So I had an idea for a post the other day and hiatus or no hiatus, dissertation or no dissertation, it had to be written. As Pharoah said: So let it be written, so let it be done.
I know…you’re shaking your head and wondering when I’ll get back to real content…soon, I promise! But I stumbled upon this tonight and it just begged to be followed up on. Clearly, in this video, the singer/songwriter is following in the model of late 80s, early 90s power ballads. In my mind, he’s truly playing in the model of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” which came even later, but which took the tropes of the early 90s and updated them. Regardless, it got me thinking, of all the wonderfully cheesy, over-the-top power ballads written for movies, which ones would make my all time list. But let me say this, though…I love a good power ballad. I love the over-the-top quality of them, and I just live in anticipation of the modulating bridge. Even in the above faux-Terminator, as soon as the bridge kicked in I just burst out laughing with glee.
So I make this list in pure nostalgic bliss for the bygone era of the power ballads. I truly miss you.
#5: Highlander – “Who Wants to Live Forever”: All you need to know is that this was recorded by Queen, and while it feels like it never really gets started, it does feature a sweet power ballad guitar solo.
#4: St. Elmo’s Fire – “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)”: Oh my, this song is just 80s cheese through and thought. It’s so cheesy that it should come with a doctor’s warning. The 80s-tastic synths, the earnest vocals, pleading with the listener. It’s not quite a power ballad – though it is a ballad – but it’s just too good to pass up…
#3: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”: I used to love this song as a kid – who am I kidding I still love it. I was but a wee lad when this film came out, and I listened to this song over and over. It has everything a great power ballad needs: a great bridge, epic guitar parts, and the slow build to the moment when the singer screams out his pain and love…oh, and it features a piano being played in a forest. Epic.
#2: The Running Man – “Running Away With You (Restless Heart)”: From the man who brought you “St. Elmo’s Fire” comes this earnest track about running away with the woman you love, which plays after Ah-nold tears through an evil game show, killing all that get in his way. Kinda clashes, but the song is “great”…
#1: Armageddon – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”: The previous songs all reach for epic-ness, and many get darn close, but none reach the epic level of Aerosmith’s contribution to Michael Bay’s film. We have orchestra, we have the epic guitars, bridge, plus it’s written by Diane “Over the Top Song” Warren. She also penned the theme song to Enterprise and many other epic songs. Besides, with this song, the entire world was in danger, so how could that not win?
These songs were left out mainly because they weren’t really ballads, but they do have power and rock! Cue the montages!
Rocky III – “Eye of the Tiger”: If there is one song from the annals of film that screams “training montage” it is “Eye of the Tiger.” If you can’t get psyched listening to this song, you need to have yourself checked for a pulse.
Footloose – “Holding Out for a Hero”: Ah, Jim Steinman, you knew I had to include at least one of the songs he wrote on this list. Enjoy.
I promise, next week I’ll get back to serious discussions of an academic nature…maybe.
Take us away Kenny Loggins!
Loyal Readers, I would like to announance that I am one step closer to earning my PhD. I’ve finished my comprehensive exams…though I still have to see if I pass or not. But for now, I’m just happy that’s over with. And in honor of that, I shall grace you with a Film Score Friday list…though it is already Saturday.
While I was studying, I had the chance to view Hot Tub Time Machine – hey, I needed some “stupid” in my life considering I was trying to learn and remember over 2,000 years of music history – and there is a scene towards the end in which one of the lead characters performs the Black Eyed Peas song, “Let’s Get it Started.” But you see, these guys are back in 1986 and obviously the song doesn’t come out for another 20 years or so. Well that reminded me of another classic movie music performance, Michael J. Fox’s “Johnny B. Goode” from Back to the Future. So that got me thinking, what other good music performances from films can I find? Well, in a rather short, but I feel awesome edition of FSFT5, that is my task. But it is late and I’m tired, so I’m making it short.
In at #5 is the aforementioned sequence from Hot Tub Time Machine. The movie pulls so many tropes from Back to the Future (and even stars Crispin Glover) that a music sequence like this was inevitable, and, like the movie itself, they managed to actually pull it off. “This song’s from the future, but since you’ve been good…you get it early.”
#4: There are some movies I pull out just to watch certain scenes, and 2005’s Hustle and Flow is one that I watch just for the song scenes. There are three great sequences in which the lead character’s songs are made, but I still like the first the best, “Whoop That Trick.” That it shows the act of song creation adds some power to the whole thing, and I love how it slowly comes together is great. Unfortunatly I couldn’t find a clip of it on the youTube so you’ll just have to find the movie yourself. It’s a good film, so watching it will not be a waste.
#3: And speaking of songs coming together, the scene in Ray (2004) in which the titular character records his first hit song, “Mess Around,” is also great, if only to hear the producer try to sing. Warning: the audio sucks on this.
#2: The Back to the Future scene slides in at the two spot. My favorite line is still, “You know that new sound you’ve been looking for? Listen to this!” Unfortunatly I could not find the exact clip from the film, so this will have to do:
#1: And coming in on top is one of the best scenes from Casablanca in which the Nazis get the smack down music style! Two things before the clip: 1) if you haven’t seen this movie…go now and see it, and 2) if you don’t understand the relevance and significance of the two song, well…you really need to learn your history.
Well that’s all for now. I hope to see you all in the near future.
So after the bevy of new Star Trek releases in the past months (reviewed here), I’ve decided to go back and reevaluate my Trek score rankings from last summer (here). Of course, having thousands of miles of driving in which to listen to 11 Trek scores, three of which are two disc sets, helps in the decision-making process. But a simple top five list doesn’t seem right, especially since my top choices are substantially unchanged. No folks, here at The Temp Track, we strive to give you, our readers, only the best. So today, and sorry for it being a bit late this week, Film Score Friday Top 5 goes to 11. It’s 6 louder.
Before I get to the list, let me preface these proceedings with this thought. On the whole, each and every one of these scores is good, obviously some are better than others, but on the whole, the Star Trek scores are remarkable in that they all have some good qualities that help them rise above most film music. Not even the Trek films can make this claim (I’m looking at you Final Frontier…oy what a crap fest). So it was actually kind of difficult once I left the top five to rank the remaining six scores, there is wiggle room and the scores could easily be ranked higher or lower depending on which way the wind blows.
