This weekend and next, composer Hans Zimmer will be appearing at Coachella before embarking on his first-ever North American tour, called Hans Zimmer Revealed. And of course, you may recognize Hans from such film scores as Inception, The Lion King, and most recently, The Boss Baby (which he composed) — or from the theme song to The Crown, which you’ve likely heard blaring from my car or my home on an hourly basis.
But also: Wait, what? Coachella is about flower crowns and desert sunsets, and dancing just slightly out of sync with thousands of strangers. It's a bit perplexing that the festival lords would recruit a man whose music can’t be sung along with at all. And while the mental picture of board-short bros swaying to the sounds of The Dark Knight Rises is a beautiful thing, Zimmer’s recruitment implies that I’m the one who's missing something. Mainly, is Hans cool? Does his renaissance mean we’re moving back to an embracement of pure orchestral instrumentals as a means of partying? Is this some sort of Lisztomania deal?
The lyrics, as Batman would ask: WHERE ARE THEY?
To start, it’s key to note that Zimmer’s tour isn’t just a version of the Crimson Tide theme performed IRL. (Although I would personally be fine with that.) According to the composer’s own site, “Hans will be performing the music his way [and] has chosen an array of musicians to accompany him onstage including special guests.” And, during his tour in Europe, those “special guests” included Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and Pharrell Williams — which makes the Coachella dates a little more interesting, considering the fest will be well-stocked with cool music individuals of all kinds. Maybe Lady Gaga will collab for a tribute to Pirates of the Caribbean. Maybe Thom Yorke will dance to the score of Interstellar. Maybe Father John Misty will emerge dressed as The Boss Baby.
The combinations are as endless as they are compelling.
But even without famous friends, Zimmer’s live work packs a punch. Two months ago he appeared on The Late Show to perform the theme to Planet Earth II, and between the live shots of swimming sloths and the close-ups of his orchestra, the performance was honestly moving as hell. So why wouldn’t you want to experience that up close and personal?
Especially since it’s not like Hans is the first festival performer whose music consists mainly of majestic and not-totally-danceable instrumentals. Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Sigur Rós have all proved that lyrics are far from essential to the live music experience. Closer still to the soundtrack zone, last year’s Little Mermaid in Concert and 2015’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in Concert drew thousands to the Hollywood Bowl. In fact, limiting the scope of mainstream music to being that which you can sing and dance along to does a disservice to acts and listeners alike. It excludes musicians who exist outside the traditional pop-rock spectrum, and it deprives audiences of the chance to connect with genres they might otherwise not. Plus, artists like Trent Reznor have already affirmed that merging the worlds of mainstream pop and instrumental soundtracks can be fun and exciting for one and all. (Remember how we all lost our shit over The Social Network's soundtrack?)
So ultimately, the rise of Hans Zimmer as composer-meets-pop star does not make him cool, per se. Mainly because he’s been writing movie scores since the ’80s and doesn’t need Coachella to prove his cultural collateral. Instead, his recognition is a testament to our own changing tastes, as proof of our evolving relationship to genres that aren’t defined by lyrics or even bands we’ve seen christened as hip or the next big thing. Hans Zimmer at Coachella and his upcoming tour simply proves we’re a bunch of instrumental-loving saps who like music that makes us feel things — or, at the very least, reminds us of that scene in The Dark Knight we really like. And that in itself is cool enough.
Although I still hope a celebrity joins him onstage to shout, “WHERE ARE THEY?”