Just as he did with Big Little Lies, director Jean-Marc Vallée infuses HBO's Sharp Objects with so much more than just arresting visuals and an intense storyline. There's the music (the music!) and how poetically it brings to life the haunting plot, actors' internal monologues and flashbacks of the main character, journalist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams).
Music supervisor Susan Jacobs sat down with The Atlantic to discuss the Sharp Objects soundtrack, and it's more complicated than we could have even imagined.
For one, Vallée doesn't use a composer (which is rare for a project with mystery or murder that often builds tension with a musical score). Every song in the show comes from an on-screen source, whether it's the multiple stereos in Adora and Alan's living room, the iPod in Camille's car or from the local Wind Gap establishments.
And you may have thought the opening credits differ each week (at least musically) to adhere to the theme of the episode, but it's really just the same song, Franz Waxman's "Dance and Angela," reinterpreted by artists from different genres. Exhibit A: that hip-hop version, "Cupcake Kitty Curls" by Mark Batson, that was so memorable from episode four's opening sequence (and, yes, we've already downloaded it).
"The music is really this internal voice of Camille and Alan," Jacobs said. "They’re both people struggling in relationships with Adora, and they both escape into their music. That’s the whole thing about this iPod that she keeps with her. Alan is in that room playing those records all day long trying to survive that marriage.
"So the music is all about surviving. And then we do have a theme in there of 'Mama' songs [like Steve Miller Band’s 'Motherless Children' and Tupac’s 'Dear Mama']. Because everything is about Adora: She’s the person that they’re all trying to work around," Jacobs said.
And, yes, there are some amazing (and less well-known) Led Zeppelin songs throughout the season ("Thank You," "What Is and What Should Never Be," "I Can't Quit You Baby"), but they didn't just magically end up there. Jacobs said they had to negotiate with the band for the rights, and it wasn't easy, since the band is known for being extremely restrictive. In fact, it was so difficult, according to Variety, that they were only granted four songs for the entire season from members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
"Oh, come on, girl. No wonder you’re in here. You don’t know how to use music,” Alice tells Camille in episode three.
And the rest is (TV) history.