His real name is Tom Holkenborg, but the world of music knows him as Junkie XL, which purportedly stands for "expanding limits". His remixes have kept him at the forefront of electronic music but he’s also been working his way into the world of film music for years, contributing to or collaborating on numerous projects including at least five of Hans Zimmer’s scores (The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel, notably). His film career has not been without solo ventures, but this year’s Paranoia, a universally panned techno-thriller with some puzzling star power, is arguably his highest-profile scoring gig yet.
The main identity of Holkenborg’s score is the catchy "Adam’s Theme", a straightforward bit of dance-electronica that incorporates many of the score’s motifs. It’s something you could easily see on one of Junkie XL or Daft Punk’s albums, featuring a prominent beat, heavy electronics, and a simple, repeating chorus (likely Holkenborg himself). Strict adherents of classical scoring techniques may scoff at the idea of an electronic dance number being the main identity of a film, just as many joined in an uproar over The Social Network winning Best Original Score. If you feel yourself to be among this group, then Paranoia may not jive with your musical palette. For everyone else, I'd recommended downloading "Adam's Theme". Though not entirely representative of the rest of the score, it's a fun, catchy bit of techno.
Paranoia opens with the moody "Lights Across the River", an ambient soundscape soon breached by electronic pulsations and joined by a dance beat in the cue’s final minute. It’s all highly reminiscent of Cliff Martinez’s "Bride of Deluxe", even if Junkie XL’s take sounds a little bigger. It ends with faint descending beats that recur at 1:52 in "We Are the Other Half", a mostly mood piece featuring electronic buzzes, beats, and distortions, with light piano and brooding synthetic strings, all meant to represent the seedy underbelly of business. "Fit in to Get In", again contains the descending motif but mostly focuses on a growling, lower-register idea previously heard in "Lights Across the River". From the midway point on, it reminds of Zimmer’s electronic material for Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. "Candid Camera" continues the tone of "Fit in to Get In", building on itself with an ascending motif that might get a little too intense for its own good, given the universally acknowledged lack of effective suspense in the film. "Adam 2.0" features a raucous bit of percussion (which for some reason inspired me to re-listen to David Shire’s The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3), which is followed by the harsh intensity of "On Your Knees" and the big, ascending ostinatos of "Hamilton". The descending motif mentioned earlier gets fullest treatment on synth strings in "Titans Fall", a trailer music-like piece that also features the score’s fullest reprisal of the main theme (1:39) outside of "Adam’s Theme". It’s somewhat Brian Tyler-esque in its chord progressions, as is the piano led rendition that closes the cue. "Remember Who You Are" incorporates the theme into a cathartic, somewhat somber meandering of synthetic strings. The cue culminates in a brief but hopeful reprise of the main theme, arguably the most satisfying material outside of "Adam’s Theme".
Junkie XL’s score for Paranoia isn’t a bad effort at all. It’s occasionally texturally interesting and contains a catchy piece of dance-electronica in "Adam’s Theme". The score’s biggest flaw, however, is that it only features that one strong theme. The rest of it relies on textures, beats, and a few rather predictable ostinato motifs. Junkie XL nevertheless makes considerable efforts to up the tension in a thrill-less thriller and for that I give him credit, even if this additional compensation comes across as overbearing in the film. If you’re interested in electronic film music or if you’re a fan of Junkie XL, Paranoia is still an accessible, often entertaining piece of work.
A Few Recommended Tracks: "Lights Across the River", "Titans Fall", "Remember Who You Are", "Adam’s Theme"
Label: Relativity Music 2 (RM2)
Availability: 10 track edition, 14 track edition with four songs featured in the film