was impressed by Bellamy's epic Prayer (High Valerian) and that it immediately reminded her of the Red Priestess Melisandre.
“The song really captures her desperation and her struggles with her faith,” she said. “This is completely her song and you can almost hear her character in the song. It is really beautiful.”
For Bailouni, the track that stood out for him was Hollow Crown, in which Ellie Goulding sings of a 'lonely heart caught in every trap' over pulsating minimal electro beats.
“That track sonically sums up the shows the show’s themes, which is that battle between power and loyalty,” he said.
“The song talks about through various analogies and the whole thing just sounds dark and mysterious and it plays really well to what the show is about.”
The final episode of Game of Thrones will be screened on OSN at 11pm. For details go to www.osn.com