Hulu’s football docuseries “Algiers, America” reaches both an emotional and musical peak in its fifth and final episode. As the students of Edna Karr High School near graduation, one of their classmates, Keyron Ross, is killed by gun violence.
The series profiles the New Orleans high school’s football team while also looking at the reality of gun violence, which has caused the players to lose both family members and teammates. For the show’s score, composer Chad Cannon threaded in a whirlwind of sound and emotion, with Labrinth’s “Euphoria” soundtrack serving as inspiration in the way that it fuses gospel, orchestral and electronic music. The importance of music in the series was particularly highlighted during Ross’ funeral.
“The Keyron Ross funeral scene is truly heartbreaking. This is when [assistant coach Shakiel] gives a powerful performance of ‘Just a Closer Walk With Thee,’ which is commonly performed at ‘jazz funerals’ in New Orleans,” Cannon says. “We did an arrangement that was much more conflicted feeling — the original is in a major key and is quite upbeat, whereas ours is minor and very sad feeling.”
Cannon also penned a haunting synth track with a mellow choir behind it, titled “#Forever48” after Ross’ jersey number, which was inspired by Labrinth’s sound. The song plays during the graduation scene as Ross’ teammates reflect on his impact as a team player. “#Forever48” was another moment to show the community’s loss and sadness after Ross’ death.
“This is probably where you can hear best how my melodic writing gets framed with hip-hop beats and gospel choir,” Cannon says. “I loved the improvised vocal solos performed by the NOLA choir.” He continues, “It also prepares the way for an incredible, inspirational speech by Dr. Ashonta Wyatt (a local activist who is fighting against all the violence).
Elsewhere, Cannon used banjo, the viola and keys, which can be heard in the show’s third episode with the track “Katrina PTSD ~ Back to School.” “At first, I wanted a really dark, almost Medieval tone, then later it becomes kind of mournful in a bluegrass-y kind of way with the melodic banjo,” Cannon says.