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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Sampler Album

Digital Album

Regular Album

Composed, Arranged, Performed, and Produced by:
Trent Reznor
Atticus Ross

Solo Vocals by:
Mariqueen Maandig

Labels and Dates:
Null Corporation (Sampler)
(December 2nd, 2011)

Null Corporation (Digital)
(December 9th, 2011)

Null Corporation (Regular)
(December 27th, 2011)

Null Corporation (Deluxe)
(February 6th, 2012)

Also See:
The Social Network

Audio Clips:
2011 Regular Album:

CD1: 6. What If We Could? (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

CD2: 3. An Itch (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

CD2: 10. While Waiting (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

CD3: 7. Great Bird of Prey (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

This score's albums are a commercialized nightmare. The six-track sampler was made available free for download at the composers' website a week before the release of the retail download product and over three weeks prior to the street date of the regular commercial 3-CD set. At the very end of 2011, a 2-CD "For Your Consideration" promotional set was pressed and leaked to the secondary market. The "Deluxe" set released in February of 2012, limited to 3,000 copies and containing the vinyl option, retailed for $300. The regular 3-CD set, by comparison, was initially offered at $14. A lossless download option was available as well for $12.

  Nominated for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, and a Grammy Award.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

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Buy it... only if you're a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross enthusiast or a bandwagon soundtrack fan who cares little about the proven procedures that it takes to actually craft an effective film score.

Avoid it... if you don't want the intellectual elite of the film music world to label you as hopeless git, especially if you're contemplating the ego-stroking, $300 "deluxe" album for this ineffective and aimless sound design.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: (Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross) The people of Sweden have to be horrified by all the attention that the publishing and film industries have given to Stieg Larsson's contemporary crime novels. Published and adapted after the author's death, the first entry of his "Millennium Trilogy" of stories has been translated with the title "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and adapted into multiple feature films, each of which not very complimentary of Swedish society. Through Larsson's lens, the people of that country are violent rapists, practicing Nazis, incompetent investigators, and immoral capitalists, not to mention that all of this behavior happens in a disturbingly bleak environment. That gloomy world is the backdrop for a group of unhappy characters in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, all of which suffering from societal misrepresentation or ills of acquaintanceship. The owner of a magazine who has lost a libel case against a wealthy and corrupt business mogul is played by Daniel Craig, and he is given a second chance by another corporate CEO who wishes to use the journalist's skills to investigate the disappearance of his niece 40 years earlier. In return, the journalist will be financially supported and provided with dirt on the businessman who sued him. On a parallel collision course of a timeline is the story of Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young woman who lives under state supervision and is an expert computer hacker. When they team up to conduct the investigation together, they grow unexpectedly close and wade through the corrupt layers of the target family until the plot's somewhat upbeat conclusion. Amidst this journey, however, are gruesome stories and depictions of rape and revenge, torture and executions that have garnered the film some of the harshest available ratings in each international venue. Director David Fincher has never made much of an attempt to avoid such unsavory topics, and the music for his violent thrillers has often been supplied by some of Hollywood's most competent composers for the genre. The likes of Howard Shore, Elliot Goldenthal, and David Shire have all provided extremely troubled but effective ambient environments for Fincher's previous projects, their scores deeply challenging listeners using intelligent methods of striking unpleasant but close emotional bonds based upon the most poignant moments in each project. When the director struck gold with The Social Network, however, his collaboration with former Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was cited as one of that film's greatest assets, leading to their involvement once again with Fincher on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in 2011.

It's impossible to separate and review the music that Reznor and Ross created for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo without taking into account the "meta" aspects of its existence. Thus, there are two concurrent debates about this soundtrack that need to be addressed: first, the effectiveness of ambient sound design as a film score and, second, the way the music was created, edited, and then marketed on its own. For some listeners, there will be no way to divide this debate, for the methodology involved in the latter group of issues is clearly influential on the music's application in context. It is beginning to become widely acceptable to score a feature film of the 2010's by supplying its filmmakers with a library of generalized music that they, with the help of a music editor, can pick through and insert into the picture where necessary. By request, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is precisely such an effort. Reznor and Ross received a few directions from Fincher and then sequestered themselves in a process during which they wrote three hours of music that was very basically inspired by the storyline. They did not bother themselves with synchronization points, specific emotional crescendos for key narrative moments, revisions to individual cues to account for changes, or an overall arc of movement from start to finish. They essentially took the opportunity to write what amounts to a solo effort, one that could have been written by the pair for no specific affiliation with a movie and sold with success as its own project. Fincher then took a minority of this mostly sparse, atmospheric material upon delivery and dropped into the picture like a second sound effects track. Entire selections out of these two to eight minute passages were neglected in the final cut, while others deemed more effective were used in multiple places. This technique is not new; it has been around for decades, actually. But rarely do these kinds of scores function to their fullest potential like one tailored to each specific scene. Filmmakers and composers argue otherwise when a movie "requires" only ambient music, but this rhetorical claim is a cheap excuse for laziness in the name of art. Members of the press and industry, as well as fans of the artists, will contend endlessly that this approach is "radical" and therefore "effective." High praise showered down upon Reznor and Ross immediately for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, sales numbers skyrocketing and positive press abounding. What you will note, however, is that few of these supporters actually have a deep understanding about the effort that it takes to create an effectively tailored film score, even ones that may seem as obnoxious to some as Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean. By comparison, Reznor and Ross are lucky, over-hyped novices.

