Danny Elfman first made weirdly beautiful music with Tim Burton for 1985's Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Since then, their pairings include BeetleJuice, Batman, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, and the animated features The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, which both include Elfman songs. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—based on Roald Dahl's beloved children's novel—marks a perfect match of material to the team of Burton and Elfman (and Elfman's longtime orchestrator Steve Bartek), and gives Oingo Boingo band member Elfman the opportunity to adapt Dahl's witty lyrics into four deliriously ridiculous Oompa Loompa songs. All of the vocals on the soundtrack album were performed by Elfman himself, with the help of electronic processing.
1. "Wonka's Welcome Song" (1:01) Elfman announces his demented intentions with this pastiche of carnival music, kiddie-show theme songs (shades of Pee-wee), and "It's a Small World." Performed in the film by a clockwork display that goes down in flames, "Wonka's Welcome Song" hoots, honks, tinkles, laughs, and chirps with calliope, horns, triangle, and unearthly chorus filled in with peppy synth. Elfman penned the over-enthusiastic lyrics: "He's modest clever and so smart,/He barely can restrain it./With so much generosity,/There is no way to contain it..." It's designed to be irritating, but strangely, I can't get enough of it.
2. "Augustus Gloop" (3:10) The first of the gleefully nasty Dahl-adapted songs begins by building a chant of "Oompa Loompa, Oompa Loompa, Oompa Loompa Loompa Loompa" and a layering of percussion that evokes the Oompa Loompa's supposed tribal origins, if they collided with big-band swing, that is (Elfman cites Bollywood as an inspiration for this track). Elfman's manic brilliance accompanies the first eruption of outright menace in the chocolate factory, menace that ironically takes the form of a big production number before receding, dream-like, through the same quiet chant (and, finally, silence) from whence it began. The composer ably adopts a variety of munchkin-like tones for the Oompa Loompa singers.
3. "Violet Beauregarde" (2:08) Cartoony factory noises set the rhythm of this aggressive disco-era number, with its dominant chorus ("Chewing, chewing all day long..."). Bold strings, Hammond organ, stomping bass, wah-wah guitar, and judiciously applied falsetto go on the attack against the gum-chewing champ, who ends up feeling more than a little blue. (Elfman says he had '70s funk in mind here.)
4. "Veruca Salt" (2:13) Insincere choral "ahhh-ahhh"s lead off this deceptively poppy, '60s-psychedelic, British Invasion-styled tune that, at one point, ecstatically echoes the phrase "Horrid smell" as if it were "I love you." Strings, flute, bells, piano, and even sitar complement the rock-combo base. It's all that and a bag of crisps. "Veruca Salt, the little brute, has just gone down the garbage chute..."
5. "Mike Teavee" (1:32) Elfman channels Queen for this swift, hyperactive cautionary power-rock song, well-suited to Mike Teavee's video-spawned short-attention-span mindset. Guitars, strings, electronic pulses, galloping percussion, and vocals clash on a musical battlefield. "He cannot think, he only SEES!"
6. "Main Titles" (5:00) Passion and machinery go at it in Elfman's main titles, by way of traditional orchestration and rhythmic electronica stamping out Wonka bars and dark-chocolate mystery. As ever in Tim Burton's films, a hauntingly sad chorus signifies childhood confusion and longing, especially as functions of issues lingering into adulthood. Seemingly, the forces in motion here have long since gotten away from their prime mover and taken on lives of their own. The track resolves with a wistful movement offering hope of deliverance, to be guided by the pure-of-heart Charlie.
7. "Wonka's First Shop" (1:42) Precocious, dancing strings and tinkling xylophone take us into this flashback sequence, a memory of Grandpa Joe and a history of Willy Wonka. Wonka's grandiosity and passion emerge in a brass and choral crescendo, and we descend back to the present on Herrmann-esque strings.
8. "The Indian Palace" (3:16) A narrative digression takes the film to India, where Wonka built an ill-fated chocolate palace at a prince's behest. Traditional Indian instrumentation ripples and slinks until darkness encroaches, as promised by Wonka's unheeded warnings.
9. "Wheels in Motion" (3:17) This eclectic and eventful cue begins with the tentative, innocent sweetness of Charlie's hopes and whips into the media-fueled frenzy surrounding the Golden Tickets, sought and found around the globe.
10. "Charlie's Birthday Bar" (1:53) Charlie's theme recurs most achingly here, rising and falling on the unbearable anticipation of the poor Bucket family's annual gift to Charlie: a Wonka bar. This year, the stakes are raised by the possibility (soon dashed) of a Golden Ticket inside. Chin up, Charlie...tomorrow is another day.
11. "The Golden Ticket/Factory" (3:03) Hope springs eternal as fate brings Charlie—languishing on the wrong side of the factory gate—another chance at a Golden Ticket. Organ and chorus signify a near-religious breakthrough, which leads directly into the next cue.
12. "Chocolate Explorers" (2:14) This track lumbers into mystery and wonder; partly mitigated by serene choral wafting, creeps come dropping slow. Finally, kazoo-like buzzing suggests an unearthly presence poised to emerge.
13. "Loompa Land" (1:42) Heavy-breathing chants, strident drumming, and pulsating "oh"s tell the tale of Oompa Loompas in their natural habitat, broached by the adventuring Wonka.
14. "The Boat Arrives" (1:15) The Oompa Loompas make yet another dramatic entrance at the oars of a prodigious gondola. Their characteristic tribal pulses percolate, buzz, and "ah," joined momentarily by fat brass notes definitively sounding the odd sight.
15. "The River Cruise" (1:54) Flowing unbroken from the previous cut, "The River Cruise" takes the factory tour down the chocolate river with gentle steel drumming and insistent kazoo to represent the rowing Oompa Loompas.
16. "First Candy" (1:21) The unsettling "First Candy" restlessly defines a particularly disturbed flashback to Wonka's ecstatic guilty pleasure in violation of his dentist father's wishes
17. "Up and Out" (3:11) The last and loneliest leg of the factory tour thunders with the rocket-like glass elevator (whipped up with anxious strings and chorus) then wafts into Wonkish alien synthesizer and walking organ in conversation with Charlie's orchestrated family theme. Here, the theme is tinged with conflict as Charlie ponders Wonka's tempting offer of inheritance.
18. "The River Cruise—Part 2" (1:57) As the name implies, this reprise picks up where "The River Cruise" left off, but with a more palpable intensity as passengers' nerves begin to fray.
19. "Charlie Declines" (1:32) Charlie's firm choice of family over factory spells sadness, traced in piano and strings, for the amazing chocolatier, as well as sympathy from the Buckets.
20. "Finale" (3:46) All's well that ends well, as Elfman plinks out resolution to the issues of the man-child and the child taking his first manly, meaningful steps into a vocation that promises prosperity for himself and his. This time, the choral harmonies achieve sweet satisfaction not darkened by minor notes.
21. "End Credit Suite" (7:01) Following a variation on "Wonka's Welcome Song," the "End Credit Suite" revisits, sans lyrics, the film's most memorable scenes: "Violet Beauregarde," "Augustus Gloop," "Mike Teavee," and "Veruca Salt," ending with puckish Oompa Loompa chuckling.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the most memorable collaboration of Burton and Elfman since Edward Scissorhands, and the soundtrack album affords a great opportunity to relish it. The CD is perhaps especially valuable for study of the Dahl songs. In the film's sound mix, the lyrics were often obscure; here, they come through clearly (even if they didn't, the CD booklet thoughtfully includes all lyrics). Yeats wrote that "Wine comes in at the mouth/And love comes in at the eye"—in this case, candy comes in at the ear.