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‘Nope’ Composer Michael Abels on Creating His Most Ambitious Score to Date for Jordan Peele’s UFO Drama

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Director Jordan Peele launched Michael Abels’ film composing career five years ago with “Get Out.” Now, for Peele’s “Nope,” the two-time Emmy nominee has written his most ambitious score to date.

“It has all these different elements,” says Abels. “There’s the awe and wonder that the characters experience, but then there’s also the satire. The Western aspects are both legit and satirical.”

“Nope” combines science fiction, horror, and movie and TV sendups into a sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying experience. After a freak accident kills their father, Hollywood horse-trainer siblings OJ and Emerald (Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer) discover that there is a UFO hovering in the clouds over their ranch, and it just may be malevolent. Their neighbor, a former child star (Steven Yeun) who runs an Old West theme park, finds a way to cash in on the phenomenon.

It fell to Abels to find the right music for all of this. He even wrote the theme-park music heard emanating from the bushes and buildings while tourists stroll by, inspiring him to brilliant takeoffs of both the classic American Western score (Jerome Moross, “The Big Country”) and the Italian spaghetti westerns that followed (Ennio Morricone, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”) for the same movie.

“You can tell how much fun I had,” laughs Abels.

The composer’s early music for “Nope,” relaxed and pastoral, gives no hint as to the frightening events to come. “Some cues have a heart, because this is really the story of OJ and Emerald, their relationship as brother and sister, and this adventure they find themselves on,” he says.

Yet the wonder and mystery they experience as they realize they are on the verge of capturing footage of a real UFO turns into something far more frightening. “The awe and terror are intermingled in this film,” Abels explains.

So he turned to complex string writing including aleatoric techniques, familiar from some of John Williams’ work in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” although Abels is quick to point out the chaotic random notes are “terrifying and disorienting,” and that the surface similarity of plot (UFOs visiting Earth) is coincidental.

Abels recorded in May with a 75-piece Los Angeles orchestra and 32-voice choir. Unlike Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us,” for which Abels prepared texts to be sung, “Nope” demanded wordless choir “for that sense of wonder.” But instead of the usual “oohs” and “ahs” heard in many film scores, Abels had the singers “shift their vowels” to create an eerie, unearthly vocal sound.

“It’s very subtle, but it gives it a different, sort of otherworldly quality that’s not what you would normally hear. I made my best attempt to put a Jordan Peele spin on that,” he says.

Peele dislikes electronic sounds, according to the composer. “He is so conscious about creating terror in a natural world. The minute he hears an electronic sound, he’s taken out of the world he’s trying to create. So I use virtual instruments when it comes to textures and sound design.”

Director and composer are in a constant dialogue during the months of score creation. “He’s able to hear a cue once and instantly give his feedback,” says Abels. “He can instantly say what he likes, what he doesn’t like, or where it needs to go. He also likes being challenged – causing him to think about either the scene or the music in a different way. That includes every craftsperson that he works with.”

Peele even moves cues to different spots in the film than they were intended for. “When he first started doing that, it was disconcerting, but now I actually love it,” Abels notes, “because I hear the music in a different way and I understand where he’s trying to go. It’s really instructive.”

Abels spent more than three months writing the music for “Nope” at the same time he was preparing for the debut of his first opera, “Omar,” at South Carolina’s Spoleto Festival in May. It will have its West Coast premiere with the Los Angeles Opera on Oct. 22.

Based on the true story of a West African Muslim scholar abducted into slavery in 1807, it is a collaboration with Rhiannon Giddens, a Grammy-winning American roots writer and performer. Also upcoming for Abels: “Breaking,” a fact-based drama starring John Boyega, due in late August.



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Inside Garth Brooks’ Epic Celebration of the End of His 3-Year Tour With Wife Trisha Yearwood (Exclusive)

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Popping bottles and toasting with the closest people in his life! Garth Brooks is celebrating the end of his three-year world tour with champagne and festivities!

ET’s Rachel Smith was exclusively with Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at the epic afterparty following his final stop on the North American leg of his Garth Brooks Stadium Tour!

Amid the revelry, Brooks spoke with Smith about the tour wrapping up and said that he truly doubts he’ll be headlining a tour of this magnitude in the foreseeable future.

“I don’t think we’ll ever do a stadium tour again, ever. It’s just too much on the crew,” Brooks shared. “These guys haven’t been home in six months.”

However, Brooks celebrated the fact that his road crew is “finally gonna get to go home and see their families.”

