Last week I talked a little bit about the needle drop – that moment in a movie where the director uses a recognizable pop song to elevate the scene and tell us a little about what’s going on. A lot of you shared your own musical moments, and Matt was kind enough to remind me not of his favourite song, or even mine – but of my least-favourite movie song. And the thing is, it’s not even a bad song. How You Like Me Now? by The Heavy was absolutely brilliant the first time it was used. Eighty seven overuses later, it’s way past its peak. Now when I hear it in a movie, as I invariably do at least monthly, as you do too I’m sure, plus in commercials and video games, I involuntarily grind my molars into dust. That song is like nails on a chalkboard to me. So thanks, The Heavy, for selling out at every possible opportunity (I don’t really blame you for this), and a big ole thank you to every unimaginative director who took the path so well-travelled it’s now visible from space – and especially to the Horrible Bosses franchise that’s now used it in both its movies despite being helmed by different directors. So to cleanse my palette and get back on topic, I present you my favourite songs in movies that I couldn’t quite squeeze into the last post, me being excessively verbose and all.
I have to reach way, way back to tell you about the first song I probably ever took notice of in a movie. It’s called One Tin Soldier by Coven, and it appeared in a Billy Jack movie, circa 1971 which is wayyyy before I was even born. But for some reason I enjoyed watching it with my mother. It was our thing. Also probably the first rape scene I witnessed. This is so old that Youtube won’t really cooperate with me, so the clip is the song with random Billy Jack ‘highlights.’ Am I the only one who knows this movie? Tom Laughlin plays the title character, a half-Indian, ex-Green Beret turned pacifist who loves horses and the hippie free-arts school out in the desert that he’s constantly called to defend. The song personifies the peace-loving, anti-establishment, inclusive, liberal leanings that roll into the character, and it’s likely the first non-Care Bears song I learned by heart. My mother, maybe 15 years ago, without the help of Google or Ebay or other helpful tools available today, tracked down a DVD copy of the movie for me. I tried to watch it with my husband and we didn’t make it all the way through. It’s hard to see what a little girl once saw in this film, but I still have warm fuzzy feelings about it nonetheless.
The Real Slim Shady, Eminem from 21 Jump Street
I love this. There’s not a single word to this joke, but Jonah Hill sets it up visually, and Slim Shady lands the punch line with a song. Not only does it prepare you for how ridiculous this movie is going to get, it’s also a pretty good indicator of the loserdom this guy – the not-so-slim shady – attained in high school. Hill fought for this scene and I hope someone has since apologized to him for giving him a hard time because it earns such a huge laugh right off the bat and sets the tone for more to come.
Colorblind, The Counting Crows from Cruel Intentions
Such a melancholy song, it was part of my own teenaged, angsty soundtrack. The song plays just as icy virgin Annette (Reese Witherspoon) and reckless ladies’ man Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) finally admit to (and give in to!) their feelings for each other. The chorus repeats “I am ready” and I think both characters are identifying with that sentiment each in their own way. To this day I get the tingles down under when I hear this song. But this movie did several songs well – the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony at the end comes to mind as a really great closing argument.
Ain’t No Sunshine, Bill Withers from Notting Hill
I had a long-standing affinity for Bill Withers long before this movie ever came about, but I think this scene from Notting Hill just about writes the book on exactly how a song should be used in a movie. His love is gone, and while life goes on, it’s got a little less flavourful now, a little less sunny. Hugh Grant morosely shuffles down Portobello Road as the seasons change around him – a long shot that was apparently 4 separate shots, one for each season, digitally edited so they appear seamless. Time passes but the song tells us that she may be gone, but she’s not forgotten.
If You Want Blood, AC/DC from Empire Records
This soundtrack brought us all kinds of gems – notably, The Gin Blossoms’ Til I Hear It From You for the more romantically inclined, but my heart goes pitter-patter for AC/DC instead. And who among us can’t identify with a little air guitar? Anyone here not guilty? No? Didn’t think so. One of my absolute favourite teen comedies from a time when I myself was a teen, I can totally relate to blowing off steam by turning up a good tune to 11 and letting go. Still my go-to song for cleaning house.
Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf from Easy Rider
This song is easily one of the most over-used today, but Easy Rider may have been the first, and was certainly the most ingenious. This song is MEANT to be paired with wind-tousled hair and freedom. It embodies exactly what this movie is all about.
All The Single Ladies, Liza Minelli from Sex And the City 2
If you know me even just a little bit, then you know this is the single greatest thing to ever happen to me at the movies. I didn’t have an inkling going in, so when the effing legendary & eminently fabulous Liza Minelli makes an appearance at the most over-the-top, incredigay wedding of the century, singing the IT Beyonce song of the moment, I nearly died. And I would have died a happy camper, I’ll tell you that much.