You can't blame the general public and composers and studios eager for fame and profits for using the spectacle of a film score for their gain. The "think different" advertisement campaign long waged by Apple has embodied an effort by most people to equate "different" with "cool." Indeed, what Reznor and Ross provide may seem different on the surface, despite the fact that composers have been writing ambient sound design for low budget movies for a long time without the same acclaim. In the case of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you simply have rock stars awarded for diverting their careers, branching out into a different genre and, by their own limited abilities, generating music that is unconventional for its industry. What betrays their motives more than anything else is the ridiculous barrage of marketing employed in the numerous releases of this music on album. They think so highly of themselves that they give away a sampler of music through their website and publish three-hour CD, vinyl, and high fidelity digital releases, the largest package of which a hefty $300 on their website, and then literally challenge listeners to sit through it all. What film composer would have an ego so large as to exercise that kind of arrogance? Many of them have egos, granted, but the manufactured phenomenon surrounding this Reznor and Ross "event" detracts from the entire soundtrack industry by making it into a circus. Everyone involved in this production is to blame for such a commercial disgrace, including Fincher, whose application of the music in the film isn't even that effective. He forces the music to directly compliment the sound effect track in several instances, begging the question why music was necessary at all in such circumstances. In other sequences, the director bleeds the score into the background to such an extent that it is nearly inaudible, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the music itself drifts off to silence often during its recording anyway. Ultimately, the only truly appreciable insertions of music into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are the three songs. The first is an extremely abrasive cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" to set the mood of the film in its stylish opening credits, and the last is a far more palatable cover of Bryan Ferry's "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" by the composers' own group, How to Destroy Angels. In between and not included on any of the soundtrack releases is Enya's famous new age song, "Orinoco Flow," which was inserted by Daniel Craig's suggestion as a joke when source music was required for a pivotal scene in which a serial murderer is getting in the mood to execute his character. The levity is nice, but it is positioned to nearly ruin the overall atmosphere of an otherwise extremely grim film.

Lost in all of this unnecessary hoopla, naturally, is discussion about the music itself. Nobody could expect Reznor and Ross, neither of which working from much experience in the film music genre, to write anything other than what they produced. Their three dozen self-contained little suites of separate ideas all share the same generally oppressive and hazy atmosphere. That is, unfortunately, the only element of cohesion at work in the score for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There is no organic feel outside of occasional vague contributions by a solo female voice, the other samples of symphonic sounds manipulated to intentionally dilute their appeal. Sounds of the piano and chimes are most common leaders above the droning synthetic fog, the former detuned and the latter also altered in pitch to ruin the familial implications they carry. Never do the composers date this score like they did in The Social Network, the arcade techniques thankfully absent. But the stuttering, obnoxious loops that sometimes build to a lengthy crescendo are once again at play, only very vaguely generating any accelerated tone of suspense. The car chase cue near the end is extremely poorly handled, its juvenile increase in the volume of a dissonant loop making any film music collector long for John Powell's ostinato techniques that have become so popular despite the intellectual deficiencies from which they also sometimes suffer. The travesty of this score is that the plotline of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo actually did require some tokens of warmth throughout. The target of the lead duo's investigation has a very redemptive resolution to her tale, leading to a reunion that ironically compensates for much of the poor behavior seen in the rest of the film. And the relationship between the two leads, though frustrated in the end, is very genuine, at least on Salander's part, and it merited a growing emotional connection in the music that is likewise poorly developed. Reznor and Ross do attempt to address these needs with a few recurring motifs in very basic fashion, especially in the case of the missing niece, with softer chime and vocal ideas that bring much-needed tonality to three or so tracks. In this regard, listeners may be surprised to encounter roughly ten minutes of pleasantly accessible material amongst all of the muck defining the whole. But even in these passages, the composers do not allow for any remote sense of saccharine feeling in their work, plunging the environment to despair perhaps with unnecessary force. That's the kind of mistake filmmakers will make when they don't attempt to match their music to the subtle dynamics of a scene. Creating a glorified sound effects track for a film will work for purposes of mystery and suspense in some cases, but it will never be able to express gratitude, relief, or hope, all of which existing to some extent in this story.

