The trailer for the new film Dead Man Down has been cropping up on a website I frequent, lately. It’s a strong trailer, and it’s got one specific element really working for it: soul singer Kendra Morris’s recent cover of the Pink Floyd classic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” This is a great tactic: use a song that has become ingrained in pop culture to pull in the viewer, but use a new version by a more current artist to generate buzz about the cover, then ride that buzz straight to opening weekend. Think of Trent Reznor’s reworking of “Immigrant Song” for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Morris’s cover shimmers with the same soulful psychedelia of the original, and her vocal delivery evokes Pink Floyd’s fantastic live performances of the song from the ’90s. But something strikes me weird about how the track is cut for use in the trailer. Listen to the very, very end again, just as the release date hits the screen: whoever edited the audio cut one beat out of the music, in one of the song’s more familiar moments. Here’s how I would notate the original passage, in the absence of notation software or manuscript paper, for anybody who’s interested:
The note in the red box is conspicuously absent from the Dead Man Down edit of the track. Without getting too technical, the result is that the note before it sounds twice as short as it should. Notated, the phrase in the trailer looks like this:
The numbers in the red boxes are called time signatures. Basically, they mean that the number of beats in each bar has suddenly changed. That’s why the end of the trailer sounds so weird and stilted. It’s like the band is putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
I have recently taken part in a video project with music, so I get that sometimes tracks have to be edited in tiny ways for pacing and effect, but this one stumps me. Here’s my best guess: The drummer in the Morris cover chooses that particular moment, the one that got cut, to perform a drumroll. You can hear the beginning of the roll in the trailer. Perhaps the tension created by that gesture would have been odd in the last few seconds of the trailer, so the editor decided to cut directly to the next note, releasing the tension in time for the audience to hear the end of the phrase.
I don’t really buy this, especially because whatever the reason for the change, it’s pretty jarring for anybody who has heard either version of the song before. One would think that defeats the purpose of making the edit at all.
Still, the track is solid, and effective in the context of the trailer. Hopefully for Morris, it makes an appearance in the film itself. Posterity tends to remember movies more clearly than their trailers.