Music of Red Dead Redemption 2

The music for the 2018 action-adventure game Red Dead Redemption 2, developed and published by Rockstar Games, consists of an original score composed by musician Woody Jackson and an original soundtrack produced by Daniel Lanois. The soundtrack album was released digitally in July 2019, consisting of vocal tracks with artists such as D'Angelo, Willie Nelson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Josh Homme. The score album was released in August 2019, mostly consisting of Jackson's original work and collaborations with artists such as Colin Stetson, Senyawa, and Arca.

Red Dead Redemption 2 has three different types of score: narrative, which is heard during the missions in the game's story; interactive, when the player is roaming the open world or in multiplayer; and environmental, which includes campfire singing songs or a character playing music in the world. The game's music regularly reacts according to the player's decisions in the world. Jackson purchased several instruments from the Wrecking Crew that were featured on classic cowboy films. In total, over 110 musicians worked on the music for the game.

Critical reception to the soundtracks was positive, as reviewers felt that the music connected appropriately with the gameplay. In particular, critics felt that the minimalist approach of the soundtrack's composition matched the gameplay, genre, and time. The game's music was nominated for numerous awards. Several tracks became popular and spawned cover versions and live performances.

Production and compositionEdit

Woody Jackson, who previously worked on Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto V, returned to compose the original score for Red Dead Redemption 2.
Daniel Lanois produced all of the game's original vocal tracks, engaging several artists and musicians. Lanois was chosen to produce all of the songs to create consistency within the music.

Woody Jackson, who worked with developer and publisher Rockstar Games on Red Dead Redemption (2010) and Grand Theft Auto V (2013), returned to compose Red Dead Redemption 2's original score.[1] Jackson composed roughly 60 hours of music for the game, but not every track made the final product;[2] the game has 192 interactive mission tracks.[1] Ivan Pavlovich, director of music and audio, estimated that the player would only hear around one-third of the total music created for the game in a standard playthrough.[3] Red Dead Redemption 2 has three different types of score: narrative, which is heard during the missions in the game's story; interactive, when the player is roaming the open world or in multiplayer; and environmental, which includes campfire singing songs or a character playing music in the world. The game's music regularly reacts according to the player's decisions in the world,[2] matching the game's atmosphere and the player's choices.[3] Jackson's goal with the ambient music is for it to accompany the game's sound design and not become distracting for the player. Comparing the game to a television season, Jackson considers a mission to be like an episode, as it tells an individual story arc while maintaining the same themes across multiple missions.[4] For the narrative music, Jackson maintains the same tempo and key to avoid any clutter.[5] At one point during development, he used around 15 stems, but ultimately brought it back to around six.[6]

To ensure that his music was effective for the game, Jackson listened to the music while shooting at a target range using a gun from the game's time. He also purchased several instruments from the Wrecking Crew that were featured on classic cowboy films, such as Dennis Budimir's 1898 Martin 1-28 gut string and Tommy Tedesco's Harmina Salinas Hijas gut string. During recording, Jackson played cues to each musician using call and response, to which they would respond organically, either copying Jackson's cue or playing how they feel.[2] This system took place over a few days, and the tracks make up most of the open-world music.[5] Several recording tools were used to capture the music, dating from a 1959 8-track tape to the modern digital workstation Pro Tools.[2] When creating the score, Jackson gathered musician friends like bassist Mike Watt, violinist Petra Haden, and drummer Jon Theodore for jam sessions, often using Jackson's old instruments.[7]

While the first game imitated popular Spaghetti Western film soundtracks, the second game aimed to become more unique.[6] Jackson estimated that he changed the music about four times throughout development, from extreme experimentation to classic Western sounds, ultimately blending to make "something different".[5] Pavlovich felt that in order to find an effective result, they had to "push it almost until you break it, and then you swing back".[6] To avoid imitating the bell used in Spaghetti Western soundtracks, Jackson instead used a mandolin used by the Wrecking Crew. The music team found reference points in Willie Nelson's album Teatro (1998) and the soundtrack for the 1971 film The Hired Hand. Session guitarist Matt Sweeney took inspiration from segments of other music—such as the insistent drums in the work of Ennio Morricone—without being derivative.[6] While researching for the game's score, Jackson found that Morricone's work—particularly on Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy (1964–1966)—was already a departure from typical Western music of the time, instead featuring sounds popular at the time such as "psychedelic guitars, lots of noises", so Jackson felt that he could also take such creative liberties with Red Dead Redemption 2.[4] Similarly, he was even more influenced by Masaru Sato's score on Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo (1961), which he felt focused on emotion rather than trying to replicate the sound of feudal Japan, the film's setting.[5]

