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Section Header
Skyfall
(2012)
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Thomas Newman

Orchestrated by:
J.A.C. Redford
Steven Bernstein
Peter Boyer
Carl Johnson

Co-Produced by:
Bill Bernstein

Label:
Sony Classical

Release Date:
November 6th, 2012

Also See:
Quantum of Solace
Casino Royale
Die Another Day
The World is Not Enough
Tomorrow Never Dies
Goldeneye
Licence to Kill

Audio Clips:
5. Brave New World (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

13. Komodo Dragon (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

14. The Bloody Shot (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

27. The Moors (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Availability:
The score-only album is a regular U.S. release. The download-only score album version from iTunes includes one additional track. The title song was released separately by the same label.

Awards:
  The title song won a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award, and an Academy Award. The score won a Grammy Award and was also nominated for an Academy Award.









Skyfall
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Buy it... if you are a Thomas Newman enthusiast who is curious to hear the composer bring the Bond franchise into his own comfort zone while exploring some new avenues of action with which to expand his career.

Avoid it... on the atrocious soundtrack album release if you expect to hear the fabulous title song by Adele or a score from Newman that competes favorably in the areas of panache, romance, or action when compared to his predecessors in the franchise.



Newman
Skyfall: (Thomas Newman) After a long production delay due to the financial troubles of studio MGM, the James Bond franchise continued into 2012 with the third entry of the Daniel Craig era, Skyfall. While the previous two films had been part of an explicit "Quantum trilogy" with a carefully connected narrative, Skyfall disappointingly abandons that storyline and instead functions as a standalone Bond entry with elements similar to 1995's Goldeneye. A former MI6 agent turns on the agency and uses frightening new technologies to wreak havoc on Britain's intelligence community, guiding the film franchise into a new age of social media and server hacking. Bond and MI6 fall into this agent's trap and allow him access to his ultimate target: agency leader "M." The script of Skyfall clearly shakes off the romantic espionage elements of the concept's past, favoring technological terror, British politics, and intense personal drama, forcing Bond to come to grips with his childhood while also pushing the agency towards a future of network-based villains. While this new focus pleased critics and audiences, the latter making Skyfall extraordinarily successful at the box office, it also opened the door for an extremely irritating number of logical fallacies in the story, the most baffling of which coming in the conclusive battle sequence taking place in Scotland. These fallacies suggest a grim outlook for the prospects of success for Britain's police and intelligence agencies, including even a complete failure by a younger version of technology wizard "Q" in this film, and one has to wonder if large bands of terrorist thugs with easy access to secret networks, heavy guns, and assault helicopters could really exist within Britain's borders. These issues are compounded by a change in the franchise's use of music as well, director Sam Mendes insisting upon bringing his own collaborating partner, composer Thomas Newman, into the production with him rather than trust the successful David Arnold with a continuation of the concept's existing sound. The scores for Bond films have historically been defined by the work of John Barry and then Arnold, the latter taking Barry's traditional methodology and continuously updating it for a sleeker technological age. Arnold's approach to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace was widely praised in this regard, mindful of Bond's romantic heritage and melodic needs while continuing to develop his own ballsy action style for the character.