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The way the composers present their full score for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on album makes it difficult to place their suites into the proper context, but, as expected, they did press a two-CD awards sampler with different mixes and edits that assigns the suites to their actual film placements in shorter cues (of about 83 minutes total) in the film. This sampler, if the two covers of the existing songs were added as well, is the presentation that should have constituted the regular commercial release of the soundtrack, leaving the full three-hour version for the $300 "deluxe" product aimed at the fanbase of the artists. Don't look for any of these products, despite the reasonable pricing of the non-deluxe versions (including lossless downloadable offerings, a welcome choice), to find a home in the collections of too many traditional film score collectors. And don't expect most film music critics to be too kind to the process or the result of this soundtrack, either. When you have career orchestrators like Mark McKenzie and Conrad Pope, who use extraordinary expertise in instrumental applications to imply and support emotional appeals rarely completely appreciated in their final execution, struggling to enhance movies by over-performing in their rare compositional assignments, you cannot help but expose Reznor and Ross as the lucky novices they are, the rock stars diminishing a different genre of music in the process of reaping the most commercial benefit from it as possible. Even the work of a sound design expert like Cliff Martinez, regardless of its own detriments, has substantially more thought seemingly expended in its creation. Undoubtedly, Reznor and Ross will continue to enjoy the limelight in the movie industry much like Gustavo Santaolalla did in the mid-2000's, utilizing the bliss of media ignorance while covering for their total inexperience and consequent underachievement for a film that could have used a Shore, a Goldenthal, or a Shire to really accentuate the raw power of its story. The irony in all of this debacle is that the music for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, when considered both in and out of context, is arguably more accessible and applicable than The Social Network was, starting Reznor and Ross on a learning curve that will, perhaps, in twenty-five years, put them on pace to rival the effectiveness of the descendants of the current Hans Zimmer/Remote Control army of clones. If soundtracks like this one continue to win acceptance as the gold standard in modern film scoring, then all the vilification of Zimmer and his production house for dumbing down the common denominator in this genre of music in the 1990's and 2000's will have been misdirected. The fact that many in the public enjoy using occasions such as this to drive the nail further into the coffin of classicism is all the proof you need to reinforce the notion that the average movie-goer can be, in fact, a hopeless git. * Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 1.79 Stars
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 Track Listings (2011 Sampler Album): Total Time: 34:34

• 1. Hidden in Snow (5:19)
• 2. People Lie All the Time (4:08)
• 3. What If We Could? (3:59)
• 4. Oraculum (8:16)
• 5. Please Take Your Hand Away (5:53)
• 6. Under the Midnight Sun (6:59)

 Track Listings (2011 Regular Albums): Total Time: 173:30

CD1: (60:08)

• 1. Immigrant Song - performed by Karen O (2:48)
• 2. She Reminds Me of You (4:25)
• 3. People Lie All the Time (4:10)
• 4. Pinned and Mounted (5:05)
• 5. Perihelion (6:02)
• 6. What If We Could? (4:08)
• 7. With the Flies (7:41)
• 8. Hidden in Snow (5:19)
• 9. A Thousand Details (3:59)
• 10. One Particular Moment (7:01)
• 11. I Can't Take It Anymore (1:48)
• 12. How Brittle the Bones (1:49)
• 13. Please Take Your Hand Away (6:00)

CD2: (56:10)

• 1. Cut Into Pieces (4:04)
• 2. The Splinter (2:33)
• 3. An Itch (4:10)
• 4. Hypomania (5:48)
• 5. Under the Midnight Sun (7:01)
• 6. Aphelion (3:34)
• 7. You're Here (3:29)
• 8. The Same as the Others (3:09)
• 9. A Pause for Reflection (4:12)
• 10. While Waiting (2:18)
• 11. The Seconds Drag (4:34)
• 12. Later Into the Night (4:56)
• 13. Parallel Timeline With Alternate Outcome (6:33)

CD3: (57:12)

