The fifteen-track soundtrack to director Steve McQueen’s harrowing tale of sexual addiction, “Shame,” carries with it a melancholy mood, despite the appearance of party tunes like the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” and Blondie’s “Rapture.”
Harry Escott’s original music for the film appears on three tracks, opening the album with the main character’s theme, “Brandon.” Escott’s music is characterized by slow-moving chords and an underlying melody from the low strings. There’s a persistent ticking in the background, and the high strings eventually take over the theme, which lasts about eight minutes. Escott’s music is similarly structured in the cue “Unraveling,” and is limited to solo piano chords for the film’s “End Credits.”
The rest of the album is a mix of sounds that evoke the chilly world of wintertime in New York; Blondie and the Tom Tom Club are joined by Chic and Chet Baker; John Coltrane’s famous “My Favorite Things” is here, but it’s mysteriously upcut by a couple of piano notes by the disc’s sequencing.
Glenn Gould’s marvelous renditions of Bach hold the album together. In the movie, Brandon listens to Gould’s magic even as he sinks further into the abyss.
At the center of this soundtrack is actress Carey Mulligan’s naked rendition of “New York, New York.” The minor key and chromatic piano flourishes give way to a heartbreaking, a capella section as Mulligan struggles to hold the tune through tears, transforming the powerful anthem into a plea. It’s well worth the download (link above, and see trailer below for a sample).