And one final caveat, since there have been so many releases of the scores, not to mention bootlegs floating around, here is a list of the scores I used in my listening evaluations:The Motion Picture – 20th Anniversary (Sony) Wrath of Khan – Expanded Edition (Film Score Monthly) Search for Spock – Expanded Edition (Film Score Monthly) Voyage Home – Original Release (MCA) Final Frontier – Expanded Score (Bootleg) Undiscovered Country – Original Release (MCA) Generations – Original Release (Crescendo) First Contact – Expanded Score (2 Disc Bootleg) Insurrection – Expanded Score (Bootleg) Nemesis – Expanded Score (2 Disc Bootleg) Star Trek – Deluxe Edition (2 Disc Varese Sarabande)
So, with all of that said, let’s go the tape:
#11: Star Trek Generations – Dennis McCarthy: McCarthy was one of the most frequently used composers on the many Star Trek TV series from Next Generation all the way up through Enterprise. And since he had worked so much on the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise-D it seemed natural that he would score their first big screen adventure. The result was a mixed bag to say the least. There are a few good moments in the score, and some good themes, but on the whole…well it seems like McCarthy wasn’t really sure what to do now that he had such a big canvas to work with. The opening track on the album, “Star Trek Generations Overture,” is a great fanfare and deserves to be on any Trek film score retrospective album, but after that…*shrug.* The Overture contains the two good themes, the fanfare and the contrasting theme featured in the next best track, “The Nexus/A Christmas Hug,” but two good themes and a few good tracks aren’t enough to lift this score from the No. 11 position on our countdown. The biggest problem it seems is that McCarthy wasn’t sure how to develope the themes once he wrote them.
#10: Star Trek First Contact – Jerry Goldsmith: Though really it’s Jerry and his son Joel Goldsmith, which does make it feel slightly uneven at times. And while I do enjoy much of Joel’s TV work, he’s not his father. The score has many good moments, but it also relies heavily on a four note motive that Goldsmith recycled from his Final Frontier score, of which I don’t begrudge him, it is his theme after all, and given the shortened post-production schedule that necessitated his bringing his son into the mix, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is partially why the motive got reused. But despite this, there are things to like in the score, the cue “The Dish” is vintage Goldsmith, deftly mixing electronic instruments and sounds with orchestral instruments, and his music for the titular first contact of humans with aliens is a beautiful moment, albeit it is a moment that features the recycled theme from Final Frontier. Some days, I guess you can have your cake and eat it too.
#9: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Leonard Rosenman: There are many moments to like in this score. Rosenman’s main title theme is a great addition to the Trek pantheon, and the “Whale Fugue” is a nice musical moment, but this score has always been dragged down for me by the inclusion of the 80s-tastic tracks contributed by the Yellowjackets. They kind of work in the film, but I didn’t think they were really necessary, and I always skip them when I’m listening to the album. They just clash with everything else, and I guess the producers deemed it necessary to help establish the time period, but considering that it was contemporary to when the film was released, did we really have to? Maybe a proper score release might change my feelings, but for now, it’s No. 9.
#8: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – James Horner: Most of the thematic material for this film is recycled from Horner vastly superior score for Wrath of Khan, which is okay since the film is largely an extension of that film, but the one new theme he does bring in, his Klingon theme, is not very good and is but a shadow of Goldsmith’s Klingon theme from The Motion Picture. But there is one thing that does help this score, and that is the cue “Stealing the Enterprise.” It’s a great cue for what might be the best scene in the entire movie. I won’t say that it alone validates a purchase of the new release, but it is a good excuse none the less. I actually had a good moment during my drive home with this score As I’m listening to “Stealing the Enterprise,” the rest of my family, whom I had passed some miles back coming out of a rest area while we were on our way to visit family elsewhere, finally caught up to me. I happened to glance in the rear view mirror to see the mini-van coming up behind me right as the cue was building up. It was a wonderful geek moment.
#7: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – Jerry Goldsmith: Terrible movie, good score. A familiar formula, though still not Jerry’s best on the Trek franchise, but still a worthy entry. As mentioned, one of the primary themes of the film makes many appearances in First Contact, and to a lesser extent Insurrection and Nemesis, but this is where it began. There is so much wrong with this film, that I had forgotten most of it until I went back and watched it for the first time in years a few weeks ago. But Jerry wrote some great themes for this score that still hold up, and the cue “A Busy Man” utilizes them to great effect. One of the best parts about this score is that Jerry brought back his Klingon theme and his version of the main title (which had since become the Next Generation main title), and we missed them both greatly. As Jeff Bond argues in his book on Trek music, hiring Goldsmith was one of two good ideas that Shatner made when making Final Frontier.
#6: Star Trek Nemesis – Jerry Goldsmith: I sometimes go back and forth and to what is my favorite score of the NextGen movies. Some days it’s Nemesis, others its Insurrection, but for today, Nemesis is in the sixth position. There isn’t a whole lot to say about this score. Once again, Jerry comes up with great new material, his Reman theme is especially a delight and takes full advantage electronic sounds. One could say that Goldsmith was cribbing from Howard Shore’s Isengard theme in his over the top trombones in this score, especially during some of battle scenes with the Reman battle cruiser Scimitar. It is notable that Nemesis was one of Goldsmith’s last scores. Only his rejected Timeline score and Looney Tunes: Back in Action came after it.
#5: Star Trek Insurrection – Jerry Goldsmith: So why is Insurrection currently my favorite over Nemesis? Because I find Jerry Ba’ku theme so charming and lovely. Okay, that’s not the only reason, but it is the primary reason. The version of it found in the Main Title cue as the camera is panning over the idyllic Ba’ku village and then following the people through it is a great sequence and Goldsmith scored it so perfectly. It is essentially one theme repeated several times, but his shifting orchestration keeps it fresh and interesting. It is a good score and is tonally consistent with the other NextGen films, which thanks to the changing composers of the Original Series films, could never find a steady sound, with the exception of the two that Horner scored. If there is one flaw with so much of the Trek music, it is that so many different composers worked on them. Thanks to that, you had many different themes floating around and a new main title for almost every film. Well, that was until Jerry took the reins again.
#4: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – Cliff Eidelman: Following the script that worked so well for Wrath of Khan, the director and producers of VI went out and found a young, unknown composer for Undiscovered Country and it worked out quite well. Eidelman, was told to model parts of the score on Gustav Holst’s The Planets, which is very evident in the open title sequence, but Eidelman really does make the material his own. What is also so remarkable is just how dark this score is. With the exception of moments in the main titles and the sequence in which the Enterprise leaves spacedock, the score is pretty uniformly dark until the very end. Eidleman also borrows from some of Horner’s sound in his music for the two vulcans in the film, Spock and Valeris, played by future Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall (and yes, hopefully that is the first and last time that show will ever be mentioned in this blog space). If there is a score I would love to be the next official expanded release, it is this one.