That being said, Brooks admitted that retirement from live performing isn’t in the cards, and when it comes to tours, “It’s never the last one.”

Yearwood, meanwhile, shared that the champagne wrap party celebration was somewhat “bittersweet” by nature, “Because you enjoy every second along the way.”

“The last show is always the special one. This is something that, even though some of us will work together again, it’ll never be like this exact moment,” she added.

While the three-year tour is nearly done, Brooks still has more than enough on his plate, including the release of his new book, The Anthology, Part II: The Next Five Years.

Additionally, Brooks is set to narrate a 10-part documentary series, National Parks, for NatGeo, and the country crooner reflected on his workload, sharing, “It’s gonna be fun! Here’s the deal, man, if you wake up you got a job to do.”

That also means he has no interest in ever giving up on his music. “I think hopefully I’ll die with my guitar on,” Brooks shared.

“I just want to be wherever that woman is, and I’ll be happy.” Brooks said, referring to Yearwood. “But if I’m gonna get to play music, then I’m a lucky, lucky man.”

Brooks’ The Anthology, Part II: The Next Five Years is available for purchase exclusively on talkshoplive.

The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour comes to a final close in September with shows in Ireland on Sept. 9-11 and 16 and 17.

 

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Eminem Challenges Beyonce for U.K. Albums Chart Title

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Shady’s back, and he wants another U.K. No. 1.

Eminem could get what he wants with Curtain Call 2 (via Interscope), which dropped last Friday (Aug. 5) and is well-placed for a run to the chart summit.

Based on midweek sales and streaming data, Curtain Call 2 is the U.K.’s No. 2 album, less than 100 combined units behind the leader, Beyonce’s Renaissance (Columbia/Parkwood Entertainment), the Official Charts Company reports.

Curtain Call 2 is the sequel to Em’s 2005 career retrospective Curtain Call: The Hits, which remains in the Top 20 after 512 weeks on the chart, a stretch that has included five weeks at No. 1.

With Curtain Call 2, the Detroit hip-hop star can extend on his record ten U.K. No. 1 albums to his name, all consecutive, dating back to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP. No other act in U.K. chart history has ruled the chart with as many album titles in a row.

Meanwhile, Beyonce’s Renaissance leads the Official Chart Update, and is on track for a second week at No. 1, while Calvin Harris is chasing a fifth Top 5 album, with Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 (Columbia), opening at No. 5 on the chart blast.

ABBA’s Gold: Greatest Hits (Polydor) is on the rise following news of a 30th anniversary edition. Gold is slated for the reissue treatment Sept. 23 in several new formats, including special 2LP picture disc. The Swedish superstars’ hits compilation has lived on the chart for a record 1,057 weeks.

Further down the list, metal group Dub War could bag their first U.K. Top 20 with Westgate Under Fire (Earache), their third studio album. It’s new at No. 12 on the midweek chart.

Finally, Neil Young and Promise of the Real is set to start at No. 14 with Noise & Flowers (Reprise), recorded during their 2019 European tour, while U.S. ska outfit The Interrupters could impact the chart for the first time with In the Wild (Hellcat), their fourth studio album. It’s new at No. 17 on the chart update.

The Official U.K. Albums Chart is published late Friday.



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Iggy Azalea Says She’s Making Music Again: ‘I’m Coming Back. Cry About It’

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Iggy Azalea’s last release, 2021’s “The End of an Era,” marked the Australian rapper’s final bow — or so we thought. On Monday morning, Azalea seemingly retracted that sentiment.

“A year ago I was willing to walk away from music because I was tired of the negative energy it attracted,” she tweeted. “But what I’ve learned is that even when I’m minding my business, y’all gonna be negative and nosey. So if I can’t have peace, neither can you. I’m coming back. Cry about it.”

A little over a year ago, Azalea told audiences that “End of an Era” would be her final album so she could take “a few years to focus on other creative projects and things I’m feeling passionate and inspired by beyond music.” She also added that she was looking forward to sharing “different sides” to her in the future.

In an August 2021 interview on the Zach Sang show, Azalea explained that “End of an Era” was the final album she had to deliver as a part of a distribution deal with her label, Bad Dreams Records (Empire). “That was two albums, contractually. I don’t have anybody that I need to make happy.” She also added that she would possibly get another deal in “three to four years” but also expressed — pretty definitively — that “End of an Era” would be her final studio album release.

She also mentioned her decision to stop releasing music came because of the increased assumptions made about her lyricism in relation to her real-life relationships. It remains unclear whether Azalea has plans to seek another distribution deal or plans to release a full studio album again.



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