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There's a lot going on in Sharp Objects' opening credits music

Illustration for article titled There's a lot going on in Sharp Objects' opening credits music
Photo: Anne Marie Fox (HBO)

It’s become common for TV creators to toy with a show’s opening credits, what with series like The Wire and Weeds having previously invited different artists to interpret their respective theme songs. A cursory watch of HBO’s Sharp Objects might lead one to think each episode begins with an entirely different song than the one that came before, but it’s actually operating similarly to the aforementioned shows, just in a much subtler way.


Music supervisor Sue Jacobs revealed in a pair of new interviews with Vulture and Esquire that all eight episodes begin with the same song, just reinterpreted across genres. The song is “Dance And Angela,” a piece from Franz Waxman’s score from the 1951 drama A Place In the Sun, and though we hear the original version in episode one, the subsequent credits have seen it filtered through a number of lenses.

Here’s the original:

Episode two, meanwhile, reimagines the song through an electronic lens.

And episode four brings it into the realm of hip-hop.

Jacobs explains that the decision was made by director Jean-Marc Vallée, and was born from the audiophile obsessions of Alan, the sad, vaguely creepy stepdad character. As Jacobs puts it to Vulture:

For Jean-Marc, title sequences always come late with him. He always starts it with the end. It was the same with Big Little Lies, too. In Big Little Lies, the ocean was the power of the women, and that’s where he wanted to build his main titles from. In Sharp Objects, the one thing that’s very consistent is Alan, who’s always in that record room, playing records all the time and trying to deal with his dead-end marriage. He loves Adora and loves living there, but it’s not a loving relationship. It shows what a painful existence he’s in. So he has his music, and so does Camille. With the titles, we started with Alan’s music and a piece from the score called “Dance and Angela,” which is very much something Alan would put on. We put that through machinations of all the different mirrored textures of music we have in the show. You’ll hear that same melody in solo piano, in solo voice, in hip-hop — really representing the vibrations we have musically throughout these characters. Once you pick up on the melody and play them all back-to-back, you’ll start to hear it’s an interpretation of the same thing.

Elsewhere in the interviews, Jacobs discusses Vallée’s devotion to diegetic sound, as well as how the director was able to convince Led Zeppelin to let them use four songs. “It’s kind of like a music supervisor’s nightmare when directors go, ‘What do you think about Led Zeppelin?’” Jacobs told Esquire. It turns out, though, that the band just really dug Vallée’s vision for the music, which isn’t used to underscore so much as it is augment particular scenes.

The question now is whether we’ll get the Zeppelin version of “Dance And Angela” next episode or in the finale.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.