• 1. Another Way of Caring (7:03)
• 2. A Viable Construct (3:15)
• 3. Revealed in the Thaw (2:47)
• 4. Millennia (1:20)
• 5. We Could Wait Forever (4:22)
• 6. Oraculum (8:21)
• 7. Great Bird of Prey (5:19)
• 8. The Heretics (5:20)
• 9. A Pair of Doves (2:02)
• 10. Infiltrator (7:04)
• 11. The Sound of Forgetting (2:30)
• 12. Of Secrets (3:26)
• 13. Is Your Love Strong Enough? - performed by How to Destroy Angels (4:30)

 Track Listings (2011 Awards Promo): Total Time: 83:16

CD1: (48:44)

• 1. I Can't Take It Anymore (1:18)
• 2. Salander Goes Home (She Reminds Me of You) (1:56)
• 3. Morrel's Report (People Lie All the Time) (2:10)
• 4. Heartbreak (What If We Could?) (2:41)
• 5. Salander/Cecilia/Harald (Hidden in Snow) (2:56)
• 6. Varmland (Under the Midnight Sun) (4:54)
• 7. Maps (The Seconds Drag) (1:43)
• 8. Bjurman BJ (Please Take Your Hand Away) (3:19)
• 9. Salander Returns to the House (One Particular Moment) (1:53)
• 10. Archives (Pinned and Mounted) (2:45)
• 11. Coffee Cup (I Can't Take It Anymore) (0:52)
• 12. Martin's Story (Under the Midnight Sun) (1:25)
• 13. Martin Traps Blomkvist (Aphelion) (2:24)
• 14. Car Chase (Great Bird of Prey) (2:04)
• 15. Harriet Theme 4 (Millenia) (0:57)
• 16. Salander's Trip (The Heretics) (3:48)
• 17. North Pole (A Pause for Reflection) (0:48)
• 18. Media Event of the Year (One Particular Moment) (0:43)
• 19. Harriet's Story (Under the Midnight Sun) (4:05)
• 20. Bank Sequence (You're Here) (1:15)
• 21. Harriet Theme I (While Waiting) (2:33)
• 22. Salander Tattoos Bjurman (Of Secrets) (2:26)

CD2: (34:32)

• 1. Millenia (1:37)
• 2. She's One of the Best, She's Different (We Could Wait Forever) (2:44)
• 3. Parade Photos (You're Here) (1:54)
• 4. Bible Verses (Aphelion) (1:59)
• 5. Plague, Trinity & Wasp (Infiltrator) (1:59)
• 6. Salander Arrives at Bjurman's (Cut Into Pieces) (1:40)
• 7. Salander Reports to Blomkvist (Aphelion) (1:43)
• 8. Salander at Wennerstrom's Apartment (People Lie All the Time) (1:02)
• 9. Blomkvist Shot (Great Bird of Prey) (1:06)
• 10. Lovemaking (What If We Could?) (1:41)
• 11. Harriet's Flowers (How Brittle the Bones) (1:34)
• 12. Harriet/The Accident (Hidden in Snow) (2:38)
• 13. Salander at Soder Hospital (Under the Midnight Sun) (0:48)
• 14. Meeting Bjurman (We Could Wait Forever) (1:07)
• 15. Salander Raped (With the Flies) (2:05)
• 16. Salander Tasers Bjurman (You're Here) (1:16)
• 17. Martin Interviews Blomkvist (Great Bird of Prey) (2:57)
• 18. Blomkvist Meets Martin (Unknown Track) (1:16)
• 19. Blomkvist Travels to Hedestat (She Reminds Me of You) (1:53)
• 20. Widow Brannlund's Photos (Hidden in Snow) (1:18)
• 21. Dead Cat (Of Secrets) (0:38)

(secondary titles correspond to the equivalent music on the regular set)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The digital download albums contain no artwork other than the cover. The 3-CD set is housed in a large-format, unfolding case, but its awkward three-page insert includes no extra information about the score or film. The 2-CD promotional set comes in a slipcase with no additional information, either. The "Deluxe" product contains extensive extra materials, highlighted by an 8GB USB memory stick containing a lossless presentation of the music.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are Copyright © 2011, Null Corporation (Sampler), Null Corporation (Digital), Null Corporation (Regular), Null Corporation (Deluxe). The reviews and other textual content contained on the 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 1/5/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved. If you don't know what a "git" is, imagine someone worse than a twit, fool, or idiot, but not quite as annoying as a wanker, arsehole, or twat. Count on the British, of course, for such delightful terminology.