Max De Lucia
Mar 28, 2022

Why Hans Zimmer's BMW score is irritatingly good

Real car fanatics and BMW drivers want a cacophony of automotive magic, writes the co-founder of DLMDD.

Why Hans Zimmer's BMW score is irritatingly good

In some ways it comes as no surprise that BMW has hired Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer to design the "iconic sound" for the new electric iX and i4 cars.

The ultimate driving machine meets the ultimate composer – an irritatingly perfect German marriage.

But what is surprising is the result. It's irritatingly good.

As a car nut, petrol head and BMW enthusiast, I've been a bit of a sceptic when it comes to electrical vehicles and particularly BMW EVs. And there's good reason for this – I have an old 1980s BMW E30 that I love.

This old chunk of metal sits at odds with the 6.75 million EVs sold last year. It stinks of fuel, looks fantastic and sounds phenomenal. Hit 4000rpm in third gear and the roar of the engine even puts a smile on the face of passengers who haven't the faintest interest in cars.

Sound has always been a monumental part of the brand's driving experience and Renzo Vitale, BMW's creative director of sound, nods to this when he says: "We believe cars can move people emotionally."

Sound is also at the heart of every car fanatic's obsession. If you love cars, you want them to sound sensational.

So it's a tall order to reinvent the wheel. And it is a proper reinvention that's needed because EV's are completely silent. There is no engine sound on offer and it's this blank canvas that provides a tremendous challenge to any composer, acoustician and sonic artist. Where do you even begin?

Manufacturers such as Nissan have seemingly fallen at the first hurdle, having polled their drivers and found that most simply want silence. This tells you everything you need to know about people who drive a Nissan.

But real car fanatics and BMW drivers want a cacophony of automotive magic. So the brand's brief to Zimmer is a fascinating one: take the sound of more than 100 years of the brand's automotive history to the next level.

That's a lot of trust that BMW has placed in Zimmer and he's repaid it with what I think is sonic gold dust that sets the pace for how car manufacturers need to approach sound in the months and years ahead.

Zimmer himself says: "What we're trying to do in the car is humanise the technology, humanise the experience and humanise the journey."

And that's exactly what he's created; the sound of the Start/Stop button alone sends a fizz through the driver that says: "We've got the best journey in the world ahead." And BMW drivers have that sensation to look forward to every single day over the lifespan of their ownership.

Zimmer's ignition sounds nothing like a car and yet everything like the future of automotive. I like it and I really wanted to hate it.

So what does this all mean for cars and sound moving forward? Is every vehicle going to be scored like a Hollywood blockbuster?

At the top end of the market, for the likes of Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and beyond, I think they're going to need to be. Without the theatre of sound, EVs are pretty bland places to be. And no-one spending big dollar on a new whip wants bland, they want the best.

All credit to BMW; it has thrown the kitchen sink at sound, placing the most iconic composer in the world behind the wheel of the next era of the brand's sonic legacy.

Which musicians, composers and producers will get the keys to make their sound mark on the next global car brand? We will have to wait and see.

For now, all credit to BMW and Hans Zimmer. It really is the irritatingly perfect German marriage.

Max De Lucia is co-founder of specialist sonic branding agency DLMDD

Campaign UK

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