Review: ‘Inside Out’ Soundtrack Is Michael Giacchino’s Most Emotional Score

Inside Out Soundtrack Cover

When Michael Giacchino recently mentioned that the score to Inside Out could be more emotional than the Academy Award-winning score for Up, our readers replied with comments like, “Is that even possible?” and jokingly, “I’m not sure I can handle that.”

After several times listening to the soundtrack from start to finish, our opinion is that the Inside Out score IS in fact Giacchino’s most emotional score to date. Don’t get us wrong, the wonderful waltz of tracks like “Married Life” or “The Ellie Badge” from Up is still at the top of the list emotionally, but it’s the entirety of the Inside Out soundtrack that makes us believe it’s the strongest emotionally overall.

The Inside Out score is a brilliant cross-section of his prior works, blending the best-of-the-best into one thoughtful piece. Think of it as a blend of the passion in Up, the energy of The Incredibles, and the “lightness” of Ratatouille. If you’re avoiding any spoilers, do not read further as track titles and descriptions may give plot points away.

Inside Out Riley Birth Screencap

The opening track, Bundle of Joy, introduces us immediately to Riley’s theme as she’s welcomed into the world. The soft piano, mixed with atmospheric elements and harp are so soothing and peaceful, it’s almost meditative. Although the opening may set the tone of the score, it doesn’t restrict it in any way — the score blends military themes (Riled Up), classic jazzy moments (The Forgetters), and even touches on horror-genre themes (Dream A Little Nightmare). Although such a varied group of styles could come off as disjointed, the score is brilliantly wound together through tracks like Nomanisone Island/National Movers with its grand sweeping strings, woodwinds, harp, and acoustic guitar that harken back to Riley’s theme to keep in grounded.

Overall the soundtrack soars and the power only continues to build during tracks like Subconscious Basement and We Can Still Stop Her — which is our personal favorite of the score with its big, suspenseful cues that demand your attention. Tracks like Rainbow Flyer build with intense action and then fall off to intense despair that you can feel in your heart — we even shed a few tears listening to this track.

Inside Out screencap

We literally could go on and on talking about this score (and plan to dive in more on episode 40 of the Pixar Post Podcast – recording soon), but the takeaway here is that the score does not disappoint and we strongly recommend the album.

If you only listen to one track, Joy of Credits is a perfect sampling of the overall score that jumps from a wonderful airy lightness, into a full (improvisational-feel) jazz song, to an astounding and touching crescendo of harp, cymbals, and stings, finally culminating with a swaying arrangement that warms your heart (whew, that’s a long sentence). Oh, and be sure to listen all the way through the end of the credits — there’s a hilarious callback to a gag in the film.

It should also be noted that the physical copy of the CD comes with some wonderful liner notes where Pete Docter jokes about Giacchino’s past and includes some praise, “In some weird way it feels as though Michael’s music always existed and that he just found it — that’s how well his music fits. It’s as if the music and picture always belonged together.” The CD also comes with the Lava theme song as well (whereas the digital release sells both separately). 

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Listen to the Inside Out soundtrack on Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, or YouTube Music.

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