One of the most noticeable things about the music in Heroes is that it’s so unnoticeable. There’s a reason why incidental music is so-called; it’s there to get us from one scene to another, not drown out the dialogue and tell us how to feel. But Heroes composer/performers Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman try their best not to stand out.
Take the title track – in the tradition of Lost, it lasts all of ten seconds. It’s more a brief sequence of sounds than a tune. It’s not catchy or groundbreakingly different, but it does serve as an introduction to a series of tracks themed around different characters.
Peter is one of the best represented, with a soaring six minute piece that encapsulates the feeling of a vulnerable man with the power of flight. Claire’s suite begins with vibrato notes then segues into a wistful piano melody, symbolizing lost innocence. Haunting voices call to us – perhaps the ghosts of the deaths that Claire cheats thanks to her superpower. The melody is later backed by a metronomic beat and Arabian guitar, before it wraps with uplifting strings and heavier guitar, giving a sense of release.
Hiro’s homeland is represented by flutes and Taiko drums, and his time-hopping skills spill out as a fast-ticking clock sound. A few Japanese exclamations and harp-like notes also help to capture his excitable personality.
HRG (Mr. ‘Horn Rimmed Glasses’) gets one of the most exciting tracks. It creates a feeling of relentless pursuit, slowed down only by synthetic moans, whale whimpers and the distinctive voice of Indian singer Shenkar. Claire’s baleful melody is referenced, and an old fashioned music/tune crops up.
Mohinder’s theme is more memorable, probably because it was used so much in the opening episodes of the show. Multiple vocal tracks form a chorus of forebears, imbuing Mohinder with purpose on his mission to find some real-life superheroes. The ticking clock motif returns for Sylar’s theme, helping to give the whole disc a cohesive feel. The rest of the tracks cover the three-in-one character of Jessica/Niki/Gina, a climactic sequence in Kirby Plaza (from season one’s last episode) and Fire And Generation, which Wendy and Lisa admit is little more than a cue, albeit a recognizable one for fans.
The two musicians have come a long way from their days with Prince and the Revolution back in the ‘80s. They earned their composing chops on TV shows like Snoops and Crossing Jordan, both with Heroes Executive Producer Allan Arkush. Their confident use of sounds and instruments from across the globe help the album to work as music to listen to, not just a soundtrack to collect, which isn’t bad considering these are tunes designed not to distract during the show.