San Diego Comic-Con 2019

Last week San Diego Comic-Con wrapped up, and in its wake lies a treasure trove of trailers for the next year of big-league film and television. Although we didn’t get an appearance by Warner Bros—and, consequently, no Wonder Woman 1984 or Dune—we did enjoy even representation from the cable network landscape and the world of streaming alike, with promos by The CW, HBO, TBA, Amazon, and Netflix each garnering attention, among others. Here’s our annual trek down Hall H, with—as always—an ear towards the musical element.

On the television side, the season three trailer for Black Lightning (The CW) uses production music Chronic Trax’s 2018 compilation City Beats—specifically,“Flawless” by Stephan Sechi and Alexander Hitchens. The track definitely evokes a 70s vibe, not unlike the upcoming Shaft reboot, lending a sense of swagger and fun to the proceedings.

A Celtic folk track by Patty Gurdy underscores the entire trailer for Amazon’s fantasy series Carnival Row, with narration overtop. Note at the end how the narrator says that “I am the light” (likely also a biblical allusion), and the music in turn ends on the parallel major chord rather than the expected minor.

Netflix’s anticipated sequel to 1982’s The Dark Crystal is similarly of a fantasy bent, but leans into its 1982 roots with the introduction of sequencers midway through the fairly standard epic music fare in this behind-the-scenes trailer. At 1:12 in the linked trailer there is a notable pause, and at 1:16 percussion, strings, choir, and sequencer come together as some snippets of final footage are shown off. As the studio perhaps best known for Stranger Things, it’s surprisingly on-brand.

As far as trailers using existing songs go, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Love is All Around” is a 1996 cover of the original theme from the Mary Tyler Moore show. Knowing its origin, it’s doubly interesting that the song is being used to introduce Harley Quinn in her own animated series—with lyrics like “you’re gonna make it after all,” it slyly revitalizes what is widely thought of as a feminist anthem.

In a trailer that may be deserving of its own closer look and listen, the Watchmen trailer is aurally bombastic, liberally borrowing from many of the tropes we have heard in recent trailers including ticking and a chromatically ascending bass motif that reminds of the trailer for Knives Out.

While it’s hardly possible to cover every single trailer at SDCC, it’s obvious even from this cursory overview that the event is a playground for trailers promoting all genres and formats. It can be interesting to see what musical choices are made to match the format and budget all at once. Effective use of music takes many guises, whether that’s the use of production music for Black Lightning, or the placement of original music by a more niche genre artist fitting the series as in Patty Gurdy for Carnival Row, or the meaningful pairing of “Love is All Around” and the character of Harley Quinn.


—    Curtis Perry