Various Artists: ‘To Write Love On Her Arms’ Track-by-Track Soundtrack Review

The soundtrack to the To Write Love On Her Arms movie is full of diversity; in talent, song selection and in content. That being said, it is a wonderful collage that when put together (or played in full), will move you with a story of brokenness, healing and redemption. Including studio tracks, live film versions from the actors Corbin Bleu and Ryan Alexander, as well as stand out tunes from Between The Trees, BEARCAT and Jon Foreman, this soundtrack is well worth a listen.

“The Valley” by Danny Leggett is the perfect beginning to this intense and meaningful soundtrack. Carrying both the dark and light of the film, it begins as an acoustic and base driven track that hauntingly recounts the weight of darkness in our life. It is only three minutes into this song that the tempo lifts and we are given a beautiful indie track complete with a brass section. Repeating, “In this valley, I will rise again,” this song seems to encompass the message of heaviness, friendship and hope in a short span of time.

Travie McCoy’s “Akidagain” follows, and a hop-hop flavor is brought into the soundtrack, making way for a more expansive and in depth story over all. The use of children’s vocals adds an element of innocence to the track, and the contrast of innocence and the reality of life (especially as this tune is depicted in a high school setting during the film) sets the tone for the darker and brutally honest tracks to follow.

An electronic dance beat is introduced with Flint Eastwood’s “The Devil’s Gun,” and we enter the story of illusion and danger before Corbin Bleu’s rendition of “Cocaine.” While the live sound of this track makes it stick out a little, the fact that it fits chronologically in the story means it transitions with more ease. The mark of a quality soundtrack is one which tells a story, and the inclusion of Bleu’s track at this point makes this possible.

The eeriness of Kye Kye’s “Reach” follows, and it is a synth enriched ballad that will take you to another place. “The Tracks (The Fool)” by Margolnick bring the storyline to a pivotal place, and the strumming of the acoustic guitar lifts the vocals to form a balance between the dark that is being left behind, and the light of the future, which comes to full force towards the end of the track with the use of electric guitar and a heavy drum beat. Alex Bennett’s “Black & Blue” has an intense guitar rift that brings clarity to the lyrics, “It’s what you say to make me feel a little more real.”

Between the Trees is featured in the film, and their track “We Can Try” delivers the poignant message about starting over. The uplifting melody and soaring chorus take the soundtrack to a new place, and you will find yourself feeling hopeful with an excellent electric guitar solo and a well- timed break down.  “Don’t Lose Heart” by Civilian continues this with a gritty rock finesse.

“People Turn Around” by Delta Spirit takes us back to the folksiness we found in the opener, and the percussion makes it introspective and an ideal lead in to the live version of Ryan Alexander’s cover of “The Scientist” featuring Mark Saul. This snippet from the film is immensely important, as it provides a window into the day before Renee Yohe entered rehab. While it is raw, and exquisitely so, the vocals and instrumental add to this short but sweet addition to the soundtrack.

Rachael Yamagata’s “Keep Going” is hauntingly beautiful. Heavily stripped back focusing mainly on her pure vocals and the strumming of the guitar, it builds with strings to create a moving ballad. The To Write Love On Her Arms movie is based on the life of Renee Yohe, and under her stage name BEARCAT, we are treated to the whimsical and out of the box tune of “Crazy Fishes.” With vocals that are refined yet carrying a sense of individuality, the tune rises and falls with a catchy drum beat and quirky percussion. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this track due to Yohe’s involvement with the film. It is one of the strongest songs on the soundtrack and really brings home the honesty of the story.

“The Secret” by Galin Elms is a moody and triumphant close to the movie soundtrack. The density of the instrumentation, drives home the fact the story is continuing, and this is no Cinderella ending. Yet it is powerful and determined, and because of this it is fitting in such a poignant story. The addition of Jon Foreman’s “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are (Surrender)” as a bonus track is a win for everyone involved. Strings open the track, and Foreman’s vocals delve into your soul to deliver a message of beauty and infinite worth.

The To Write Love On Her Arms soundtrack carries as much weight as the movie. It is equal parts in quality and message, diverse in song selection, yet still manages to deliver the storyline. I’d recommend listening to it once you have watched the film, simply for the fact you’ll be able to connect with the emotions of every song on a deeper level. But irrespective of this, the themes of loss, darkness, light and courage remain. This isn’t a throw away soundtrack, it’s one to keep on repeat so your soul can truly soak it in.