Real music, new sound
As you browse the music on iTunes, you may have noticed the increasing popularity of movie and television soundtracks. Some of them have even been so brave as to invade the Top 10 Albums chart on iTunes. What is this new phenomenon?
Well, it really comes as no surprise that Glee: The Music, Volume 1, and Glee: The Music, Volume 2 have landed top spots on multiple music charts. Both albums have also been certified gold by the RIAA. The show won the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy. What makes this show so incredibly popular? It could be the stereotypical high school roles played by lead characters, or the underlying good versus evil tension between the geeky members of the glee club, the popular cheerleaders, and their leaders, Will Schuester and Sue Sylvester. But, more importantly, it’s the music that makes the show, and there is no doubt that Glee has a stellar soundtrack. With pop and show tunes, it’s a perfect mix of fun, new takes on songs often heard on the radio, and great classics.
Indie music has also made a surprisingly popular entrance into the world of soundtracks. Perhaps the rising popularity of indie films has something to do with this trend. One such recent hit soundtrack is that of 500 Days of Summer. The film has been nominated for many awards, and it made numerous “Top 10” year-end lists for 2009, and having a great soundtrack didn’t hurt. The music pushed the film forward, sometimes providing background themes while at other times was the highlight of the scene. When Tom first meets Summer, she comments on his choice of music: The Smiths. In another scene, after Tom finally sleeps with Summer, the film adapts the techniques of musicals, where Tom dances through a park singing “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates and people in the park join him in song. When their relationship reaches the pinnacle of happiness, Summer and Tom wander the city and all conversations and noise are muted while “Sweet Disposition” by Temper Trap is played. The movie does a wonderful job of highlighting the songs it uses, making the soundtrack a hit.
Another indie film that has garnered a lot of attention is Juno, the popular 2007 film that won a 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for three other awards. The featured music is a perfect match for the film. The soundtrack is certified platinum, and peaked at number one on U.S Billboard 200. It won the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media. When the director had asked Ellen Page, who plays Juno, what kind of music Page’s character would listen to, she suggested The Moldy Peaches. Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches became the key behind the music, as many of her songs were featured in the film. The sound of the film was free-spirited and jangled — not always perfect, but with character, a reflection of Juno’s personality.
The similarity that all hit soundtracks feature is their ability to perfectly match the film or TV show in which the songs are used. Music provides a mood, be it tension, happiness, or easy-going. Although popular films may boost their soundtracks to prominence, it’s really the music that makes the film.