Spike Lee has a fondness for musical consistency. For "He Got Game," the director featured a soundtrack comprised of Public Enemy songs and the music compositions of famed composer Aaron Copland. "Red Hook Summer," Lee's latest film, is no different in its structure: Bruce Hornsby provides the film's score, while the soundtrack comes courtesy of rising star Judith Hill. The 28-year-old contributed 10 songs to Lee's much ballyhooed return to Brooklyn.
Hill's collaboration with Lee began with her connection to Michael Jackson. Hill performed with Jackson as a back-up singer on the This Is It world tour, and even sang with the pop icon on "I Can't Stop Loving You." (The performance was also featured in the film, "This Is It.") It was after Jackson's death, at a tribute to the late singer in Los Angeles, that Lee came up to Hill with a request.
"He said, 'I love your work and I saw you in Michael Jackson's film and I've got this movie coming up. Do you have songs to submit?'" Hill told HuffPost Entertainment. "That's really how it all started."
A classically trained singer-songwriter who studied music composition in college, Hill started sending Lee music, and the director chose 10 of her songs to appear in the film.
"She's a phenomenal talent," Lee told Rolling Stone. "She can sing with the best of them."
Hill's music is one of the many surprises in "Red Hook Summer," which debuted earlier this month in New York and has expanded to Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Instead of backing the film with hip-hop beats that would be at home in the iTunes library of Flik (newcomer Jules Brown), the young protagonist sent to live with his pious grandfather (Clark Peters) in the title Brooklyn neighborhood for the summer, Lee uses soulful throwback tracks to great effect. The songs -- some of which were written or rearranged for the film -- give "Red Hook Summer" a consistent sound.
"It's important that the song in itself is a good song," Hill said about the key to making a good film soundtrack. "A song that stands on its own that people want to listen to and hear, just like putting out an album. It can touch upon the theme, it can touch upon the film, but it's not specifically narrating what's going on. It's just giving you the essence of the emotion of the scene. Just making it more on the general side so it can apply to other things so people would just listen to the song in their everyday life."
As HuffPost Entertainment can attest, that's certainly true of Hill's "Red Hook Summer" soundtrack. The songs, which you can listen to courtesy of Spotify below, make a cohesive album, one that doesn't sound like the mix-tape soundtracks that are so commonplace in the current film landscape. Of course, that the songs also work to accentuate the action in "Red Hook Summer" is a credit to Lee himself.
"The music is another character in the story -- like a Greek chorus," Hill said. "It really does color the film in certain ways and goes all the way through the film. You feel like the music is consistently a character presented in the film. I really like that because you don't really get that much from other movies. You just hear songs that are a little more -- not as unified. Not really one sound going through. With Spike, he's known for that one sound. This is a movie and you remember that sound."
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