The soundtrack to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's weighty, emotionally wrenching drama 21 Grams features compositions by Gustavo Santaolalla and a few funk, soul, and hip-hop songs. Given that the film revolves around the conceit that the human body loses 21 grams upon death -- arguably the weight of the soul -- it wouldn't be surprising if the film's music was unbearably pretentious. Track titles such as "Can We Mix the Unmixable? (Remix)" and "Can Dry Leaves Help Us?" suggest that the score is indeed overly studied, but fortunately, this is not the case. Santaolalla's atmospheric style is reminiscent of Cliff Martinez, the frequent musical collaborator of Steven Soderbergh. However, Santaolalla's sound is more organic, drawing from droning guitars and subtle electronics. The warm, spacious sound of "Do We Lose 21 Grams?" and "Did This Really Happen" has more in common with post-rock than with most typical score music, while the brief but haunting loops of "Can Things Be Better?" and "Should I Let Her Know?" nod to the folky electronica of artists like Four Tet. The soundtrack's more song-oriented cuts, like War's "Low Rider," Ozomatli's "Cut Chemist Suite," and Ann Sexton's "You're Losing Me," provide a jolting contrast to Santaolalla's atmospheric score, perhaps reflecting the film's often jarring juxtapositions of life and death. The only track on 21 Grams that succumbs to pretension is "Shake, Rattle & Roll," a lengthy, spoken-word version of the R&B classic performed by Benicio Del Toro. At first, the song is gritty and creepy, but eventually it devolves into self-parody. Still, the overall quality of the album -- particularly on "When Our Wings Are Cut, Can We Still Fly" by the Kronos Quartet -- more than makes up for its occasional awkward moments, which do little do detract from the score's quiet power.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
feat: Benicio Del Toro
feat: Dionne Warwick
feat: Ann Sexton
feat: Kronos Quartet