How The Team Behind Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty’s Score Created A Spy-Thriller Soundtrack
Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red, Netflix, and Milan Records have finally released the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners soundtrack, including the Franz Ferdinand theme song, “This Fire.” The soundtrack also features the outro song, “Let You Down” by Dawid Podsiadło, and others that play throughout the limited series anime like composer Akira Yamaoka’s “Whatever It Takes” and more. The soundtrack, which also features music by composers Marcin Przybyłowicz and P.T. Adamczyk, is available to stream today, but CDPR has revealed a vinyl release coming in early 2024; preorders are now open.
The release of the Edgerunners soundtrack follows the debut of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty last month, alongside the standard edition and Deluxe Edition release of the Phantom Liberty score. You can listen to the Phantom Liberty deluxe soundtrack here and the Edgerunners soundtrack here.
To accompany today’s music-centric news, we spoke to CDPR composers P.T. Adamczyk and Jacek Paciorkowski about the score for Cyberpunk 2077 and its Phantom Liberty expansion, the Edgerunners soundtrack, and much more.
How CDPR Created The Music Of Its Cyberpunk 2077 Universe
While my conversation with Adamczyk and Paciorkowski was mostly about the Phantom Liberty and Edgerunners scores, having not talked to them about Cyberpunk 2077, I was curious how they first approached this universe’s music. Adamczyk says it was about taking the direction of Cyberpunk, which he feels is rooted heavily in 1980s music, and bringing it to the 1990s.
“We wanted that kind of edge in our score, and that kind of edge can mean many different things, but for us, it was the music we grew up on,” Adamczyk says, noting U.K.-based inspiration like The Prodigy and Europe’s techno scene in the later 90s. “At first, it could be a little restricting because it’s super difficult to be subtle and underscore things with a four-on-the-floor kick drum going all the time, but it was our way of making a stamp on the genre as a whole, and really differentiating our take on cyberpunk [the genre] from what was already out and what had been done so well in the past.”
When it came time to develop the score for Phantom Liberty, Adamczyk says the process was quite different, namely in that the music team began by conversing with the game’s narrative director, Igor Sarzynski. He outlined the entire Phantom Liberty storyline, what characters like Solomon Reed, Somi, and President Rosalind Myers would go through, and more. Adamczyk says the Cyberpunk 2077 score was written alongside the game’s development, including its story, whereas CDPR already had Phantom Liberty laid out.
“It allowed us personally to really focus on the relationship between Reed and Somi and treat that as a baseline for the entire score because from my point of view, the musical point of view, I would say that we basically go on this journey with Somi, V, and Reed together and that’s the main heart of the story,” he says. “The spy thriller thing is obviously there, but it’s like fancy clothes, and underneath it is the Somi relationship.”
Paciorkowski says creating the spy thriller aspect of Phantom Liberty’s score was quite easy because Adamczyk and the rest of the team had already created the foundation for this world’s music. For me, the Phantom Liberty theme song, “Phantom Liberty” by Dawid Podsiadło, screams “spy thriller,” with an almost Cyberpunk-ish take on a classic James Bond song. The team agrees, noting that’s the most forward spy thriller song on the soundtrack, but Paciorkowski says he doesn’t approach songwriting and composition with “spy thriller,” which might utilize 1960s and ’70s vintage orchestra and jazz lines like what’s heard in 007 movies, in mind. Instead, he just wrote about the relationship of the characters.
As for those characters, Adamczyk and Paciorkowski describe the relationship between Somi and Reed as a “cold sense of tragedy.”
“It’s not something that’s operatic in the way that it’s expressed,” Adamczyk says. “It’s fairly subtle, which is great because you can work a lot of dialogue in and there’s a lot of dialogue in the game, [but] also, it has this sense of being unresolved.”
He says that’s not what he thought when he wrote the Phantom Liberty score, but rather, something that he realized after writing a few of the score’s main cues. Ultimately, he wanted to portray that Somi and Reed were once friends, and they wish they weren’t in the situation they are in during Phantom Liberty. “But it’s hard to forget the past and what it used to be like for these two, and I think in a different set of circumstances, they would probably act differently.”
Adamczyk points to Podsiadło”s “Phantom Liberty” lyric, “Please tell me you brought the iron,” as an indication of how Somi and Reed’s relationship must go, even if they wish things could be different.
Adamczyk tells me the team asked Podsiadło about joining the Phantom Liberty soundtrack because of the way his voice mixes both “manliness” and masculinity with “great vulnerability,” noting that this intersection speaks to the roots of the “spy” music we associate with the genre today.
Elsewhere during the process, Paciorkowski says he focused a lot on the musical cues for Phantom Liberty’s Kurt Hansen and Myers. “Hansen was definitely easier because it’s obvious, right? He’s a thug, so it was all about just adding gravity and greediness in the sound to just blow him up on-screen even more,” he says. “And with Myers, it was a little bit more tricky because, on one hand, she comes through as someone who’s got good intentions, but you still don’t necessarily trust her. So it was all about adding that note of uncertainty.”
The kinds of cues and foundational efforts that plot a musical throughline from Cyberpunk 2077 to Phantom Liberty also lent themselves to Edgerunners, which Akira Yamaoka scored with some collaboration from Adaczyk and the CDPR music team.
“I don’t want to put words into [Yamaoka’s] mouth but I would say that the key ingredient and the key factor for making the score of Edgerunners was to keep the identity of the IP intact,” Adamczyk tells me. “As I said earlier, we really wanted to have our own take on the Cyberpunk genre and we feel really strongly about it. This is the sound that we want to put out as the CDPR version of Cyberpunk, hence the use of cues from the base game [in Edgerunners].”
I finished my conversation with Adamczyk and Paciorkowski curious about their jobs at CDPR – not the actual job or title, but rather, the fact that they are in-house composers for the studio. Having covered a good bit of video game music here at Game Informer and in my own personal time, the more usual thing is that studios and companies hire freelance composers, or completely independent composers, via contracts and the like. The composer writes the music, the game is released, and the two go their separate ways. But in CDPR’s case, Adamczyk, Paciorkowski, and the rest of the team are employees of the studio.
“Every day, I have to pinch myself, to be honest,” Adamczyk says. “I think it’s the way it used to be in the gaming industry. Twenty, thirty years ago, I think a lot of studios had in-house composers but then the industry grew. And for some reason, most of the big studios kind of dropped their music team. When you don’t have a music team, it’s sort of a missed opportunity.”
He points to the collaborative efforts that happen outside of Teams and Zoom meetings or formally scheduled discussions – smoke breaks, lunch, and more. Adamczyk says the information he learns that he can then apply to the music from these informal conversations “helps make the music part of the fabric of the game.”
Paciorkowski adds that working at CDPR, especially on projects like the Phantom Liberty score, “feels like I’ve won the lottery.”
“When you’re a freelancer, you’re actually quite removed from the whole process,” he says. “[We] are able to make more informed decisions about the final shape of the scene in terms of music, so yeah, working in-house is an advantage that makes you write better.”
The standard and deluxe editions of Phantom Liberty’s soundtrack are available to stream. The Edgerunners soundtrack is also available to stream starting today, and preorders for an early 2024 vinyl release are open.
For more, read Game Informer’ Cyberpunk 2077 review and then read Game Informer’s Phantom Liberty review. After that, read Game Informer’s spoiler-free Phantom Liberty tips and tricks, and then check out this story about a live-action Cyberpunk series in the works.
Have you played Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!
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