Dan Deacon Scores Big on Adam Sandler’s Hustle

Electronica’s goofy cousin Dan Deacon returns with his FIFTH film score in two years, Hustle. Deacon maintained a consistent release schedule over the years since 2007’s eclectic Spiderman of the Rings. In 2017, he entered the film score game with Rat Film. And only a few years later found himself on the red carpet for scoring the Academy Award nominated documentary Ascension.

Deacon, most known for his engaging and ultra-positive live shows, writes meaningful music while not taking himself too seriously. He creates electronica to make you smile, dance, feel victorious. His music is meant to be experienced live and in community. I saw him perform several years ago during a midafternoon slot at Riot Fest in Chicago. Undeterred by technical difficulties in the beginning, Deacon created an inspiring, joyful environment where he was able to get hundreds of hot, sweaty punks to dance without inhibition in full daylight (and at this point relatively sober).

His latest release is the score for Adam Sandler’s excellent new Netflix movie Hustle. Hustle tells a heartwarming story of a basketball recruiter who stumbles upon an incredible talent and works against resistance to get him into the NBA. This is not your typical Sandler screwball comedy that aims to please the lowest common denominator. Think more Punch Drunk Love rather than Hubie Halloween.

Sports films have a long history of classic scores. Without looking it up, most people could hum the theme to Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” or “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti from Rocky. Although Hustle may not contain a standout theme like the aforementioned movies, Deacon’s score could certainly join the shortlist of great sports film soundtracks. However, instead of one singular film-defining track, Deacon creates an atmosphere that guides the listener through the film’s dramatic beats. There’s a cadence throughout the score. Even without having seen the movie you could follow the action, the conflict, the triumph, and the resolution.

Deacon’s playing intersperses piano with 80’s inspired synth tones and moving drum parts. The London Contemporary Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra join him on filling out the parts. A theme flows throughout the score, drawing the individual tracks together into a cohesive whole.

Some tracks are inspiring (“Combine,” “Run Uphill Win”). Others pump the adrenaline and create dramatic tension (“Bo Vs. Kermit Pt. 1”). As with any score, some of the pieces are brief and incidental, while others carry the narrative and are thus longer. However, the incidental music does not feel superfluous, despite its short length. The short “Like I Was Not Even Here” sounds like the breaking through of the sun following a particularly violent storm. “Already Dead” plays on themes from “I Am a Mountain” from 2020’s Mystic Familiar. In fact, it was this song that caused me to think “Wait, is this Dan Deacon?” while watching the movie.

If this sounds interesting to you, watch Hustle on Netflix and pay attention to the way Deacon’s music fleshes out the emotional vision of the movie. Then stream the soundtrack HERE and follow him on Instagram HERE.

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