#3: Star Trek – Michael Giacchino: I keep talking about this score, so I won’t belabor the point. I know some people don’t like how campy and kitschy it is at times, tounge-in-cheek reference to older scores, but I find it works and fits the tone of the film well. In that respect, I guess part of how you feel about the score also comes down to how you feel about the film itself. And while I do have some minor quibbles with the film, I was largely pleased with the effort and am looking forward to the next one. I’m hopeful that Giacchino will stay aboard the franchise as long as Abrams and Co. is on board so that he developes the musical themes begun in this film. If you haven’t picked up the Deluxe Edition, you better hurry up because it’s a limited run and has already sold at the Varese Sarabande website (You might still be able to pick one up from Screen Archives Entertainment, though).
#2: Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Jerry Goldsmith: So far, the only Trek score to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, and numero dos on our countdown. I know, last summer I put it number one, but after much reflection and wrestling with my feelings, I finally decided that as good as it was, it couldn’t beat number one (of which the identity of is pretty obvious at this point). The score has much the same flaw as the film itself, a lack of action. And while I don’t find it to be the fatal flaw that other perceive, it does keep it from rising any further on my new list. I still love almost every moment of the score, from the opening titles, Ilia’s theme, the Cloud sequence, and, of course, the five-minute love affair with the Enterprise itself. It’s a great score and very much deserved its shout out from the Academy, but it’s no…
#1: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – James Horner: KHAN!!!!!! KHAN!!!!!! A single fifty-nine second cue on the expanded release is what put me over the top with deciding to place Horner’s effort number one. “Buried Alive” is just as iconic in my book as Kirk’s shout to the heavens and one cannot exist without the other. Of course, I also love Horner’s sweeping main title theme. I find it amusing that so many people call it “nautical” when that is exactly what Goldsmith was told to avoid in The Motion Picture. Well, different director, different tastes, right? There is really so much to love in this score that it is one of my go to albums on my iPod, and that is high praise indeed.
Well, that’s it. A long list, but a necessary one. I will be entering semester hibernation soon, so this well likely be my final Film Score Friday Top 5 for a while, but I still have some reviews to put up, especially of Varese Sarabande’s epic new Spartacus set, which might just be the single most over-the-top score release of all time. Along with that, there are new editions of Danny Elfman’s Batman, Independence Day by David Arnold, and Outland by Jerry Goldsmith to talk about. So there is still content to be had, but you might have to wait awhile for it.
Greetings from The Temp Track on the Road! A three-day road trip to my parents new house some 1200 miles from Temp Track plaza provided me with plenty of time to evaluate the scores of all eight Batman feature films. Now, some of you might be confused by that number…eight. Well, here, fearless citizen, are the eight films under consideration:Batman (1966, Leslie H. Martinson) Batman (1989, Tim Burton) Batman Returns (1992, Tim Burton) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993, Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm) Batman Forever (1995, Joel Schumacher) Batman & Robin (1997, Joel Schumacher) Batman Begins (2005, Christopher Nolan) The Dark Knight (2008, Christopher Nolan)
Basically, if it was released in theatres, I’m considering it here.
Unfortunately, the hoped for information about the third Nolan film was not released at Comic-Con this past weekend, but it has been confirmed that the third film will start shooting in April of next year with a release date of July of 2012. So, even though it’s not much, we do know that it is a go.
Despite this lack of new information, it is still well that I tackle this list this week for I have been reunited with my comic book collection. There isn’t enough room at my current residence for the collection (especially my beloved Fantastic Four collection) so it has lived with my parents and was moved with them a month ago to a place even further away from me. But they are none the worse for wear and after spending a few hours checking the boxes and putting things in order, my collection has established its new home.
But enough reflection on my geekdom. Onto the five best Batman scores. This time in countdown form. Now, I know I’m going to make some people upset with this list, so I’ll just say sorry up front.
#5: Batman Begins (Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard) – The first score for the Nolan films, it introduced a new sound to the Caped Crusader’s universe and gave us a modern score for the films. Zimmer/Howard gave us a score that eschews the heroic themes of Danny Elfman or Eliot Goldenthal’s scores and one based more on short motives and focused much more on sound. It is almost minimalistic at times and the Batman music sounds like the old 1960s tv series theme passed through electronic filters and reflected through the lens of late 20th Century aesthetics. It was a new sound for a new kind of Batman film.
#4: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Shirley Walker) – I’ve gushed about Shirley Walker’s Animated Series scores before on this site, and Mask of the Phantasm extended all that was good about them into the theatrical realm. With the increased budget of a larger film, Walker added a chorus to the mix and even a 90s-tastic pop song, “I Never Even Told You,” performed by Tia Carrere. Yes, that Tia Carrere, aka the Hot Girl from Wayne’s World. Whatever happened to her?
#3: Batman Forever (Eliot Goldenthal) – The Joel Schumacher era of the Batman franchise is dark time for Bat-fans, but one bright light of the films were Goldenthal’s scores. They took the dark, gothic sound of the Burton/Elfman films and made it to fit the over-saturated, pop world of Schumacher’s Gotham. And I also love some of Goldenthal’s track titles, especially “Nygma Variations,” “Batterdammerung,” and “Fledermausmarschmusik.” The Batman & Robin is a bit of a mixed bag, though, as much of the music seems to be recycled from Forever without much change, and I’m hard pressed to find new themes for Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy. But for as bland as Batman & Robin is in terms of new music, Forever is a score that fresh and innovative, but also respectful for the Elfman scores that came before it.
#2: Batman Returns (Danny Elfman) – This is where people might get angry with me. I selected this over Elfman’s original score, and then decided to put Begins on the list instead of Batman. Well, here is my reasoning. First, I simply like Returns more than the original. I like the children’s chorus and Christmas feeling to the score. Second, I love the Penguin’s theme. One of the things about the original Batman score is that there is no Joker theme. Go back and listen, there is tons of Batman music, snippets of “Beautiful Dreamer,” but no Joker theme. The waltz music can be said to be associated with him, not to mention many of the Prince songs, but still, no Joker theme. This is what you get with Returns, some great villain themes…especially the Penguin. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Batman score, and Danny should have gotten an Oscar nomination for his efforts, but alas, I was only 9 at the time and had no power over the Acamdey…and I still don’t. If anything, my #2 here should be combined Batman and Batman Returns, but I decided not to take the coward’s way out. Lastly, if you haven’t already, go order this right now.
