In film and television, music can simply serve to create a general ambiance and can oftentimes be overlooked as crucial to the story. In Sharp Objects, however, it stands out when there is silence, when there is an absence of music.
I’ve found myself listening so closely to the music of Sharp Objects that I’m missing some of the dialogue. Not only am I listening for distinctive songs, I’m also looking for hidden messages on the screen.
The tactical use of music a plays a pivotal part in the show’s aesthetic. The episode begins with the song “Cupcake Kitty Curls” by Mark Baston playing over the opening credits.
I’ve been unable to locate the song or lyrics online but the title seems rather fitting for the seemingly pure and perfect princess Amma (Eliza Scanlen), Adora’s (Patricia Clarkson) daughter with her second husband, Alan Crellin (Henry Czerny). The second song we hear is Patsy Cline’s “You Made Me Love You,” with lyrics supporting Adora’s evident disdain for her eldest daughter, Camille (Amy Adams), who is a lonely, self-loathing alcoholic.
You made me happy sometimes
Sometimes you made me glad
But there were times, dear
You made me feel so bad
Later, Amma cues up 2Pac’s song “Dear Mama” and starts to sway with Adora in the kitchen. The lyrics read, “Dear mama, don’t you know I love you? Dear mama, place no one above you.” Camille secretly sees this and we have to wonder why she too doesn’t have a close relationship with her, the firstborn daughter.
The lyrics are like a prayer of Camille’s, left unsaid. Later on in the episode, we can faintly hear the song “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors; Jim Morrison crooning the morbid words, “Let your children play, if you give this man a ride, sweet family will die.”
Imagery is also key, though it’s not always easily recognizable. For example, when Sheriff Vickery (Matt Craven) first walks into his office in the morning, we see Detective Willis (Chris Messina) checking the teeth on the boar’s head mounted on the wall. In the episode prior, Detective Willis conducted an experiment with the severed head of a pig to see how difficult it would be to remove its teeth with a pair of household pliers and brute strength, which is how Natalie Keene, the most recent female victim in Wind Gap, was found — lifeless and toothless.
Later, after striking a deal with Camille that he’ll answer one of her journalistic queries for every crime scene-locale she leads him to, Detective Willis follows her into the woods. If you look closely enough, you can see the word “barren” carved into the mossy bark on a fallen tree. How could a lush forest full of greenery be barren? In the next shot, the word is gone.
At the second crime scene that Camille discloses to Detective Willis, they discuss the death and mutilation of Natalie Keene. He compares the savagery of teeth-pulling to rape, saying “it’s about power for someone who feels powerless.” To me, that begs the question: does alcohol give Camille her power? Moments later, we see a young Camille (Sophia Lillis) examining a spider on the ground in the same spot that they’re standing in now, while being unknowingly encroached upon by a group of boys. The flashback is quickly shaken from Camille’s memory and she leaves the scene.
The spider theme has crawled its way through the past few episodes as well. Natalie Keene had a pet spider. At the end of the episode, Camille and Natalie’s brother John sit at the local bar. As the bartender pours round two of Maker’s Mark into their glasses, we see a large, black spider tattoo on his wrist.
Spiders are relatively delicate creatures, but are burdened by a sense of the macabre. Often, people are afraid of them and kill them on sight. They are misunderstood, as are some of the characters we’ve come across. Some are misunderstood due to venomous local gossip or crude, improper classifications, but there is no way to know for sure. Everyone in a small town has a big secret to hide.