In total, over 110 musicians worked on the music for the game. Sweeney noted that several musicians turned down offers to work on the soundtrack, due to their unfamiliarity with the industry and technology.[6] Pavlovich felt that the diversity of the game's landscapes allowed for more diverse sounds,[3] engaging saxophone player Colin Stetson, experimental band Senyawa, and musician Arca to work on the score. While Pavlovich felt that Arca's work was "too angular or sharp or modern sounding", he found techniques to subtly add it to the game to separate it from the Spaghetti Western sounds.[6] For the arrangement of the traditional songs in the game, Rockstar engaged historic music producer Eli Smith, who fit the songs to the game and worked with the actors to perform them.[8]

Pavlovich engaged Daniel Lanois to produce all of the game's original vocal tracks, wanting a consistent "through-line" to complement Jackson's score.[3] Lanois collaborated with artists such as D'Angelo, Willie Nelson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Josh Homme.[2] Lanois wrote the song "Cruel World", especially for Nelson. When a hurricane prevented Nelson from recording the song, the team sent the track to Homme in the hopes that he could record it in time for the game's release; Homme recorded his vocals in an Australian studio while on tour. Nelson was ultimately able to record the song in time in Los Angeles;[3] the team considered combining both versions into a duet, but ultimately included both versions in the game.[10] D'Angelo had played the game at Rockstar's offices in New York City before agreeing to work on the game; his apparent enthusiasm in the title prompted Pavlovich to invite him to work on music.[11]

Lanois' co-writer Rocco DeLuca conceived the chant for the songs "Unshaken" and "Crash of Worlds" in New Orleans,[10] based on a proverb by Paramahansa Yogananda: "You must stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds".[9] Lanois felt that the term applied to the determination of game's characters throughout the story.[10] Lanois took an early version of the song to D'Angelo in New York; they added a percussion track with Brian Blade on drums and Cyril Neville on cowbell, while Lanois played guitar and D'Angelo played Rhodes piano, and turned it into a full song. The recording process with D'Angelo took around a week and a half. Lanois and D'Angelo originally had another song in mind, which they initially attempted, but "it didn't pan out".[11] Nas also recorded a version of "Unshaken" with rap verses.[10] Lanois felt that the darker tones of "Love Come Back" resonated well with the game, despite only featuring musical instruments that did not exist in the game's time; he also recorded an acoustic version with more accurate instruments.[10] "That's the Way It Is" was written with the theme of acceptance and surrender, which Lanois felt resonated with Arthur's stillness towards the game's conclusion as he is questioning life.[10]

AlbumsEdit

Original SoundtrackEdit

The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2 (Original Soundtrack)
 
Soundtrack album
ReleasedJuly 12, 2019
GenreSoundtrack
Length42:34
Label
Producer
Singles from The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2 (Original Soundtrack)
  1. "Unshaken"
    Released: January 4, 2019

The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2 (Original Soundtrack) comprises the original songs created for Red Dead Redemption 2. Produced by Daniel Lanois, the soundtrack includes songs from D'Angelo, Willie Nelson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Josh Homme. The album was released by Lakeshore Records and Rockstar Games digitally on July 12, 2019,[12] and as a CD and vinyl record on September 20, 2019.[13] Rockstar announced the album's title and track listing on June 14, 2019, when pre-orders became available. Pre-orders granted immediate access to two titles from the soundtrack: "Crash of Worlds" and "Table Top".[14]

In the context of the game, Dave Thier of Forbes praised the vocal tracks for having as powerful an impact as in Red Dead Redemption.[15] The soundtrack album peaked at 45 on the Billboard Top Album Sales,[16] 21 on the Soundtracks charts,[17] 12 on Independent Albums,[18] and 11 on Digital Albums.[19] At the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, the soundtrack won Best Soundtrack Album[20] and "That's the Way It Is" was nominated for Original Song in a Video Game.[21]

No.TitleWriter(s)Artist(s)Length
1."Unshaken"Daniel Lanois, Rocco DeLuca, Michael Eugene ArcherD'Angelo3:53
2."Moonlight"LanoisLanois, Daryl Johnson, Joseph Maize, Darryl Hatcher, Rhiannon Giddens3:47
3."That's the Way It Is"Lanois, DeLucaLanois4:08
4."Mountain Finale"LanoisLanois2:53
5."Crash of Worlds"DeLucaDeLuca1:46
6."Cruel World"LanoisWillie Nelson2:28
7."Red"LanoisLanois2:15
8."Mountain Hymn"Lanois, GiddensRhiannon Giddens3:58
9."Mountain Banjo"Lanois, GiddensGiddens2:41
10."Table Top"LanoisLanois4:05
11."Love Come Back"LanoisLanois3:43
12."Oh My Lovely"LanoisLanois3:12
13."Cruel World"LanoisJoshua Homme3:38
Total length:42:34

