'Creed III' Is Back with Michael B. Jordan Directing and Smooth R&B For the Slow Moments
Creed III ’s music hits the right balance between high-energy, tension-filled tracks for the boxing matches, and slower, more emotional tracks for the heartfelt moments that take place before and after Adonis “Donnie” Creed’s bouts in the ring. Sports dramas would be nothing without their equally dramatic soundtracks, an observation that’s perhaps best illustrated by the way the Rocky theme song is instantly synonymous with the movie for fans, and Creed III hopes to build on that legend as the third installment in a follow-up series. Using the same drama in the Creed III trailer music, Jordan and his team set the scene early with hip-hop, soulful R&B, and plenty of percussive tracks.
Continuing the tradition and success of the beloved boxing epic starring Sylvester Stallone as an against-all-odds champion is Michael B. Jordan, who returns for a third time in Creed III, a follow up series to Rocky, and a new entity unto itself. Though this is the first Creed installment where Stallone doesn’t have a cameo reprising his role as Rocky Balboa, he is credited as a producer alongside Ryan Coogler and is still supportive of the series.
Jordan stars in the film and makes his directorial debut, turning the flavor of a boxing movie more toward thriller than is to be expected, particularly with dark and moody Creed III trailer music. And, as the movie itself opens up on Adonis settling into blissful retirement with his pop star wife, Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, the need for a bit of sexy and sleek contemporary R&B was also called for in the soundtrack. For this needledrop, Jordan and the crew behind Creed III tapped APM to provide a track from the appropriately named Juice Music library, and “Sleep Well” walks the line between alternative, modern R&B and old school sounds.
Leaning more toward the hip-hop side of things with trap drums, finger snaps, and dreamy synths, the vocal effects and moody production evoke crossover stars like The Weeknd and even Kendrick Lamar at the height of his best crooner moments. Used both as part of Creed III’s music in the film itself, and as part of the Creed III trailer music, the song’s versatility across slow verses and a percussion-heavy chorus makes it perfect to splice in and out of both action moments and tender conversations behind closed doors.
As an old friend from Donnie’s past, Damian "Diamond Dame" Anderson, played beautifully by Jonathan Majors, is released from prison, and comes back into Donnie’s life with the idea that his rightful role as a fellow boxing star is his for the taking. Moved by guilt from a past encounter with the law, which left Donnie free and Damian behind bars, the tension between the two grows as it becomes clear that a showdown between the two childhood friends is the only way to close out this saga for good.
Along with the production music track from APM, the music in the film has several other heavy hitters, as J. Cole’s Dreamville Records executive produced the soundtrack, including songs from artists like Cole himself, Earthgang, Bas, Tierra Whack, Reason, Big Sean, Kehlani, and Ari Lennox. The textures of these songs supplied a backdrop that’s dominated by modern hip-hop and brings a deeper element to the plot, which addresses the potential stories for young Black men growing up in America. With the added layer of these predominantly Black artists sharing their stories as another element woven into the film itself, Jordan earned his chops as a director with the obvious attention to this detail.
As for the score, the filmmakers tapped Joseph Shirley, the composer behind The Book of Boba Fett to write it. Aside from Dreamville and Shirley, Jordan and his team worked with APM for the library music placement in Creed III music, as it’s still the go-to source for film and media producers due to a breadth of options across genre and era. With “Sleep Well,” the music supervisors were able to bring in an R&B element that didn’t compete with the soundscape already laid out by Dreamville, and provided the same function for a fraction of the cost.
Listen to teh track "Sleep Well."
Check out the Juice Music R&B collection on APM here.
By Caitlin White