In This Month in Trailer Music, the team at Canada-based research project Trailaurality takes a look at the musical highlights of the past month’s film and TV trailer drops. Be sure to also check out the detailed breakdowns on their website!
Greyhound, Tom Hanks’ latest—both as writer and actor, no less—received a final trailer with an audio edit that renders the WWII action film into something that’s aurally closer to Godzilla or Pacfic Rim. Much of the underscore is lavished on the warships themselves, personifying them as ominous, mechanical beasts. A variety of modern trailer cliché sounds, such as the “booj”, or a ticking clock sound, or strings sliding upwards. Still, interspersed in the melange of more familiar tropes one can hear more original and indiscernible sounds in the mix. It’s an approach that works, not least because of the interesting match-up of a WWII-era action plot with a soundscape more reminiscent of a Kaiju-based epic.
The theme of an artful disconnect between the visual plot and musical score continues here with the trailer for Tesla, coming by way of IFC Films and director Michael Almereyda. Synthesizer bass sequencers in the style of Giorgio Moroder or Daft Punk inject a 80s aesthetic sensibility into a film that ostensibly focuses on Tesla’s life a century earlier. However, even then it becomes clear that the film is intent on being a bit narratively slippery and anachronistic—take, for example, Tesla casually pulling out a smartphone at 1:45 in an otherwise historically faithful-looking scene. The use of music of a relatively recent vintage, then, is a novel way to reinforce the notion of just how forward-thinking Tesla was.
Black is King
Beyoncé’s latest is a new visual album heavily inspired by 2019’s live action remake of The Lion King, of which she was a part. Debuting of course on Disney+, the shorter (1:22) trailer nonetheless takes on a fairy classic three-part structure, turning from plaintive Debussian piano, to a tenser, strings-driven middle section, and finally to a powerful finale with percussion that lends itself well to the trailer format, featuring vocals by Tierra Whack. These two tracks, “Otherside” and “My Power”, serve to highlight the range of the record while also offering a great emotional arc for the trailer. Arguably just an interesting, however, is the use of key lines from The Lion King mixed in the dialogue (such as “The question is, who are you?”) and the use of what sounds like a lion’s roar juxtaposed against the visual of a human coming down to earth like a meteor. The use of sound here is a subtly effective way of reminding the audience of Black is King ’s creative lineage.
These are just a few of what we felt were the most interesting and / or attention-grabbing trailers released in the past month or so, especially in terms of their music and sound. Have a suggestion on what we should look at next time? Follow us @trailaurality and visit our weekly blog at trailaurality.com for even more analysis and discussion.
We offer these observations in the hope that our readers can find some distraction in this turbulent time through music and movies. Perhaps the music of the trailers we have reviewed will lead you on a virtual journey of discovery into its sources, which could open further worlds of sound to you. See you next month!