#1: The Dark Knight (Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard) – Two words: Joker Theme. Okay, two more words: electric cello. Seriously, in one, distorted note Zimmer establishes an entire character. One beautiful, distorted, note. That alone is an achievement, but to then weave that note in an out of the score so effortlessly, never let it feel old or repetitive, and never losing the menace established at the beginning of the film is nothing short of brilliant. From that note, he builds a theme that is in many ways the evil foil of the Batman music established in the first film, full of strange accents and a dark, falling chord motif. It is a score fit for what might go down as the best superhero film ever made.
Well, there you have it, love it or hate it. I know this post is a bit lighter on content then some of my recent ones, but please forgive me, I’m on vacation. Hopefully next week I’ll give you a revised list of the Star Trek film scores, but as I’ll just be getting back home on Thursday, I might be a bit late in posting. Hope you have a good week ahead, and while these might not be the scores you deserve, they are the scores you need.
Well, another Friday is upon us, the end of the work week and the beginning of my much overdue summer vacation – but do not be fearful, I shall update from the road. It’s been quite the week here high atop Temp Track Plaza for it seems that my two posts from the weekend – one on Inception and other about the trailer for The Social Network – struck a chord with Google searches the world over and every record this humble blog had for daily, weekly, and monthly views have tumbled like the Berlin Wall c. 1989.
But never one to rest on my internet laurels, I have been hard at work this week in preparation for today’s edition of Film Score Friday Top 5. And this week we are tackling film score albums by Temp Track favorite Michael Giacchino. Mr. Giacchino has had quite a run of success lately, as chronicled elsewhere in this internet space. He released four film scores last year along with continuing work on Lost and Fringe. Oh, and he won a duffle-bag full of awards for his score to Up. So, it seems that now would be a good time to look back at his still young career and give you a list of five Giacchino scores you should not be without, along with some thoughts on the rest.
In all, Giacchino has scored 17 films (that is including the end credit music for Cloverfield, the only score in the film), and ten of those can easily be had from your local iTunes store – with the exception of the deluxe edition of Star Trek. (A list of his credits can be seen here.) Of the remaining seven, the CD for Sky High doesn’t really have much of his music, and The Muppet Wizard of Oz has other music on the release, not to mention the disc is out of print, and the rest I can find no trace of. Thusly, the scores under consideration here are as follows: The Incredibles, The Family Stone, Mission: Impossible III, Ratatouille, Cloverfield, Speed Racer, Star Trek (both the original and deluxe release), Up, Land of the Lost, and Earth Days.
So, here in no real order, and the five Giacchino scores you should have in your collection.
The Pixar Films: This kinda goes without saying, but I’ve gona and said it anyway. The Incredibles was Giacchino’s first major studio work and really brought him to the attention of the rest of Hollywood. That was back in 2004, and was released just as a little show called Lost was in its early days. Of course, J.J. Abrams knew him from Alias, but Incredibles, with its wonderful ’60s jazz/James Bond score made many people sit up and take notice. Prior to this, he had only four other films scores, none really notable, a number of video games credits, and his work with Abrams to his name. Also, think that with the long development process of animated films, Giacchino was most likely brought on board as even more of a real unknown. Ratatouille (2007) brought Giacchino his first Oscar nomination and features the composers signature wit and style. That style and his ability to adapt to fit any genre and do so in a charming manner has helped make his a stable of the Pixar word. This was further demonstrated with Up (2009), for which composed a score that is nostalgic and wistful, a signature of his work. Even Incredibles can be seen in this manner, a throw back ’60s style score. But what he captures in the scores is what can be described as the Pixar magic. That thing that makes these films not only enjoyable for kids, but for adults also. More importantly, though, each one of these score albums are well done and gives one a great sense of the film and scope of Giacchino’s music. As a bonus, the purchase of Up from iTunes includes a short video interview with the composer about scoring the film.
Speed Racer (2008) – This film, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (they of The Matrix fame), was a much overlooked, CGI-in-overdrive live action film that was in and out of theatres faster than you could say, “Go, Speed Racer, go!” I’ve mentioned the film before, and I’ll state once again that I believe it is vastly underrated because people were viewing it in the wrong way. Go in with an open mind and some Dramamine and you might actually find yourself enjoying it. As for Giacchino’s score, it pays its respects to the themes and sounds of the original anime series, but also features much of the Giacchino flare. It revels in the impossibility of it all, from the fighting and flying cars to the evil corporations ruining sports…okay maybe not all of it is so impossible. Best of all, every cue feels fresh and different from much of his other work. Where sometimes, after listening to many of his scores, you’ll hear elements of some of his other work (mostly Lost), Speed Racer stays true to its world and is a great ride from beginning to end. Since I first picked up this score over a year ago, it has rarely left my iPod’s rotation, and I can think of no better compliment given my Nano’s 8GB capacity. And speaking of paying homage…
Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition (2009): I recently reviewed this, so I’ll just summarize my thoughts here. First, do yourself a favor and if you haven’t bought either the Deluxe version just released or the original, just splurge for the deluxe. As an album, it holds together much better and gives you a much better feel for the breadth of Giacchino’s music for the film. It also gives a listener familiar with all the Trek scores a sense that Giacchino is calling back to not just the music of the original series, but music from all of the franchise’s history. It is a great score, and a great set. In my opinion, some of the composer’s best film work.
The Best of the Rest: Should you have some extra credits lying around, I would also recommend pick up “Roar!” from Cloverfield. It is a twelve-minute long shout out to Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla scores that is featured during the film’s end credits (as the film proper has no score), and at 99 cents, you have no excuse. You might also consider checking out Land of the Lost, if only to hear Giacchino references to Jerry Goldsmith’s classic Planet of the Apes score. It has some nice moments in it, though a few times towards the end it veers a bit too close to some of his slow Lost cues.
Now, as a special bonus for those who have made it this far, I offer you a list of my top five favorite Giacchino cue titles. I know some people don’t like his humorous titles, but I for one enjoy them. And away we go…
5. “World’s Worst Last 4 Minutes to Live” from Mission: Impossible III
4. “Galaxy’s Worst Sushi Bar” from Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition
3. “52 Chachki Pickup” from Up
2. “End Credits Can Suck It!” from Land of the Lost
and coming it at number 1…”Matter? I Barely Know Her!” from Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition
Well, that’s it for this week folks. I hope you tune in next week for my countdown of the Batman feature film scores (all eight of them…”Eight?” you ask, you’ll have to come back next Friday to find out). This weekend is the yearly San Diego ComicCon and hopefully there’ll be some news on the next Bat film slated for a July 2012 release – like a title, casting…please? – so no better time than now to look back on the franchise. So come back next week…same Bat-time, same Bat-station.