Certainly no slouch in the industry is Tom Newman, who entered the Bond franchise with a handful of Academy Award nominations and tremendous respect from his peers. His prior work with Mendes is impressive and he certainly knows how to touch upon the dramatic core of on-screen relationships. After his announcement as the next Bond composer (which initially was attributed to Arnold's attachment to the London Olympic Games but was later revealed to be solely by the choice of Mendes), concern was raised about the fact that Newman had never really had the opportunity to write technologically diverse action or espionage material with the pizzazz typically heard in the franchise. His reputation as a master of music for art house topics didn't help, though his intelligent writing and stated respect for the Bond concept somewhat calmed the nerves of Arnold enthusiasts who eventually gave him the benefit of the doubt. Newman stated repeatedly that he respected his position in the franchise and that, while his own style would obviously inform the picture, he would adhere to the classic Monty Norman theme and other structural aspects of prior Bond soundtracks. The production itself was in some ways careful to preserve the musical heritage of the concept, even going so far as to use John Barry's own home as the setting for the residence of "M" on screen. Likewise, the title song co-written and performed by British star Adele is clearly backwards looking, paying tribute to the famous and very stylish Barry and Shirley Bassey tone of the 1960's. Newman, conversely, seemed convinced that the appropriate way to address Skyfall was to utilize a balance of his own exotic, atmospheric inclinations and consult with the John Powell and James Newton Howard playbooks on how to score a modern technological chase thriller. The romantic elements of the prior scores, whether for character or location, are largely stripped from the equation by Newman. The feeling of panache is also almost entirely absent from Skyfall, the sense of coolness attributed to Bond's character a faint echo of his better days. Most importantly, Newman seems to have ignored standard procedural applications of Bond norms in his spotting of many scenes, infusing exotic atmosphere into London for no reason, toiling with suspenseful undertones when an emotional sense of lamentation was necessary, and inserting obnoxious, technologically-minded loops and other contemporary techniques into scenes with action that degenerates into primordial hand-to-hand combat in the plot's explicit defiance of technology.

One group of listeners who will be thrilled by Skyfall is the dedicated Tom Newman fanbase. Indeed, the composer has created in this score a true "Newmanesque" product. He doesn't go as wild with his exotic instrumentation as he is known for doing, but his structures, led by pulsating string notes and slurred, rising figures, and his plucky sense of rhythm occupy much time in this work (all are best evident in "New Digs"). His knack for understatement is also a factor, several of Skyfall's major character cues barely registering in volume. Newman additionally is not a songwriter himself, his usual themes not the kind to be remembered by mainstream moviegoers, and this trait is a definite disaster in his rendering of this score. Bond films have always strived for a strong melodic core, a key part of their romantic appeal, and Newman manages to maneuver through his entire contribution without concocting a single coherent and consistently developed major motif. Part of the blame for Skyfall's total thematic anonymity rests with the executives of the film, who did not arrange for the title song to be finished in time for Newman to incorporate its melody into the bulk of his score. Compounding this failure for Newman is the fact that Adele's song, co-written by her regular collaborator, Paul Epworth, is a stunning success. Accompanying a truly nightmarish opening title sequence that depicts Bond's journey through a living hell, this song is a throwback to the glory days of Bond like none other, eclipsing even the recent Bassey/Arnold collaboration for "No Good About Goodbye," a belated "Bond ghost song" of immensely attractive prowess that could very well have been intended for Quantum of Solace. Adele's "Skyfall" intentionally adheres to the chord progressions of Norman's classic theme and includes backing by a 77-piece orchestra arranged by Newman's orchestrator, J.A.C. Redford. The resulting song is a triumph of the modern age for the franchise and was declared as such by critics and fans. Its chart performance returned the Bond franchise to the Billboard ranks and is a ringing endorsement for an adherence to the days of classic Bond ballads with sultry voices and stylish brass. The orchestral backing in this song is impressively muscular, and fortunately for listeners, the abridged film version of the recording contains most of the best sequences from the full, nearly 5-minute song. Because it was completed late in the production process, Newman's score could only utilize the theme in "Komodo Dragon," which was reportedly recorded after the rest of the score to specifically make at least one token reference to the song in Newman's contribution.

