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By Phil Blanckley • May 21st, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Sony Classical

Release dates: January 16th, 2012
Running time: 80:43 minutes

Composer: Various

Featuring a diverse compilation of tracks crossing several different musical genres, the soundtrack to Steve McQueen’s Shame is deep and emotional.

Containing disco classics from the likes of Blondie, Tom Tom Club and Chic as well as differing takes on favourites such as New York New York and My Favourite Things, it’s a musical roller coaster of a journey, effectively split by several tracks by London based composer Harry Escott.

I took an instant liking to this soundtrack as it appeals to my varying personalities – my camp side, my emotional side and my liking for the classics!


The soundtrack opens with Brandon by Harry Escott, a haunting piece with low sweeping string chords over a ticking clock bass. It provides an instant feeling of solarity and loneliness, which builds throughout its eight and a half minutes to something much more of an orchestral work. The melodies are simple and slow yet create an epic feel.

We then move straight into “Aria” – Goldberg Variations from Bach’s famous works performed by Canadian Pianist Glenn Gould, a moving piano Aria, with a surprising low male hum of the main melody as an underlying element. Well it surprised me anyway; I honestly thought someone was humming along in the spare room. It’s effectively panned to the right hand side and helps to add a deeper emotional feel to the track.

The pulsating disco rhythms of Genius of Love, Rapture and I Want Your Love follow, and lighten the tone considerably. It’s the perfect contrast to add a livelier and more upbeat feel to the soundtrack. American Saxophonist John Coltrane’s version of My Favourite Things transports us in an instant to the world of jazz; full of improvisation, syncopated rhythms and interesting harmonies.


  • 1. Brandon
  • 2. “Aria” – Goldberg Variations
  • 3. Genius of Love
  • 4. Rapture
  • 5. I Want Your Love
  • 6. My Favorite Things
  • 7. New York, New York “Theme”
  • 8. Let’s Get Lost
  • 9. Prelude & Fugue No. 10 in E minor, BWV 855
  • 10. Variation 15 a 1 Clav. Canone alla Quinta. Andante
  • 11. Unravelling
  • 12. You Can’t Be Beat
  • 13. The Problem
  • 14. Prelude & Fugue No. 16 in G minor, BWV 885
  • 15. End Credits

One of my personal favourites of the soundtrack has to be Carey Mulligan’s version of New York, New York “Theme”. It oozes with sophistication, yet quite deeply portrays strong emotions which come across as dark and troubled. This is portrayed through Mulligan’s vocals, often singing slightly off tone and syncopated, and more so by the chromatic melodies and often dis-chordal patterns demonstrated by the piano accompaniment.

There’s a feeling of being alone and not knowing where to turn. The most noticeable element for me was that there is no use of reverb or effects on the vocals, which again, particularly in the acapella section, portrays the feeling of being alone. It’s a beautifully orchestrated production, and gives the song a whole new spin, both meaningfully and stylistically.

Chet Baker’s Let’s Get Lost yet again breaks the mood and brings us into the Jazz genre again, with his smooth Sinatra-esque vocals and bright trumpet motifs. Glen Gould’s performance of Prelude & Fugue No. 10 in E Minor demonstrates the beauty of the piano as an instrument and the ability and versatility Gould has to perform such a piece with the emotion originally intended by Bach. Yet again the underlying hum is present, which adds a whole new depth and emotion to the musical excerpt. We continue in the classical era with Gould’s performance of Variation 15 a 1 Clav. Canone alla Quinta. Andante (1981 Version).

Unravelling sees the return of Harry Escott’s deep and meaningful orchestrations, and is almost a reprise of the opening track. DJ Mark Louque’s fantastic The Problem adds a whole new direction yet again.Shame Originally a composer of soundscapes for runway shows at New York fashion week, the track is funky and full-on, and again creates a huge contrast to the previous track from Escott. It’s another of my favourites.

The soundtrack then begins to come to a close with Gould’s performance of Bach’s Prelude & Fugue No. 16 in G Minor followed by Escott’s End Credits, a haunting piano piece that creates an almost tangible feeling of emotion. It is a recapitulation of the earlier string melodies, yet the tone is changed completely due to the timbre of the instrument and the fact it’s purely a piano solo. Although short in length at 1:43, it’s one of the most emotional pieces I have heard for a long time.

On the whole, I found the contrast between styles worked extremely well; there are tracks you can listen to whilst getting ready for a night out or chilling out on a quiet night in. Often soundtracks containing such classic songs with original compositions don’t seem to flow. This one however is different.

Phil Blanckley

Phil Blanckley

Phil is a 27-year-old classically trained musician from Sheffield with qualifications in Popular Music, Classical Music and a BA (Hons) in Creative Music Technology and Sound Recording. He likes nothing better than locking himself in the studio and composing music of all genres.

Phil became interested in composing after learning how to play the Cello and Clarinet at a young age, and has never looked back since. His favourite composer is Danny Elfman, whose unconventional harmonies and rhythms in scores such as Edward Scissorhands still manage to bring a tear or two to his eye.

You can find him on Twitter @PhilBlanckley.

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