A few weeks ago I posted a list of influential sci-fi scores, going back the heady days of the 1950s with scores like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet. Today I propose to stay a bit closer to the present day and discuss science fiction films since 2005. For this, though, I am going to expand on the rather restrictive definition of science fiction from the previous list. Mainly, I want to go with the broader classification of “speculative fiction.” Here, I’m not purely restricting to stories set in space or in alternate, dystopian futures but rather an sort of speculation past, present, or future about the world in which we live and its technology. So t in doing research in assembling this list, I considered stories set in the past with speculative technologies (sometimes called steampunk, though even that is a more specific term that what I was considering), or even ones not clearly based in technology but rather treading that thin line between fantasy/sci-fi/drama and just about everything else. All of this is to say that I cast a wide net in deciding on my five, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll actually list everything I’ve been listening to at the end of the post.
The other major criterion I had when making my choices was that it truly contributed something to the genre. Not the film itself, but the score brought something to the table that helped to push the dialogue of “what is sci-fi music?” further. As I mentioned in the previous list, the genre is one with little in the form of true “conventions” that can be stated as the prototypical sci-fi sound or style. I think part of reasons for this is that sci-fi combines with so many other genres and depending on what that other genre might be will help determine some of the approach. Science fiction is more than just a “genre,” it is a setting in which a whole slew of stories can take place. From the sci-fi thriller/suspense of Alien to the sci-fi action of Total Recall. Or from sci-fi drama/fantasy/epic of Star Wars to sci-fi noir of Blade Runner and Dark City. All of these films are “science fiction” but scoring choices were made to serve both the “science fiction” element and the other half of the genre equation. If we ask what a “pure” science fiction score (or even film for that matter) might sound like, I’m not sure I could answer that question. This is part of what I don’t like about Timothy Scheurer’s treatment of science fiction in his book Music and Mythmaking in Film: Genre and the Role of the Composer. While I agree with many of his premises, I think he over-simplifies many aspects of the genre in order to generate a succinct, codified theory. Science fiction is a wonderfully diverse and rich genre with scores to match and I hope this list reflects this diversity.
In Chronological Order…
Children of Men – John Tavener, et al (2006): This is a strange “score” because it’s not really a score in the traditional sense. It is part compilation score, filled with pre-existing Tavener works, pop/rock songs, Handel, Mahler, Penderecki, and others, and part new score because Tavener wrote a new piece for it. This piece, Fragments of a Prayer, is a sort of touchstone for most of the film’s score and comes back throughout the film. Taken as an aesthetic whole, the soundscape, musical and sound design, of Children of Men is a triumph in and of itself and that the film is also great makes the finished project one of the best science fiction films of the last decade, maybe even in the history of the genre. The fact that the score is a hybrid of pre-existing music and a piece composed for the film, but also an independent work, might conjure up thoughts of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but what Cuaron did in assembling is score is not really what Kubrick did. Kubrick had a score written by Alex North but decided (rightly or wrongly, I have yet to compare them) that his temp score best fit his vision of the film. Cuaron and his team were inspired by the music of Tavener during the writing process and decided that his music fit the tone of the film (which is does to beautiful and heartbreaking effect) and rather than have someone try to imitate it made the choice to approach Tavener about being involved with the project. Thankfully to film and film music fans everywhere, the composer said yes.
Sunshine – John Murphy and Underworld (2007): A joint score written by two frequent collaborators of director Danny Boyle, Sunshine is the story of a crew on a mission to restart the dying sun. The composers devised two main thematic ideas for the score, one of which – “Adagio in D Minor” written by Murphy – is one of my favorite film themes of recent memory. Underworld, an electronic music outfit, contributed a contrasting theme that is more hopeful and could be said to represent the promise of a reborn sun. The composers collaborated on multiple tracks (or at least are listed as co-composers of five of the album’s nineteen tracks) and can be said to have contributed equally to developing the sound of the score. Equal parts orchestral and electronic and at times verging on noise and pure sound, the score helps to counterpoint the crew of the Icarus II’s striving against terrible odds and ordeals to complete their mission. (On a side note, while this is one of my favorite sci-fi films of the past decade, I do have some issues with the last act of the film…almost turns into a slasher film after being a taut, psychological thriller for the first two acts.) The score has some minimalistic elements with static chords, repeating rhythms, and other elements, but in the end, it is very distinctive and fits in with the film’s visuals almost perfectly.
Babylon A.D. – Atli Örvarsson (2008): This is probably the weakest entry on the list, but in the final analysis I decided to include it because while the film itself is not great (though not as bad as some reviewers would have it…which might just be the nicest thing anyone has said about the movie), I find the score compelling on a numerous levels. I want to do a more in-depth analysis of the score – though I haven’t had the time to prepare that post yet – but I almost feel like not all of the material from the score album is even included in the film. What I find intriguing are the inclusion of the texts for the Agnus Dei and Dies Irae from the traditional Catholic mass, the former as a theme for the girl Aurora and the latter seemingly paired with the Noelite Church that is ostensibly the antagonist of the picture…though this is very poorly explained in the film, just one of its main problems. And on the album, there seems to be more material with the Dies Irae in it than can be heard, which indicates to me that some footage was cut out or moved around or something. The score itself is fairly typical of what comes out of Remote Control Group, for which Örvarsson works, a blending of electronic sounds and beats with orchestral tones over it. But the voices echoing throughout the score singing about the lamb of God or the day of wrath help to bring out the religious overtones that were seemingly lost in either a poor script or in the editing room…or both.
Moon – Clint Mansell (2009): Well, you had to have known this would be on the list since I named it the best score of 2009, and everything I said then still applies. From the hypnotic opening track of “Welcome to Lunar Industries” to the mournful “Memories (Someone We’ll Never Know),” Clint Mansell’s score captured Sam Bell’s journey of madness, discovery, and escape in a way that helped to root the film in the essential humanity of the character. I’m not sure if Mansell is doing Duncan Jones next film – Source Code – but I hope so as their first collaboration produced such wonderful results. And speaking of Mansell, I would be derelict in my duties if I did not mention his score for Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006). That score almost made this list (and I guess it now has), but mainly I left it out to avoid having two scores from the same composer in the main five. The film itself is a challenging one to classify as it’s not strictly sci-fi, though it can be more or less depending on how you interpret the film’s story. It is a beautiful score that I would recommend checking out.