Unfortunately, the overall disconnect between the song and score in Skyfall couldn't be greater. Everything that makes the Adele song great is absent from Newman's score, even the opening piano. In previous entries, when Arnold had been presented with the prospect of working without the song theme in his score, as in "Die Another Day" (Madonna's song didn't actually have a melody he could work with, much to his stated dismay), he had simply created his own set of themes for the assignment. Newman doesn't bother with this necessity, however, missing several opportunities to unleash themes for the love interests, the villain, and Bond's childhood. The most obvious place for a Bond score's themes to take flight is in the massive transitional location scenes, those in which overhead photography of scenery dominates during a transition in the story. Skyfall contains three such scenes, the first in Shanghai ("Brave New World"), a second for the lovely, aforementioned "Komodo Dragon" boat and fireworks sequence, and finally Severine's luxury yacht's sail to "The Chimera." These three sequences are still the obvious highlights of Newman's score, his music expressing large-scale melodic constructs in each case. But aside from the "Komodo Dragon" reference to the song (which is bracketed by the location's own theme that oddly fails to hit synchronization points with the photography in the final edit), Newman doesn't take advantage of these scenes to provide Skyfall with his own overarching theme. Nor does he use either one to express the romance typically afforded such occasions in Bond history; the sailing sequence in "The Chimera" would have been perfect for a massively bittersweet performance of the theme for Severine. That character's identity is confined to the cue "Severine" for a merely suggestive shower sequence, and the melody for this occasion (which only coincidentally has similarities to the Adele song's bridge phrase) is not only absent from the obviously necessary placement in "The Chimera," but is also only barely referenced in "Modigliani" (an arguable misstep) and is inexplicably absent from "Someone Usually Dies," which more than anything required a suspenseful and suggestive reference to her theme. The same might be able to be said about the equally low-key second half of "Komodo Dragon." For those complaining that the plot of Skyfall didn't allow for a romantic theme, that's not correct; Newman simply missed the boat (quite literally!) on where this theme needed to be placed. Likewise, the new Moneypenny character could have used some kind of motif or even some suggestion of their playful interactions in the music.

Another missed opportunity for Newman in Skyfall is the lack of a theme for Javier Bardem's deliciously sick, homo-erotic villain. The composer suggests several motifs for this character throughout the score, the best of which possibly a rising brass motif reminiscent of Trevor Jones' reality-altering theme in Dark City (as heard in "The Moors"), but Newman never defines him otherwise. Likewise, Newman fails to provide Bond's childhood or the Skyfall Lodge location a theme. This certainly would have been the place for eerie references to Adele's song to exist (in a perfect world), and absent access to that melody, Newman should have created at least some kind of pensive woodwind identity in John Barry style for that occasion. The mix of the score cue "Skyfall" in the film seems to emphasize a choral or quivering string atmosphere (it's difficult to tell which) rather than expanding upon the melodic core of the character as prior composers likely would have done. Too many similar cues by Newman are handled with extremely vague atmosphere rather than subtly developed thematic elements. At least Judi Dench's "M" is afforded a motif, a series of solemn, descending French horn phrases doubling for the concept of MI6 and Britain as a whole, a stark representation of loyalty to the country that is heard in "Voluntary Retirement" and "Mother." Without a dominant set of original ideas from Newman, he is left with Norman's classic Bond theme, and even that isn't applied in particularly interesting ways in the score. Its application at the end of the film is actually a re-recorded, abridged version of the arrangement of the theme made by Arnold for Casino Royale, an almost sad recognition that Arnold's absence on this project was indeed felt by the production. Prior to that insertion, Newman did apply the theme into one token, fuller performance in the appropriate "Breadcrumbs" cue, a smart choice given the car in the scene. Even here, however, the performance is rushed, and you get a sense from Newman's nods to Norman in the action sequences that there wasn't significant comfort with the interpolations. In "Grand Bazaar, Istanbul" and "She's Mine," the references are sufficient but lack the actual fanfare of the theme. The more subtle inclusions by Newman into conversational scenes are actually more engaging, though don't expect to ever hear the theme flourish with the panache that Arnold had applied to it. In fact, the only moment of stylish wailing on trumpets at all in this score comes at 3:48 into "Grand Bazaar, Istanbul," and it's just one note. The jazz and pop elements of the franchise's tradition are diminished to occasional cymbal tapping.

