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Soundtrack review: Blue velvet (Angelo Badalamenti – 1986)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Blue velvet (Angelo Badalamenti – 1986)

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Blue Velvet is a 1986 American neo-noir mystery film, written and directed by David Lynch. Blending psychological horror with film noir, the film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern. The title is taken from Bobby Vinton’s 1963 song of the same name. The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child. Angelo Badalamenti wrote the score.

Even if this is one of the iconic David Lynch movies (then again, which one isn’t) I haven’t seen it yet. I might now since so many elements from Twin Peaks are present, including the music written by Lynch’s fetish composer. The main title is as purely Italian as Badalamenti, usually a rogue composer in relation to the Italian film music score, has written; there is the harmonica, the romantic horns and all the elements that make Italians the best romantic composers in the world. Just a little over a minute long this cue hits the spot. He makes a very natural transition from this main theme to the noir moody sound that makes up “Blue velvet”; there are none of the quirks of his “Twin Peaks” scores, none of the passion or mystery that are present there but the solid suspense shows another side of Badalamenti that I love.

Hearing this score out of context depends a lot on my mood and state of mind and I imagine it will be so for other listeners as well if they don’t have a particular emotional connection with the movie. This quiet and often slow burning tension keeps me on the edge and also very attentive to hear all the nuances the composer weaved in the fabric of the score; the bursts of stabbing strings which play the horror elements of the story break that tension like sharp knives cutting through velvet. I could also call most of this score oily as the music slithers like a snake, slowly and decisively. Angelo Badalamenti makes good use of the brass section and strings to create this dense suspense.

Naturally my favourite theme from “Blue velvet” is the one I already knew, “Mysteries of love”; I knew it from Julee Cruise albums as it’s one of the most “Twin Peaks” like pieces and now I get to hear two more versions, a French horn solo that just gives me goosebumps and an fully instrumental version. This is what I love the most about Angelo Badalamenti’s way of doing music: he experiments with his themes and deconstructs them into separate moods or instruments just like he dissected all his Twin Peaks themes in the 9 hour long archival release. I like this exploration and this variety of choice; even in this short release there are three versions of “Mysteries of love” including the vocal one.

“Blue velvet” is a must listen not only for Lynch fans but for film music fans in general as Angelo Badalamenti writes an excellent neo noir score.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 26

Album excellence: 61%

Highlights:
Main title
Night Streets / Sandy And Jeffrey
Jeffrey’s Dark Side
Mysteries Of Love (French Horn Solo) (composed with David Lynch)
Mysteries Of Love (Instrumental) (composed with David Lynch)
Akron Meets The Blues

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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