Inception – Hans Zimmer (2010): I will mainly point you to my comments in the post prior to this one and my fuller review that will come after I’ve seen the film, but Zimmer’s score here knocked me out when I first heard it and even now, after about six listens in forty-eight hours, still holds my attention. I’ll leave further comment for later.
So as I said above, I did quite a bit aural research while compiling this list. As soon as I came up with the topic, Moon, Sunshine, and Children of Men immediately came to mind because not only are they three of the best science fiction films of the last five years, they are also three of my favorite scores of the last five years. But I ran into trouble trying to fill in the last two slots. I was hoping that Inception would fulfill on the promise of the music in the initial trailers, but that was no guarantee. Further, I was initially only going to cover the last five years (which ironically I did end up doing), but I expanded the period back to 2005 so that I could consider a Frodo handful (4 fingers) of sci-fi films from that year: The Island (Steve Jablonsky), Serenity (David Newman), Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and War of the Worlds (both John Williams). Along with those, I also considered the great crop of sci-fi from last year: Avatar (James Horner) District 9 (Clinton Shorter), Terminator Salvation (Danny Elfman), and Star Trek (Michael Giacchino), along with Moon. Then I also thrown into the mix films like The Prestige (David Julyan…and yes it is sci-fi, think about it), Wall-E (Thomas Newman), and the aforementioned The Fountain (Clint Mansell). And while many of those are really good scores, they didn’t demonstrate the innovative approach that I was looking for. Most were traditional orchestral scores that sound like so much modern film music. And despite the fact that I enjoy many of them, I was looking for something more for this list. That little extra.
Finally, despite listening to all or parts of these 16 scores along with a few others, this is by no means a comprehensive survey, but I feel good about my choices and stand by them. Though, as always, if you have any listening suggestions, I’m always looking for more material. So please let me know with your thoughts and comments.
*And to further limit this, I’m only going to consider “narrative” animated programming. And by narrative I mean cartoon shows that are a full half-hour program with only one story and not a collection of animated shorts, such as the classic Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons. It also helps if the series as a whole has a larger structure, but that is not a requirement.
So now with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s chat. I already mentioned how after seeing The Last Airbender over the Fourth of July weekend I decided to seek out the original cartoon series and was wowed by the score. That got me thinking about animated shows as a whole and their scores. I have written in other places on this blog about animated shows and their music – such as Shirley Walker’s score for Batman: The Animated Series or the music for Cowboy Bebop – but I figured now would be the time for a formal declaration of what I think are excellent examples of scoring for animated television shows. Before we get to the list, I will provide one final caveat: I can only talk about what I’ve seen and know, obviously. This has been implied in all my earlier lists, but given my even more limited knowledge of a lot of cartoons, especially ones made post-2000, I figured it would be prudent to restate this fact. As is my “new” custom here, I’ll present these in chronological order.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) – Shirley Walker, et al: For me, this is the cartoon series that really changed how I view the medium, it also helped that this was realesed just as I was entering adolescence. The series was dark, moody, and didn’t really shy away from dealing with topics seriously. It didn’t “talk down” to kids which is why those of my generation who grew up with the show still hold it in high regard and enjoy it to this day. And just as the series itself doesn’t fall into children’s cartoon cliches, so does the score. Building on the tone of Danny Elfman’s Batman film score (he also did the show’s theme), Shirley Walker and a team of composers wrote orchestral music that set the standard for how I judge music for animated shows. La-La Land records released a two-disc set with music from a collection of episodes back in 2008, but it quickly sold out due to fans like myself snatching up all of the 2,500 copies. Just shows that even after almost twenty years, this show continues to have an impact.
Cowboy Bebop (1998-99) – Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts: The first of two Japanese anime shows on this list, Cowboy Bebop has a stunning score that pulls from just about every musical style there is, though, as the title indicates, it focuses mostly on jazz traditions. I didn’t discover this series until the penultimate year of my collegiate education (sometime around late 2002), but the first episode I saw, entitled “The Ballad of Fallen Angels,” was a great entrance into the show. Featuring an opera scene that takes its cues from the opera sequence in The Godfather, Part III, and a pop-song sequence, along with more conventional non-diegetic scoring, the episode encapsulated just how closely music is tied to the overall aesthetic of the show. And what is so great about Bebop and the other anime on the the list (see below) is that they are both 26-episode long shows that were planned as such. This means two things: first, relatively cheap complete DVD sets (around $50 each, and usually available at your local Best Buy), and second, there is a continual story arc from the first episode to the last which makes for a great viewing experience.
Samurai Champloo (2004-05) – DJ Tsutchie, Force of Nature, et al: This is the other anime show on the list, and whereas Bebop is a jazz influenced show, Samurai Champloo, despite its 19th Century setting, features a soundtrack of hip-hop, rap, and R&B. And while you might think this anacronism might clash or be distracting, it works so well because the characters themselves are anachronistic in some ways. Their attitudes are more contemporary, one character, Jin, sports John Lennon-esque glasses, which, while not uncommon in the era, certainly separates him out. While personally I don’t like this score nearly as much as Bebop – if it’s for pure listening pleasure I will go for Bebop before Champloo – I find that I think it works quite well in context and the sheer variety of tracks and styles set it apart from the everyday fare of animated programming. For comparison, the only other anime series I really enjoy, The Big-O (giant robot anime and such but with a noir-ish twist), while having some nice score pieces that help set the noir tone of much of the series, they are too few and are overused. What, for me, helps set a television score apart is how often they will “go to the well” and reuse music. If a composer is given enough freedom and time and can write enough new music for each episode and lessen the use of preexisting tracks, it helps raises the overall quality in my opinion.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-08) – Jeremy Zuckerman: Zuckerman is one-half of The Track Team who do both music and sound, with Zuckerman obviously doing musical chores. As I mentioned in my review of James Newton Howard’s Last Airbender score, the music for this series uses a lot of traditional Asian instruments such as the duduk, shamisen, pipa (or biwa), and koto (or qin) – it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between some of the Japanese and Chinese instruments by sound alone. It took most of the first season for the score to really find its voice, but one it did the sound of the series really opened up. The series started out fairly conventionally, both in terms of tone and plot as well as the score, but once it found a solid footing in a larger story mythology, the stories started to go deeper into the emotion and background of the characters. Like Batman: The Animated Series, this is a cartoon that will be long appreciated by kids, teens, and adults alike, and a musical score that is as challenging in tone as this one is goes a long ways. How many other cartoons feature a duduk? Seriously! Well, at least one other…
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-Present) – Kevin Kiner: The score for the television Clone Wars series (not to be confused with the earlier series) follows much in the style of the CGI film, in fact the film itself was really just a multi-part episode re-edited for the theatre. Kiner’s score for both the film and series follows in the tradition of Avatar in that he uses a lot of instruments not before heard in an animated show…well at least until Avatar itself (though some of the Asian instruments, such as duduks and taiko drums, had been used perviously in Bear McCreary’s Battlestar Galactica score). According to an interview for the film’s special features he strives to create a new sound for each world featured in the show, and he succeeds in large part. I’m slightly confused that on IMDB Kiner is only credited for 17 episodes on the series, but no other composers are listed under the series credits. I’m guessing that someone has been slacking off in the cataloguing department because each episode features mostly new music and new themes as characters are introduced to the series. In a three-part story arc ending season 2, the young Boba Fett, a well-known character from the original film trilogy, is introduced and has teamed up with a group of Bounty Hunters (many seen at other times in season 2) in order to seek revenge on the jedi who killed his father. For this, Boba is accompanied by a theme that is strongly reminiscent of Harmonica’s theme from Once Upon a Time in the West, which is fitting since Harmonica was seeking revenge for the death of his brother in that classic film. Oh, and the score also features the big orchestral sounds that one would expect of a Star Wars related score…so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
Well love it or hate it, those are my five. Next week, in recognition of the upcoming release of Christopher Nolan’s Inception (music by Hans Zimmer), FSFT5 will take on Sci-Fi scores of the last five years. Will Zimmer’s efforts make the list? I don’t know since the score isn’t released until 7/13. Regardless, I’ll hopefully have a full review up sometime over the weekend of the 16th. And, finally, Bear McCreary has at long last gotten some love from the Emmy committee! His theme from Human Target has been nominated in the category of “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music.” Congratulations, Bear!
