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The Alan Wake 2 Soundtrack Was Custom-Made To Expand The Lore

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We spoke to Remedy and Finland's Fried Music about the ambitious collaboration that helps shape the survival-horror sequel.

It's hard to forget the soundtrack to 2010's Alan Wake. Featuring world-renowned performers like David Bowie, Nick Cave, and Roy Orbison, its music was pulled from various genres and decades to deliver companion songs as each TV-style episode came to a close. In Alan Wake 2, chapters are still presented like episodes, punctuated by licensed music. However, Remedy is going in an entirely new direction, partnering with the Helsinki, Finland-based Fried Music studio to create custom songs from artists from across the globe to bring each chapter to a close. The end result is a soundtrack that, Remedy hopes, feels modern, eclectic, and deeply woven into the fabric of the survival-horror story.

The reception to having Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall in Alan Wake and Control "was so positive that, ever since, I've been thinking that we should just go all the way and be a lot more ambitious with this, and make all the songs custom-created with different and really, really talented musicians," Remedy's creative director, Sam Lake, said in a recent interview with GameSpot. "Let's do different kinds of songs, but let's have them all be about the fiction and lore and an extension of the storytelling."

For Remedy's obsessive fanbase, "Space Oddity" over Alan Wake's end credits is iconic, and a fitting accompaniment to the game's weirdness. But it isn't as closely connected as a song written and produced specifically for Alan Wake2--especially when the lyrics are pulling from Lake's own writings, including his poetry.

"I'm not a professional songmaker," Lake said. "For me, it was kind of a freeing thing to just say, 'Well, I wrote this poem. Can you make something out of it?' And then, for some of the songs, it worked really well. For some, it was more a theoretical starting point. Most of [my poetry] was specifically for this, but I do write some poetry, now and again, and I was digging into my archives as well for things that might fit and then modified it to specifically work with this."

The songs, like some quirky citizens of Bright Falls, aren't always meant to add to the horror.
The songs, like some quirky citizens of Bright Falls, aren't always meant to add to the horror.

For the songwriters and producers involved in the collaboration, having the lyrical jumping-off point helped solve one of the hardest parts of making music. "Usually the bottleneck in any co-writing session is the lyrics, you know, that takes up most of the time," said singer and songwriter Teemu Brunila, who was the lead vocalist for pop rock band The Crash. "So it was super convenient for us to have the narrative out there already, and a lot of starters for the lyrics and ideas and lines that we could use."

Given the secrecy that so often surrounds games, the collaboration was done in person, and artists didn't immediately know they would be featured in a video game. It took place at a song production "camp," a routine process for the recording studio, even as a video game studio made for a novel client. Around 20 music collaborators visited the camp and worked in different rooms creating songs. This was done, in part, from a comically thick stack of Lake's writings. Fried Music founder Jukka Immonen's gesture with his hands, if accurate, suggested dozens of pages that Lake delivered to the folks at the studio.

"It was such a luxury as a writer and a producer to have this treasure trove of these like dark Lovecraftian poems to be inspired by and straight-up just take lines from," said producer and songwriter Jurek Reunamäki. "It made the whole process so easy; it was amazing."

Along with the creative reasons to go this route, there are also practical implications. Music-streaming rights are difficult to navigate, so much so that some past Remedy games have been briefly delisted while music rights were re-sorted. By cooperating with Fried Music and its group of artists, Remedy has ensured a future in which Alan Wake 2 won't be ensnared in music licensing hang-ups. That means streamers need not switch to a streamer-friendly mode which would deactivate these songs to avoid triggering copyright issues.

"How people consume games is different," Remedy's principal audio designer, Ville Sorsa, told me. "If you think of streaming, and [the original] Alan Wake, it would have never worked today. It would be so difficult to have those licensed tracks. This way, you can provide that authentic experience of what Alan Wake 2 is with all the music and all that it brings into the actual experience because we own rights to that."

Ahead of the game's debut on October 27, I was able to listen to the complete soundtrack, including the first two tracks being announced today: "Follow You Into The Dark" from Iceland's Rakel and "Wide Awake" from an up-and-coming artist named Jaimes. The former of those, which you can listen to in the video above, is featured at the end of the game's first chapter and serves as something of an anthem for Saga Anderson, Alan Wake 2's co-lead and FBI agent who arrives in Bright Falls at the start of the story.