Original ScoreEdit

The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2 (Original Score)
 
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 9, 2019
GenreSoundtrack
Length73:50
Label
  • Lakeshore
  • Rockstar Games
ProducerWoody Jackson

The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2 (Original Score) comprises the original score created for Red Dead Redemption 2 by Woody Jackson. The soundtrack features additional production and arrangement by Jeff Silverman, and musical score and orchestration by Colin Stetson, David Ferguson, David Ralicke, Gabe Witcher, Luke O'Malley, Mario Batkovic, Matt Sweeney, Rabih Beaini, and Senyawa. Over 110 other musicians also contributed to the tracks, including Arca, Duane Eddy, Jon Theodore, and Michael Shuman. The album was released by Lakeshore Records and Rockstar Games digitally on August 9, 2019;[22] CD and vinyl record versions will be released on Record Store Day on April 10, 2020, in a collaboration between Rockstar, Lakeshore, and Invada Records.[23]

Pre-orders for the album became available on July 19, 2019, following Rockstar's announcement of the album's title and tracklisting. Pre-orders granted immediate access to three titles from the soundtrack: "Outlaws From the West", "Fleeting Joy", and "Country Pursuits".[22]

In the context of the game, Woody Jackson's musical score was described as "top notch" by IGN's Luke Reilly, who described it as "an evocative mix of jangling Ennio Morricone-esque guitar and more soulful pieces".[24] GamesRadar+'s David Meikleham wrote that the score is "both electrifying and eclectic".[25] Matt Bertz of Game Informer noted that the soundtrack "leverages elements from early American folk to bring authenticity to the world".[26] Thier of Forbes described the score as "soaring, grand, and sometimes tender".[15]

No.TitleMusicLength
1."By 1899, The Age of Outlaws and Gunslingers Was At An End"Jeff Silverman, Woody Jackson, Luke O'Malley1:28
2."Outlaws From the West"Woody Jackson4:56
3."Blessed Are the Peacemakers"Woody Jackson3:41
4."Mrs. Sadie Adler, Widow"Woody Jackson4:24
5."Revenge is a Dish Best Eaten"Mario Batkovic, Woody Jackson4:51
6."It All Makes Sense Now"Woody Jackson4:09
7."The Fine Art of Conversation"Woody Jackson2:41
8."Banking, The Old American Art"Michael Leonhart, Woody Jackson4:32
9."There She Is... A Real City, The Future"Mario Batkovic0:36
10."Everybody Wake Up"Woody Jackson1:47
11."Welcome to the New World"Senyawa, Colin Stetson4:33
12."Paradise Mercifully Departed"Senyawa, Woody Jackson, Colin Stetson2:33
13."Doctor's Opinion"Colin Stetson0:58
14."Fleeting Joy"Colin Stetson, Woody Jackson3:44
15."Icarus and Friends"Colin Stetson, David Ralicke, Jeff Silverman3:28
16."Country Pursuits"Arca, Woody Jackson2:26
17."An American Pastoral Scene"Woody Jackson3:47
18."Blood Feuds, Ancient and Modern"Woody Jackson7:15
19."Red Dead Redemption"Woody Jackson3:37
20."The Wheel"Woody Jackson3:53
21."American Venom"Woody Jackson2:52
22."American Reprise"Woody Jackson0:38
Total length:73:50

LegacyEdit

Red Dead Redemption 2 won Best Score/Music at The Game Awards 2018,[27] Best Video Game Music at IGN's Best of 2018 Awards,[28] and Best Music from Giant Bomb.[29] It was also nominated for the Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game at the New York Game Awards,[30] and Excellence in Musical Score at the 6th SXSW Gaming Awards.[31] Lanois and his band Heavy Sun performed several songs from the game alongside Giddens at The Game Awards on December 6, 2018.[32] Jackson led an hour-long live performance of the game's soundtrack at the Red Bull Music Festival in Los Angeles on February 23, 2019.[4] Lanois performed music from the game's soundtrack with his band at Amoeba Music on September 19, 2019.[33] In September 2019, as part of its Amazon Originals series, Amazon Music engaged Giddens to record a cover of "Cruel World", while Lanois and his band Heavy Sun covered "That's the Way It Is".[34]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit