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‘Gray Man’ Composer Henry Jackman Scored Film’s Music Without Seeing a Single Frame

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Henry Jackman’s music for “The Gray Man,” the spy thriller debuting Friday on Netflix, is as cutting-edge and exciting as any score you’ll hear all year. Yet he wrote all of the film’s key musical elements without ever seeing a frame of film.

It’s what happens when real life collides with a movie career.

Jackman, the London-born, L.A.-based composer of the last three movies by “Gray Man” directors Joe and Anthony Russo (including two “Captain America” films and “Cherry”), became a father for the first time in March 2021. He planned to take nine months off work in order, he says, “to be the perfect dad.”

The Russos had alerted him before they started shooting their $200-million action film in which Ryan Gosling plays a CIA agent (nicknamed “Six”) targeted by an insane ex-colleague played by Chris Evans. But they weren’t going to need him to begin writing before December 2021, when editing would be well under way.

“We had a discussion about Six’s internal trauma, and how he’s got a bit of a ‘ghost in the machine’ issue that won’t go away,” Jackman tells Variety. “I thought, well, I can’t just sit here dealing with my son peeing on me and screaming all day long, so I’ll quickly knock out this piano idea.”

So in his non-dad hours, Jackman went into his home studio and began putting down musical ideas. “I used a reverse reverb effect and fiddled around a bit,” he says, until he had a two-minute piano-with-effects demo that might be useful for emotional scenes.

That piece opens the 17-minute “Gray Man” suite on the soundtrack album, the creation of which occupied those nine months of “time off” and now serves as an overture of all of the film’s themes.

Jackman read the script and couldn’t stop adding material to that opening theme. He came up with an offbeat percussion sound, invoked the classic “Mission: Impossible” 5/4 rhythm, and “went on this massive mission designing percussion sounds.” The highly produced music incorporates tick-tock figures, eerie noise and minor chords that are “very espionage,” he says.

“I chipped away at this piece a bit like (producer) Trevor Horn used to chip away at an Art of Noise album for months and months. It almost became an artistic endeavor in itself. At no point was I even thinking about Joe or Anthony (although) every now and then I would think, I really ought to play just a couple of bars of this for them.”

But he didn’t. “Every week this suite got longer and longer. I started messing around with some jazzy chords, a new idea in the brass,” he says, citing David Shire’s classic “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” score, “like an atonal kind of jazz” that became the signature for Hansen, the sadistic psychopath who pursues Six across the globe.

Eventually he added a driving bass line and a series of “big, Mancini-esque long brass statements,” referring to Henry Mancini, whose ’50s and ’60s scores included such detective and caper films as “Peter Gunn,” “Charade” and the “Pink Panther” series.

Nine months later, as the Russos were editing, Jackman finally sent his 17-minute masterpiece to his directors. “I didn’t really want to play it. I just wanted to hide,” he admits, apologizing in case they felt it wasn’t appropriate for the film. Luckily, Joe Russo loved it, texting Jackman with live reactions as he played it through for the first time.

With the approval of the Russos, Jackman went to work on scene-specific music. But most of the key compositional work was done. “Almost all the content, a huge proportion of cues in the score, have its origin somewhere in the suite,” he notes.

In April 2022, he flew to London to record the orchestral parts of the score, with an 80-piece ensemble, mostly strings and brass (recorded separately because of COVID restrictions). But a large part of the score was already recorded. “I spent ages in engineering mode,” Jackman says. “I really enjoy taking sounds and shoving them through late ’70s analog equipment, overdriving and distorting them. Almost all the percussion is heavily hand-made.”

He thinks this unusual process – writing not to the picture, but rather away from it – benefited the film. “If you’ve got the detail of each scene, you’re going to get distracted into the mechanics of the cue. Whereas if you want to come up with something original and interesting, explore your ideas and pursue them to find their own internal logic.

“You put all of that in the melting pot and keep stirring. Hopefully something pops out that you haven’t quite heard before.”

 



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YoungBoy Never Broke Again Says He Regrets Violent Lyrics, Plans to Become Mormon

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YoungBoy Never Broke Again — the prolific rapper who released eight albums in the past year alone — has opened up about regretting some of his early music-making decisions.

As part of a Billboard cover story published on Wednesday, the 23-year-old gave a vulnerable look into his life and artistic evolution throughout his rapid rise to fame. He also discussed how his move to Utah has positively impacted his daily life and credited his change of mindset to his budding connection to the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He recalls one specific instance where he was quick to decline a visit from a group of Mormon missionaries who showed up outside his home, but after recognizing that he “wanted help very badly” and “needed a friend,” the artist opened his doors to them.

“It was just cool to see someone with a different mindset that had nothing to do with business or money — just these wonderful souls,” he said. He also told the publication that he hopes to further commit to his new-found spirituality with a baptism ceremony, but he’s waiting until he is no longer on house arrest (YoungBoy has been on house arrest since October for a weapons charge in Louisiana).

Reflecting on his early releases, the Louisana-born rapper said he felt a sense of responsibility for “the shit I put in these people’s ears,” adding that he feels “very wrong about a lot of things…How many kids or people have got in a car or put this shit in their ears and actually went and hurt someone?”

Acknowledging that the damage has been done, YoungBoy expressed his eagerness “to clean whatever I can clean” moving forward, “but it’s gon’ take time.”

YoungBoy is one of the most commercially consistent rappers to have come out of the past few years. Five out of eight of his 2022 full-length releases reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 last year. His latest, “I Rest My Case,” debuted at No. 9 after its arrival in early January, and marked his first studio effort under Motown. “The Last Slimeto,” which peaked at No. 2 on the albums chart, was the rapper’s final obligation to Atlantic Records — his label of five years.



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No Stories, No Surrender: Bruce Springsteen Makes Up for Lost Time With Searing, ‘Letter to You’-Heavy Tampa Tour Kickoff

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Bruce Springsteen might be tired of talking. Between two runs of his narrative-heavy Springsteen on Broadway residency and eight episodes of his Renegades: Born in the USA podcast co-hosted with former president Barack Obama, Springsteen had been doing a lot of gabbing in the six years since he last hit the road with longtime backing outfit The E Street Band. But if Wednesday night’s (Feb. 1) opener to the group’s 2023 Tour is any indication, story time is over: The Boss is back, and he just wants to play.

In fact, for the great majority of the show at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, the only thing Springsteen had to say — outside of the occasional “TAMPA!” holler or stage direction for his 19-piece band — was “one, two, three, four!” as he introduced their next ripper. No mention was made of the relatively long layoff since their last global trek, nor of any of the real-world circumstances that might’ve accounted for a couple of those dormant years, nor even of the fact that this was their first show back; if you’d wandered in from across the street, you’d likely assume they had already been on the road for months already.

But in many ways, that’s just Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They may be rock history’s most successful bar band, but they still have that working man’s approach to the gig — and priority one of Wednesday’s show was demonstrating that they were back in business, and picking right up where they left off. The group was cooking from the opener, Born in the U.S.A. fist-pumping fan-favorite “No Surrender,” and the energy stayed at that level close to throughout the 28-song set. No time for putting on airs; there was six years’ worth of rocking to catch up on.

The setlist also reflected this ethos, with the spirit of the selections being far more side two of The River than side four. (Only one song actually from The River, the boisterous rave-up “Out in the Street,” made the cut; presumably Springsteen figured we got our fill of that double LP the last time out.) Renditions of longtime live staples like “Prove It All Night,” “She’s the One” and “Johnny 99” were positively scorching — and though the show’s setlist was relatively light on major curveballs, longtime fans in attendance were no doubt please to hear the extended shine given to jammier early cuts “The E Street Shuffle” and “Kitty’s Back,” Springsteen even conducting the brass section in individual solos on the latter.

And the man himself remains a physical marvel. His voice is obviously still mighty, but you might’ve wondered if age and time off would result in Springsteen, now 73, appearing visibly diminished. But he still shows a wiry, near-pugilistic scrappiness onstage — perhaps a little stiffer in movement, but no less authoritative and striking for it. Among his classic rock peers, perhaps only Stevie Nicks can compare in terms of the amount electricity they can summon to this day simply by lifting their arms. (Bruce’s years might show most in his sense of humor, including on-stage banter with sideman Stevie Van Zandt during the ending of “Glory Days” about it being “time for us to go home… it’s way past my normal bedtime.”)

The show also aimed to demonstrate that Springsteen still has it as a songwriter, with a whopping six tracks pulled from his 2020 LP Letter to You. (Last year’s Only the Strong Survive cover set got a quick two-song mini-set, while 2019’s dustier group of originals Western Stars was not represented at all.) The new songs meshed surprisingly well with the old — particularly the anthemic “Ghosts,” which already sounds like it should’ve been a live fixture for decades — with the repetitive “House of a Thousand Guitars” the lone selection where you could feel the energy lag a bit. The evening’s most emotionally charged moment might’ve come with Springsteen’s spellbinding solo acoustic performance of Letter ballad “Last Man Standing,” preceded by his lone preamble of the evening — which explained the song as being inspired by the death of an early bandmate, leaving him the lone living member of his first-ever band. “At 15, it’s all tomorrows… at 73, it’s a whole lot of yesterdays,” he summarized, to roaring audience support. “So you gotta make the most of right now.”

It certainly felt like the band made the most of their time in Tampa — particularly once they started blazing through a show-ending run of classics like “Born to Run,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” and “Dancing in the Dark,” with Springsteen even mimicking his famous dance moves from the latter’s music video. The “Dark” performance also included a rare miscue for the band, as someone came early with the chord changes in the first verse — a foible that came off as more charming than anything, especially with the rest of the group visibly shrugging to themselves and one another, eh whaddya gonna do, it’s opening night, lotta tour still ahead.

The final number was a second Letter to You acoustic rendition, this time of “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” which Springsteen also used to close Springsteen on Broadway in 2021. Dedicating the song to Emily Rose Marcus — the recently deceased daughter of rock critic Greil Marcus — Springsteen’s hushed performance was a thoroughly heartbreaking closer. But as he walked offstage at 10:43 ET, seemingly with time still left for an epic encore (“Thunder Road” perhaps?) the crowd continued buzzing expectantly for a couple minutes — until the house lights came on, confirming that The Boss was indeed checking out. He had said all he needed to say for the night.

Setlist:

No Surrender
Ghosts
Prove It All Night
Letter to You
Promised Land
Out in the Street
Candy’s Room
Kitty’s Back
Brilliant Disguise
Nightshift
Don’t Play That Song
The E Street Shuffle
Johnny 99
Last Man Standing
House of a Thousand Guitars
Backstreets
Because the Night
She’s the One
Wrecking Ball
The Rising
Badlands

Encore:
Burning Train
Born To Run
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Glory Days
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
I’ll See You in My Dreams



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Rosalía Parts Ways With Longtime Manager Rebeca León

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Rosalía has “amicably” parted ways with her longtime manager Rebeca León, Variety has confirmed. The news was first reported by Billboard.

León — who also managed J. Balvin as well as Colombian superstar Juanes, with whom she founded Lionfish Entertainment — began managing Rosalía when she was still an unsigned flamenco artist and was in the process of recording (and self-funding) her second studio album “El Mal Querer” in 2018.

Their partnership would help propel Rosalía’s career to a global stage, turning her into one of the world’s biggest Latin artists. She was the first Spanish-language singer to ever be nominated for best new artist at the Grammys in 2020. At this year’s show, her genre-bending “Motomami” album is nominated in the best Latin rock or alternative album category, which she previously won for “El Mal Querer.”

According to reports, the split was an amicable and unanimous decision. No new manager has been revealed yet, and reps for Rosalía did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment. Rosalía is fresh off of a successful 2022 tour run in support of “Motomami,” and already has major festival slots in place for this year. She will be headlining Lollapalooza in Argentina and Chile, along with a main stage appearance at Coachella in April.

León is said to be focused on growing Lionfish Studios, the production company she started with Juanes — who introduced her to Rosalía during a Madrid concert in 2017. The company is currently working in partnership with Sony Music and is working on a series of developing projects, including one with Steven Levinson for HBO. She was also recently credited as a co-producer for the “Father of the Bride” remake starring Andy García. León will also continue working with artists including Latin R&B singer st. pedro, and a partnership with BRESH via her music company, Lionfish Entertainment.



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