Home > Reviews > THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A film about Facebook, the online phenomenon of the 21st century, doesn’t sound especially interesting when you first think about it, but the history of its creation is actually quite fascinating. Mark Zuckerberg was a 20-year-old student at Harvard University when he and his roommate Dustin Moskovitz launched the first incarnation of Facebook into the world in 2004; despite various lawsuits, development problems, and other issues, Facebook eventually became the dominant social networking website with 500 million users worldwide, and eventually making Zuckerberg the world’s youngest multi-billionaire, worth $6.9 billion according to the Forbes 2010 Rich List. The film is directed by David Fincher from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara.

The score for The Social Network is by Atticus Ross, who wrote the music for The Book of Eli earlier this year, and Trent Reznor, the founder of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Ross and Reznor have worked together before – Ross co-produced the Nine Inch Nails albums Year Zero, Ghosts and The Slip in 2007 and 2008 – but this is the first time Reznor has contributed original music to a film. Part of the pair’s brief was to recapture the sound popularized by artists such as Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, and completely stay away from anything remotely orchestral.

As a result, the score for The Social Network is an oddly compelling combination of 80s pop instrumentals and modern synth/atmosphere scoring, with layer upon layer of electronic sound design giving the album an overarching sense of an incessent ‘wall of sound’. It’s about as far away from traditional film scoring as one can imagine, but there’s something relentlessly overpowering, gritty and real about this music. It seems to capture the socially awkward tenacity of Zuckerberg’s personality, as well as the modern Zeitgeist in popular music that inhabits the same conceptual world as Facebook and its social media contemporaries.

The industrial effects buzz backwards and forwards across the speakers in cues such as “Hand Covers Bruise”, and wailing electric guitars create a more dangerous atmosphere in “A Familiar Taste” and “Eventually We Find Our Way”. Cues such as “In Motion”, “Intriguing Possibilities”, “Pieces from the Whole” the superb “Carbon Prevails” and “Complication with Optimistic Outcome” have a powerful groove combined with sampled voices, more electric guitars, and intentionally retro-sounding design elements which could have come from a classic Atari video game. “3:14 Every Night” is a very unusual cue in which a rattling synth percussion effect seems to mimic the desperate rattling of a computer keyboard, offset by stark industrial effects.

Having said that, there are some organic elements to the score too. The aforementioned “Hand Covers Bruise”, as well as later cues such as “It Catches Up With You”, “Penetration” the dirty-sounding “On We March”, and the drunken, slightly off-kilter “The Gentle Hum of Anxiety” have a simple but effective piano melody running beneath the drones, while one or two others have a calmer, more meditative feel which is more in line with the music Ross wrote for The Book of Eli than anything in Reznor’s musical past; “Almost Home” fop example, keeps threatening to turn into a performance of Harold Faltermeyer’s famous Top Gun Anthem! It’s also worth mentioning the all-synth, slightly abstract and spooky rendition of Grieg’s famous classical piece “Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt, which makes for an interesting diversion too.

Anyone who knows my musical tastes would not expect me to enjoy this score at all, but much to my own surprise, I do. It has a real sense of urgency to it which is quite compelling and the bubbling energy Reznor and Ross bring to the synth programming gets under your skin in a good way. Part of it also might be to do with my personal affinity for the 80s synth-pop sound that more mainstream artists like Gary Numan and Pet Shop Boys had, as there is certainly a vague echo of that kind of music in the score. Strange as it may sound, if this film becomes a darling of the 2010 awards season, I can genuinely see this score picking up a Best Score Oscar nomination next year; it’s the kind of hip, progressive stuff that Academy voters have seemed to appreciate in recent years (qv Slumdog Millionaire), and it undoubtedly catches the spirit of the film.

Rating: ***½

Buy the Social Network soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Hand Covers Bruise (4:18)
  • In Motion (4:56)
  • A Familiar Taste (3:35)
  • It Catches Up With You (1:39)
  • Intriguing Possibilities (4:24)
  • Painted Sun in Abstract (3:29)
  • 3:14 Every Night (4:03)
  • Pieces Form the Whole (4:16)
  • Carbon Prevails (3:53)
  • Eventually We Find Our Way (4:17)
  • Penetration (1:14)
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King (written by Edvard Grieg) (2:21)
  • On We March (4:14)
  • Magnetic (2:10)
  • Almost Home (3:33)
  • Hand Covers Bruise (Reprise) (1:52)
  • Complication with Optimistic Outcome (3:19)
  • The Gentle Hum of Anxiety (3:53)
  • Soft Trees Break the Fall (4:44)

Running Time: 66 minutes 107 seconds

Null Corporation NULL01 (2010)

Music composed, arranged, performed, recorded and mixed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Edited by Marie Ebbing. Album produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

  1. December 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Hey Jon,

    I know that your opinion of this score has changed drastically for the worse since writing this review and seeing the film. I was wondering whether you have any plans to go back and change this review in order to match that changed opinion?

    This has nothing to do with the fact that I think *** 1/2 is about three stars more than this score deserves…no, nothing at all… 😉

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