As Saga will be a new face for even the most sleuthy Remedy fans, it makes sense that this early chapter and song will give her a proper introduction. The group discussed how each song is very intentionally placed. Each of them has been finely tuned, lyrically and otherwise, to match the point at which it will appear in the story.

"Out of the camp, we got 23 demos, and there were multiple songs for each slot. And then there was this excruciatingly difficult process of listening to the demos and picking the seven we would like to take to the finish line," Lake told me.

Like in the first game, the songs are not all trying to be creepy. From what I heard, they may more often be used to tell the story from a new perspective that isn't focused on horror, per se. "Wide Awake" is electronic, even somewhat upbeat, but its lyrics seem to reveal Alan's inner thoughts, perhaps even things he is saying--or would like to say--to Alice, his estranged wife who has curiously yet to appear in trailers.

"I think many of the songs will make more sense when you experience them in the game," Reunamäki added.

Saga's song, meanwhile, reveals more about her role as a mother, which looks to be a major focus in between her efforts profiling masked killers and dispatching sludgy cultists in the woods at night. Through each song, it feels as though more Easter eggs, or perhaps even direct plot details, will come to light. I love David Bowie, but he never sang about Cauldron Lake or Bright Falls, so as a lore-obsessive player of all things Remedy, the new avenues these custom-crafted songs open up are exciting.

Follow You Into The Dark lyrics

I can't find my way back home

Since I fell down this rabbit hole

I love you so, but I had to go

To find something of my own

I see their patterns in my mind

Anxious designs of the darkest kind

And piece together the cruelest clue

To paint a portrait to capture you

I must guide my love through the night

I see what's coming, it's coming into light

Mother's a seer with second sight

The meaning behind this violent rite

I follow you into the dark (multiple)

Follow the deer to follow the owl

I'm fighting to save my love somehow

I cannot feel her by my side

Even in this place inside my mind

I see their patterns in my mind

Anxious designs of the darkest kind

And piece together the cruelest clue

To paint a portrait to capture you

Carve the secrets from your bruised still heart

Shape my story, tear every page apart

Inside this room, you left your mark

I burn away the shadows, I strike a spark

I follow you into the dark (multiple)

Whereas Alan Wake became a cult classic partly thanks to its soundtrack of major stars, the inverse seems true of the sequel. Remedy's profile has grown so much over the years, especially since 2019's Control earned its heap of trophies, that this next game now feels more mainstream than any Remedy project to date, and the Finnish studio is using its growing platform to highlight lesser-known artists from the region and abroad.

David Bowie has 17 million monthly listeners on Spotify, but in Alan Wake 2, the first single's vocalist, Rakel, has just 13,000. It's likely that number will grow in the months ahead thanks to the artist's prominent place in the story of Alan Wake 2. That recalls something Remedy spoke to GameSpot about just recently, how so much of what's come before was Lake and the Remedy creative team leaning into its inspirations like Twin Peaks and Stephen King, and now, in Alan Wake 2, the studio is wearing its own heritage more prominently and setting new trends that will likely inspire others down the line. And it's doing it all with the studio's layered and enjoyably dizzying storytelling intentions.

Given that both Alan Wake and Control used backmasking, the somewhat mythical process of hiding messages in songs that are only discovered when played backwards, I had to ask if players should make the effort to analyze the Alan Wake 2 soundtrack in reverse. It generated some laughs among the group of interviewees, and I don't think their vague answers were more than playful replies, but I'm still going to be playing these songs backwards, for sure. This is Remedy, after all, a titan in all things weird and wondrous. The custom-built soundtrack is a bold and original direction for the studio, but it seems a perfect fit for this game, which, by all accounts so far, is doing things with video game storytelling we've seldom seen before.

Alan Wake 2 launches on October 27 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via the Epic Games Store. The complete licensed soundtrack, called Alan Wake 2: Chapter Songs, includes artists Rakel, Jean Castel, Mougleta, Paleface, Roos + Berg, Jaimes, RZY, and Keira, as well as an international group of songwriters and producers. The complete collection will launch on the same day as the game and will be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and select other music streaming platforms. The debut track, "Follow You Into The Dark," is out now. For more on the collaboration, check out this behind-the-scenes video.

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markdelaney

Mark Delaney

Mark is GameSpot's guides editor, meaning he tries to keep his backlog short. His favorite genres are battle royale, sports, and horror, but he'll play pretty much anything other than fighters. In his spare time, he likes biking around Portland, listening to Circa Survive, and advocating for animal liberation.

Alan Wake II

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