I’m going back to my roots a bit here on this one, loyal readers. As I’ve mentioned before in these here web pages, I grew up on science fiction. My mom was an avid sci-fi reader and viewer, and my dad enjoyed it very much having grown up reading the Tom Swift novels. But where my dad was more of a casual fan, my mom passed along her love of the genre to me. I wholly believe that part of the reason I love film music is that, in my humble opinion, science fiction films tend to have some of the most enjoyable and unique scores of all the genres. The reasons for this could be many, but the adventure element of many of the genres finest outings help to contribute to this, along with the compositional challenges of having to depict a cultural “other” via music for many of the genre’s alien species and environments. Not to mention that it helps the film suspend disbelief if the audience can be swept along via the music; it helps to bridge that realism gap between the events on-screen and the audience.
To this end, science fiction scores have often times helped to push the envelope in terms of film scoring. Many “avant-garde” compositional practices found a wide audience only in sci-fi film scores, and what I propose in today’s edition of Film Score Friday Top 5 is a list of influential sci-fi scores. Score that have a lasting impact or left an indelible mark on the film music consciousness. For the sake of this list, science fiction as a genre will be defined as films having to do with space as a setting, other worlds, aliens, possible future societies arising from technological advances, etc. Not under consideration are horror, monster movies (either traditional or those monsters created by man through science), or fantasy films (even though Sci-Fi and Fantasy are many times combined into an über-genre).
Enough chit-chat…to the list! The score will be listed in chronological order and are presented today by Blue Sun, Tyrell Corp., Cyberdyne Systems, and Rekall. (And if you can name the films that each of those companies are from, then you are truly a sci-fi nerd…like me.)
The Day the Earth Stood Still – Bernard Hermann (1951): When people think 1950s science fiction, they think theremin, and when they think theremin, they think The Day the Earth Stood Still. Even though it wasn’t the first sci-fi film to feature one or even the first film to do so (those distinctions fall to Rocketship X-M (1950) and Miklos Rozsa’s Spellbound and The Lost Weekend (both 1945) respectively), the high quality of DtESS, its timely message building on the growing fear of nuclear war, has ensured that the film has remained in the American mind, and along with it Hermann’s score. I must admit that it has been years since seeing the film myself. It was between 15 and 20 years ago when it was on a local TV station’s Saturday afternoon theatre and my dad and I watched it together. I didn’t quite understand everything it was about, but I do remember Hermann’s theremins. On a trivial note, the film was directed by Robert Wise, who would later direct Star Trek: The Motion Picture (one of his final directorial efforts) which featured a great sci-fi score by Jerry Goldsmith. Alas Goldsmith’s score did not make this list for reasons described below. The score is also a great example of Hermann’s always interesting orchestrations. Besides the two theramins, there are two Hammond organs, a large studio electric organ, three vibraphones, two glockenspiels, two pianos, two harps, three trumpets, three trombones, and four tubas. Sometimes his orchestrations read like a joke. I mean, really, who needs FOUR tubas? Seriously.
Forbidden Planet – Louis and Bebe Barron (1956): In simple terms, the first all electronic score in major studio film history. It’s hard to evaluate this score because is flies in the face of so many conventions. When watching it with the film, it’s hard at times to separate out what is “score” and what is “sound effects” because the Barrons seemed to be doing both. As a separate piece of music, listening to the score album released only some 20 years after the fact, it is a remarkable composition. The sounds created by the Barrons in their New York studio with little monetary support is breathtaking. It is fascinating to read about how they went about creating everything, and I highly recommend James Wierzbicki’s book on it (part of the Scarecrow Film Score Guide series). I only really became acquainted with the film because I had seen the Wierzbicki book in my school’s library and also read about it in Mervyn Cooke’s recent A History of Film Music. In preparing this list, I finally checked out the film from the library and also downloaded the score from iTunes, and even if no other films have ever had a score quite like Forbidden Planet, the sounds themselves created by the Barron’s changed the soundscape of sci-fi films forever. Also, on a separate note, notice the similarities between the FP and DtESS posters? The robot carrying the girl, instilling the fear that these evil robots are stealing our women! Of course, in both of these movies, neither of the robots are evil, are they? The true menace of these pictures is man himself.
