City of Stars by Justin Hurwitz
Justin Hurwitz composed ‘City of Stars’ for the 2016 American musical ‘La la Land’ which follows a frustrated actress and jazz pianist trying to follow their dreams.
- After a simple 4-bar piano intro in G minor, the male voice (Sebastien) enters with “City of stars, are you shining just for me?” which ends on a D minor chord.
- He sings the same line again but this time the line ends on an F major chord, which sounds more optimistic. This is a theme in the song, alternating between major and minor, and Hurwitz said this:
The rhythm is ‘swung’ throughout which means that the quavers sound like dotted quavers.
At 00:37 Mia enters with the lyrics “That now our dreams, they’ve finally come true.”
At 01:19 the mood becomes more hopeful, with the lyrics “A look in somebody’s eyes to light up the skies” being accompanied by a staccato piano part which becomes more jazzy.
At 01:51 the original melancholy piano idea returns with Sebastien singing the opening line again.
Things To Consider
- City of stars is one of the most popular songs from the show – why do you think that is? What makes a successful song?
- Do you think the song works with just a piano accompaniment or would an orchestral backing be more effective?