Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to Score Disney/Pixar's New Film, Soul

It's a concept that would have sounded impossible a decade ago, and still sounds very unlikely now: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the duo better known as Nine Inch Nails, are scoring the new Pixar animated film. The announcement was made over the weekend at Disney's D23 Expo, amid the larger announcement about the new film, called Soul. The film will star Jamie Foxx as a music teacher who is on the cusp of realizing his dream of performing at New York City's iconic Blue Note jazz club when he falls into the parallel realm where souls come from, and has to go on a literal soul-searching quest in order to get back and make his gig. The film will co-star Tina Fey and Questlove. 

The premise sounds like classic modern Pixar, in the vein of Inside Out and Up, with loads of potential to provide a whimsical adventure for kids while also packing in some heavier themes, philosophy, and emotional resonance for adults. If anything, it sounds like it might lean more heavily towards the latter, with its grown-up main character and themes of having to literally search your soul in order to fulfill your career and artistic dreams. All of that sounds par for the course for Pixar, who have perfected the art of appealing to kids and adults alike with their distinctive brand of films. Much less par for the course, however, is the decision to have the film scored by musicians whose music skews very much towards an adult audience. And I'm not talking about the parental-advisory-earning lyrics of Nine Inch Nails's albums, although this surely would be the part of this article where a Closer joke would belong; almost a decade after the duo redefined their musical identity with an Oscar-win for The Social Network, we should be well past that. Reznor and Ross specialize in emotionally-resonant music that usually taps into the darker, more difficult side of our emotions, and have never been afraid to confront heavy themes with unblinking candor. If one was asked to pick an adjective to describe most of Reznor and Ross's film scores (or their NIN work for that matter), "haunting" would surely be at the top of the list; not exactly the kind of music that suggests that the duo should score a family film, making them a surprise choice to say the least.

Of course, Reznor and Ross are nothing if not eclectic and unpredictable, and their musical repertoire spans a huge range of styles as varied as the movies they've scored: their trio of David Fincher films, Jonah Hill's Mid90s, the Scorsese/DiCaprio climate-change documentary Before the Flood, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's The Vietnam War documentary series, Bird Box, etc. And the two - Reznor in particular - are inarguably some of the most talented and innovative musicians/composers at work in Hollywood today, so there is little doubt that they will provide an excellent score. And it is worth noting that Rezor is now the father of young kids (and has said in interviews that he does not look forward to when they discover some of his more adults-only songs), so it would make sense that he might be attracted to the idea of scoring a film that they could watch and enjoy. Just what this score will sound like, however, is a complete mystery, as this is not only uncharted territory for Reznor and Ross, but for Pixar as well. As unlikely a match as it seems, though, all the artists involved are so good at what they do that the result certainly has potential to be a standout Pixar film like no other. And since Reznor dusted off his saxophone to add some unconventionally jazzy undertones to the Nine Inch Nails single God Break Down The Door from their most recent record Bad Witch, he at least has a bit of fresh experience to draw from to score the story of a jazz musician on a metaphysical journey.

- Christopher S. Jordan

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