Study Guide

Lost in Translation Music (Score)

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Music (Score)

A Bloody Love Letter to Tokyo

If Lost in Translation's original music sounded a lot like My Bloody Valentine to you, there's a good reason why: the film's score was composed by My Bloody Valentine's vocalist and guitarist, Kevin Shields.

If reading that paragraph made you scratch your head and go, "My bloody what now?" keep reading.

My Bloody Valentine are an alternative rock group best known for their 1991 album Loveless, a mainstay on "Best Albums of the '90s" lists from here to Timbuktu.

Yes, Timbuktu has a thriving rock 'n' roll scene. We think.

Anyway, My Bloody Valentine were pioneers of shoegaze, a subgenre of rock known for its mixture of melody, distortion, vocals fading in and out, and straight-up noise.

In 1997, the group broke up, and Shields became an unofficial member of Primal Scream, another foundational band of '80s and '90s indie pop. (Don't worry; My Bloody Valentine got back together in 2007. Phew.)

In the midst of touring and collaborating with Primal Scream, Shields got a phone call from Lost in Translation's music coordinator Brian Reitzell. After some late-night jam sessions in London, Shields ended up creating four original tunes for the film (source).

Shield's BAFTA-nominated score sounds a whole lot like his distorted dream-pop with My Bloody Valentine. It's melodic and murky, at times fuzzy and spaced out—as in outer space, not like the notes are really far apart. The end result is a trance-like quality that's the perfect sonic backdrop for floating through a foreign city at night slightly disoriented, with somebody you just met.

Delicate and Crunchy

The rest of Lost in Translation's soundtrack largely stays within a similar, classic alternative groove, even if not all of the bands involved hit their stride in the days of ripped jeans and ratty cardigans.

"Girls" by Death in Vegas, for example, features a mellow, lilting female vocal, but no actual words; it's all "ah-ah"s. As the drums and other assorted noises chug along, the song is somehow delicate and crunchy all at the same time, a flawless fit with Bob and Charlotte's relationship, as well as their relationship with Tokyo.

Here's why.

Bob and Charlotte's relationship is guided by two things: their witty, sharp-tongued understanding of each other and the fact that they're probably never going to see each other again.

On the crunchy side of things, they're sharp and they get each other. In fact, each one seems to be the only person who gets the other one. On the delicate end, Bob and Charlotte also know that, perfect as it is for the time being, their relationship has an expiration date. Sooner than later, they're both going back to America to carry on with their lives.

The melodic, yet noisy soundtrack is an equally good match for how Bob and Charlotte experience Japan. To them, Tokyo’s a city that's simultaneously beautiful and forbidding because of its foreignness to them. Ask any baby: it's scary not being able to communicate what you need or understand what's going on. (Ironically, they won't be able to answer you because, well, you get it.)
In short, Lost in Translation's soundtrack creates a very specific atmosphere. It's simultaneously dark and delicate, just like how Bob and Charlotte view Tokyo, and just like their once-in-a-lifetime "What happens in Tokyo, stays in Tokyo" relationship.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...