The action cues in Skyfall are particularly intriguing, for they were the source of much concern upon Newman's announcement as the replacement for Arnold. The composer had never tackled this kind of ferocious, sustained action before, and the inexperience shows. His pacing in these cues struggles to keep up with the movement on screen, and he misses synchronization points in the chase sequences as well (though this may have been the result of editing after the fact). In terms of style, Newman unfortunately turned to contemporary norms of string ostinatos and slapping percussion loops to address the Bond franchise, reducing it to the level of the Jason Bourne franchise. You could use the words "generic" and "pedestrian" to describe most of these cues ("The Bloody Shot" an arguable exception), though in most places, the adaptation of the stock 2010's thriller sound is abysmally out of place in the context of Bond. In "The Moors," for instance, when the film had basically dissolved into an intimate fight that will end with a knife, Newman pushes the technological element to the fullest. During the chase sequence through the hills towards the chapel in this scene, the music at 1:37 into "The Moors" is horrendously out of place in tone and its lack of emotional weight. The flow of the outright action cues is an issue when compared to Arnold's scores; Newman just does not seem capable of the ball-busting force that had existed in the previous scores, his action lacking the number of orchestral lines and satisfying bass to sustain these scenes in Skyfall. He also seems unable to maintain a rhythm through an entire sequence and apply the appropriate level of activity on top of it, causing several stuttering issues within the major pieces. Generally, the mixture of symphonic, electronic, and exotic elements in these cues is very good, however, despite the fact that Newman's awkward rhythms and exotic instruments do foil a few lighter cues. Perhaps no moment in Skyfall is as nonsensical as "Adrenaline," which immediately follows the Arnold arrangement of Norman's Bond theme in the end credits and serves absolutely no purpose. Its low-key exotic rhythms almost sound like something Mychael Danna would write for a lesser drama and have nothing to do with the rest of the score. Perhaps this recording makes sense only when you stop to consider how many narrative-killing atmospheric cues there are in Skyfall, "Modigliani," "Enjoying Death," "Voluntary Retirement," "Close Shave," "Skyfall," and "Someone Usually Dies" all containing material that's barely audible and insufficient in plot enhancement.

In the context of the film, despite all of the structural and stylistic flaws of Newman's composition, the score will function well enough for many listeners. Newman may have blown his thematic attributions, run out of steam in some action cues, and completely missed some opportunities to maintain Bond traditions, but he's certainly talented enough not to shame himself like Eric Serra did with Goldeneye. At the same time, you get the feeling listening to Skyfall that Newman didn't really enjoy himself or isn't a fan of the franchise. Arnold's music certainly bleeds the spirit of Bond, and even Michael Kamen's lone Bond entry, Licence to Kill, was better matched to the concept than Newman's. On album, some of these flaws can be forgiven, because a cue like "New Digs" at least is so saturated with "Newmanisms" that it will entertain his collectors. In that way, parts of the listening experience are quite enjoyable. But it's interesting that Mendes once stated that he believed Daniel Craig to be an inappropriate choice for the role of James Bond. He was obviously wrong about that, and it's possible that he was also mistaken to force the production to replace Arnold with Newman. Fortunately, the incredibly memorable strength of Adele's song, which should have been reprised over the end credits, will excuse Newman for those who don't care about the minutia of film scoring theory. But that won't help those film music and die-hard Bond enthusiasts who can tell the difference. For them, Newman's score is procedural, handing each scene as a standalone entity rather than a part of an organic whole. Perhaps the composer was so worried about screwing up the assignment on the macro level that he got too caught up in the intellectual weeds of individual cues. One of the strangest things about Skyfall is the fact that Newman somehow neglected to express the turmoil and tragedy associated with the main character, an element that was present romantically in the prior two films and scores but was dissolved into mere ambient tones for the familial equivalents in this entry. This type of music, along with deeply rooted suspense, is where Newman usually excels, and to hear him waste away so many opportunities for great development, especially in the Scotland portions at the end, is baffling. Some of the blame for this muted presence has to fall on Mendes, who left a surprising amount of the film's running time unscored, another oddity for the Bond franchise. It is in this combination of silence and barely audible underscore for scenes that could have used some weightier musical presence that the perceptions about a lack of passion from Newman for the topic are generated.