Planet of the Apes – Jerry Goldsmith (1968): Even though Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn’t on this list, Goldsmith is represented. How could he not be? With such sci-fi scores as Logan’s Run, The Illustrated Man, Total Recall, Alien, to go along with five films in the Star Trek franchise and the theme song to Star Trek: Voyager, and countless other sci-fi related projects, having a Goldsmith penned score was not only inevitable but practically a necessity! The reason that the original Apes score appears is are many. Like Day the Earth Stood Still, it is an early example of a 20th Century compositional technique being used to such a degree and effect that it becomes synonymous with the score, in this case, serial technique. This has been described elsewhere in this blog, but for those just joining, serialism is a technique developed by Arnold Schoenberg in which all twelve pitches of the Western chromatic scale are ordered to create a “tone row” from which the composer then creates a piece. Apes was not the first time it was used in a major Hollywood film nor the first time Goldsmith had used it (Leonard Rosenman’s The Cobweb (1955) and Freud (1962) respectively), but combined with the unique instrumentation and sound of the orchestra, the effect of a serialized score is heightened and melds perfectly with the film’s story and visuals. I did a music theory project on this score, with transcription assistance by Herr Vogler (check out his blog, listed in my blog roll), and it is a fascinating score. I hope to one day do hands on research with the sketches held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Library in LA and turn that project into a proper article (and maybe book in the style of the Film Score Guide series).
Star Wars – John Williams (1977): Well you knew this was going to be here, right? Not having it would be like the Louvre without Mona Lisa, but it does raise a question…why be on a list of most “influential” sci-fi scores? Yes, it’s a great score, but in every way possible, it’s strictly conventional. It’s straight up orchestral music using leitmotivic technique, and yes, there are great themes and moments, but what about it makes it “influential?” Well, it’s because of its conventionality, and use of traditional orchestra. Star Wars not only helped to mark a new era of symphonism in film scoring, but after years of modernist and “other worldly” sounding sci-fi scores (like those mentioned above), Star Wars brough back the orchestral sound that had marked all early Hollywood films, and especially those of sci-fi. The traditional sound of Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture score is partially a result of Star Wars (though Goldsmith does manage to sneak in some more modernist sounds like he always does, and to great effect), and go down the list of great sci-fi scores of the last 30 years and you’ll hear parts of Star Wars in most of them. Its influence on film scoring, not to mention an entire generation of musicologists like me who love Star Wars and the music of John Williams, is almost endless.
Blade Runner – Vangelis (1982): This score is like Forbidden Planet in many ways, not only is it (almost) entirely done by electronic instruments, but there really hasn’t been anything quite like it before or after. And while the ambient musical nature of Vangelis’ score is lightyears away from the Barron’s work for Forbidden Planet, they are kindred spirits in the realm of using bleeding edge electronic technology for compositional purposes. What also makes this score interesting is how Vangelis reinterprets music and style from film noir conventions by incorporating them into his electronic idiom. But in many ways the score is distinctly early 80s, just as Planet is distinctly 1950s, which means that, in many ways, it hasn’t aged well. It is too much a product of its time. I would make the argument, though, that many of the 1980s sci-fi scores that utilized electronic instruments were in some way directly or indirectly indebted to Blade Runner, notably Brad Fiedel’s The Terminator (1984), which should get an honorable mention nod from this list.
Speaking of honorable mention nods, I would also like to give a nod to Goldsmith’s Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Total Recall scores. While maybe not “influential” in terms of this list, they have certainly influenced me and many other film music fans. And lastly, how cool are these movie posters? If I had a copy of each of these nicely framed and hanging on my wall, I would be a happy camper.
Well, I bit you adieu until later this weekend with more reviews and updates (hopefully), and until then…keep watching the skies!
So people come up to me in the street and ask me, “TempTrack, what do you think of this latest YouTube video?” To which I usually respond, “huh?” I’m usually pretty oblivious to many “new” and “cool” things since I am neither cool or hip. But I do usually find out about things at least a few years after the fact. For today’s edition of Film Score Friday Top 5 I ask the question of what are some of the best music based internet “memes?”
First, you may ask, “what is a meme?” Well, according to Wikipedia, it is, “is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” Specifically an internet meme is one that is spread via the internet, of which the most well-known musical example is Rickrolling (don’t worry, the video is actually part of the great Rocketboom series “Know Your Meme”):
But what are some other examples? Well, I might have to stretch the definition of “meme” a bit here, but it is all done for a reason, loyal readers. But let’s start with an oldie but goodie: Yatta!
This video has been floating around the internets since at least 2004, or at least that’s when I first encountered it. It is a music video for a Japanese band named Green Leaves and the combination of the Garden of Eden costumes, crazy dance move poses, and what might just be the funniest granny ever on the ‘nets (you’ll know it when you see it) make it a hilarious video. It’s like a funnier version of the Backstreet Boys. And the mixture of English and Japanese lyrics just sends it to a higher level.
But no meme is truly complete just with just sharing and distribution, a key component is the remix and adaptation. This is what allows memes to have longevity. There are tons of remakes of various ilk of Yatta on YouTube, my favorite is a machinima (using a per-rendered video game engine to do animation) version using Star Wars Galaxies.
But some internet trends aren’t born of a singular video or trend, but rather cultural happenings, such as the advent and proliferation of auto-tune. “Know Your Meme” did a great episode on this, so I’ll let them explain it first. (Bonus, it stars “Weird” Al Yankovic)
But I think this trend reached its apex with the work of the Gregory Brothers and their series “Auto-Tune the News.” My favorite is their second episode with Katie Couric’s line “very thin ice,” which is so good that it has appeared in many subsequent episodes.
Now, on a very basic level, what the Gregory Brothers are doing is a mash-up, but instead of taking two songs, they are taking regular speeches with new beats and building a new song out of it. While at the same time they are also doing the same thing to the video, mashing the existing video with themselves and also cutting together certain pieces and doing split screen effects. It is a very creative and clever commentary on the news. I just wish they could produce episodes faster.
And speaking of mash-ups, that is the next category. While obviously not strictly an internet phenomenon, YouTube has certainly allowed for greater distribution and promotion of mash-up songs and videos. And in a great post-modern meme moment is the mash-up “Never Gonna Give Up Your Teen Spirit.”
But another favorite of mine is “Toxic Love Shack” which is exactly what is sounds like.
Wow, there are a lot of videos in this post, but I have only a few more, I promise. The next meme trend is that of the “literal video.” In these videos, a music video is taken and new lyrics are recorded that are a literal interpretation of the video scenes. Many classic videos have been subjected to this treatment, but none has been as popular as the video of Bonnie Tyler’s classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Related to the literal video are “phonetic translation” videos in which songs – usually in a foreign language – are subtitled with what the words sound like in English. Many of these, including the classic “Fart in the Duck” contain some lyrics that are not quite work safe, so I’ll leave that to you on your own time. In their steed, though , I’ve selected a video with a song that is in English, but you can’t understand the singer so an internet genius has provided subtitles for the hard of understanding. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Joe Cocker performing “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Enjoy, and I’ll see you around the webs.