Big Little Lies 250px-Opening_Title_Card

I have been following the HBO’s A-level mystery soap “Big Little Lies” and have been transfixed by the title credit music.  It begins with a haunting hummed falsetto motif that, after a few repeats, becomes the accompaniment to a plaintive, raspily sung soul melody.

A little internet research informed me this cool music was excerpted from Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart”.  On Itunes there were two versions one could download. The 9:57 album cut (from Kiwanuka’s “Love & Hate”).  Or a 3:30 minute radio edit.

Ten minutes seemed like too much of a good thing, especially when I only knew I loved the minute I heard during the “Big Little Lies” credit sequence.  So I opted for the radio edit:

Cold Little Heart – Michael Kiwanuka – Radio Edit (3:30 minutes)

ColdLittleHeartWhich starts with that haunting intro.  And after a quick verse chorus verse chorus go around there is a quick fade out, just as the music hints at an intriguing coda.  A coda that plays over Big Little Lies’ title credits, but is not included in the radio edit.

It sounded truncated.  I was curious what else, in addition to the title credit coda, was missing.  I decided to plunk down an additional $1.29 for the ten minute album cut.

It’s a three course meal.  With plenty of salad and appetizers before the main course, and a tasty dessert after:

Cold Little Heart – Michael Kiwanuka – Album Version

There’s a 4.30 minute instrumental intro and a one minute twenty second outro that both harmonically and thematically relate to the song proper in the middle section.  The generous “appetizer” is an instrumental/vocalese extravaganza in the vein of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” and the one minute “dessert” tacks a piece at the back end that is a near independent song in its own right, like the extended coda of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around…” for example.


Michael Kiwanuka

But the main course remains the song proper of “Cold Little Heart”, and here snug in the middle of the ten minute album version the haunting falsetto humming gets a full two pass due before becoming accompaniment for the first verse.  And the intriguing coda of the song proper only hinted at in the radio edit is played out in 30 beautiful seconds before the “dessert” portion takes over.

Did the radio edit really need to remove those gems?  I know Billy Joel famously quips (in “The Entertainer”): “It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long; if you’re gonna have a hit you got to make it fit; so they cut it down to 3:05”.  But nowadays hit songs on the radio often enough run 4 – 5 minutes with commercial ease.

I accessed the basic audio editing tools I have on my laptop, and used the album version to create what I consider the ideal “radio edit” of “Cold Little Heart”, with the humming intro given enough breadth to properly sink its musical claws into the listener, and a proper ending that feels satisfying, and not like the waiter took away the delicious main dish right before one finished those final satisfying bites:

Cold Little Heart – Michael Kiwanuka – “Ideal Radio Edit” (4:09 minutes)

Really, isn’t that the better “commercial” version of the song?

Someone oughta tell Kiwanuka’s label.  😉

Big Little Lies

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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