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Finally, the album situation for Skyfall is simply a disgrace. Of course there are licensing issues to consider, but the average listener doesn't care. As with Casino Royale, the Skyfall soundtrack fails to include the title song with the score. Frustratingly, these two songs were among the best of the modern era for the franchise, leaving the scores to fend for themselves on their products. Likewise, the Skyfall soundtrack is lacking the adapted Arnold arrangement of the theme at the end of the film, too, another glaring omission. There also seems to be missing a few important snippets of score from the film as well, including the music heard as the British helicopters descend upon the villain's island to rescue Bond after the cue "The Chimera." At least the product is well mixed, the percussion clarity often outstanding (especially the cymbals). Some listeners may notice a diminished presence of violins (a dreaded Remote Control technique), and that was apparently intentional. Overall, however, the arrangement of the album is extremely disappointing. The labels for these soundtracks, in this case Sony (which also released the song on its own CD!), need to figure out how to properly obtain the rights to the Bond movies' music for future soundtracks, for the lack of the song and major Norman theme performance on any Bond album is simply unacceptable and only encourages people to illegally download the music (or listen to it on YouTube all day long). Aside from this failure, however, Sony did make a few mistakes on their own with the product that could have been avoided. First, the presentation rearranges the cues out of film order. The first half is especially jumbled for absolutely no good reason, separating the opening two action cues. Additionally, an iTunes-exclusive cue was made available only in lossy form through that retailer; fortunately, the short "Old Dog, New Tricks" isn't too impressive (repetition of the same lounge-like string phrase over and over again in a lazy club atmosphere) and wasn't used in the film anyway. Ultimately, the Skyfall score has to be considered a disappointment, both when it struggles in context and on its exceedingly long and often understated album. The title song easily out-classes the score on all levels. Don't be alarmed if you find yourself enjoying about 10-15 minutes of Newman's action material and being bored by most of the rest. While Newman shouldn't be excessively flogged for this entry, in fact barely earning three stars for sufficiently meeting the very basic needs of the film, it wouldn't be surprising to witness significant fan demand for Arnold to return to the franchise for the continuation of the Craig era and possibly the conclusion of the Quantum storyline. One has to imagine that Arnold is itching for the opportunity.   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Song as Written for the Film: *****
    Score as Written for the Film: ***
    Music as Heard on the Album: **
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For Thomas Newman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.17 (in 29 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.1 (in 53,997 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 2.74 Stars
Smart Average: 2.8 Stars*
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   Alternate review at Best Original Scores
  orion_mk3 -- 4/25/14 (9:14 a.m.)
   Re: Disagree with the revew
  Edmund Meinerts -- 5/26/13 (1:03 p.m.)
   Skyfall - Adele Theme Song
  Martyn Love -- 3/13/13 (7:22 p.m.)
   Disagree with the revew
  Ram -- 3/6/13 (3:22 p.m.)
   Re: Thomas Newman versus Adele
  Dody -- 2/2/13 (11:20 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 77:17


• 1. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul (5:14)
• 2. Voluntary Retirement (2:22)
• 3. New Digs (2:32)
• 4. Severine (1:18)
• 5. Brave New World (1:50)
• 6. Shanghai Drive (1:26)
• 7. Jellyfish (3:22)
• 8. Silhouette (0:56)
• 9. Modigliani (1:04)
• 10. Day Wasted (1:31)
• 11. Quartermaster (4:58)
• 12. Someone Usually Dies (2:29)
• 13. Komodo Dragon (3:20)
• 14. The Bloody Shot (4:46)
• 15. Enjoying Death (1:13)
• 16. The Chimera (1:58)
• 17. Close Shave (1:32)
• 18. Health & Safety (1:29)
• 19. Granborough Road (2:32)
• 20. Tennyson (2:14)
• 21. Enquiry (2:49)
• 22. Breadcrumbs (2:02)
• 23. Skyfall (2:32)
• 24. Kill Them First (2:22)
• 25. Welcome to Scotland (3:21)
• 26. She's Mine (3:53)
• 27. The Moors (2:39)
• 28. Deep Water (5:11)
• 29. Mother (1:48)
• 30. Adrenaline (2:18)

Bonus iTunes Track:
• 31. Old Dog, New Tricks (1:49)

(total time does not include bonus track)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Skyfall are Copyright © 2012, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/13/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.