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The Film Authority speaks on Movie Themes…

…and Lady Gaga…

Back on the BBC, chatting on-air to Stephen Jardine about movie themes; my apologies for being so scattershot in recording these things, my thoughts on various subjects have been lost to the mists of time. It was the death of composer Vangelis that sparked this debate about whether the art of the great movie soundtrack has been lost; you can hear our chat via the link here circa 2.37 mins. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0017d4g)

What also makes this timely is the release of the Top Gun: Maverick theme song, Hold My Hand performed by Lady Gaga. It’s decidedly throwback to create buzz for your movie by getting a big star to write a popular song specifically for the film, but it’s clearly working; Hold My Hand has accumulated 20 million hits in a couple of weeks, and is never off the tranny, raising awareness of the movie and teasing our expectations. You’d be hard put to find anyone who can hum the theme for Spiderman: No Way Home or Dr Strange’s Mad Multiverse, so while some might find the strategy old-school, it’s a welcome creative gamble that looks to be paying off.

In fact, this approach harks right back to the mid 80’s, when MTV changed the art of the soundtrack; rather than the big orchestral scores of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET, we got collections of wall-to-wall songs, some specially composed, others lifted from previous pop popularity, provided a narrative through-line for audiences. Back then, getting the soundtrack album and playing it all summer long was a big part of how we connected to cinema; from Top Gun to Pretty Woman, it was a mood thing that did wonders for our identification with the movies.

And my regular reader will know I’m a Gaga fan; I saw her play live years ago at a music festival, and was left fairly astounded by a set that sounded like Ute Lemper carousing in a dank Berlin basement in 1986. Lady Gaga worked the crowd like the Streisand-level mega-star she turned out to be, hammering away at the ivories and turning Poker Face into a Chas & Dave-style knees-up. Hold My Hand is worth comparison to previous banger The Shallows from A Star is Born; an anthem that you can blast out on the car radio and feel the need for (law-abiding levels of) speed. With cinema audiences well down from pre-pandemic levels, maybe the hit soundtrack is worth reviving as a way of bring general audiences back to the movies…

 

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  1. Aha! Lady Gaga, too. musical revelation is heaped upon musical revelation. This kind of theme music jukebox that Easy Rider I guess kicked off brought some great tracks to a wider audience and of course once Tarantino got hold of the idea turned it on its iconic head.

    • And it is STILL a great marketing tool, I really hope to hear more movie themes…even Iron Man 3 had a belter…

    • I like hearing a song I like on the radio. Somehow it’s the wait, and the coincidence, that makes the moment…

  2. Music is so subjective so you’ll have to forgive me for disagreeing regarding the quality of the Gaga song for the new Top Gun. Yes it’s beautifully produced and La Gaga has a great voice, but the lyrics are banal and not up to her usual standard. It reminded me of another Cruise vehicle (literally) Days of Thunder and the Maria McKee ‘Show me Heaven’ IMHO which was a superior ballad, as was the original Top Gun ‘Take My Breath Away’ by Berlin. I get why she was possibly commissioned to write a similar kind of thing for this new Top Gun, but I would have expected a bit more originality from La Gaga, she doesn’t need to imitate, it does her no great service.

  3. I guess I make a distinction between theme as a movie’s score, which has never gone out of style or diminished in importance, and an actual theme song, which had its last big hey-day in the ’80s. Since then only animated movies and the Bond franchise have really been working on keeping up the great tradition of the latter.

    What does “never off the tranny” mean?

    Interesting listening to James Barnes give his opinion. Who was “the gentleman before” that he mentions and whose name he couldn’t remember?

    • James Barnes was my wingman; I’m the best of the best and don’t you forget it, Bunty!

      Tranny= transistor radio.

      The new Top Gun has both: a hit theme song which is the basis of a sweeping orchestral theme that’s heard over and over again. The score sounds huge in the cinema, but the song should be omnipresent in pop culture for months…

        • I have now seen Bob’s Burgers and will be composing the usual thoughtful critique.

          Are you sure that you are a man with literary pretentious? Seems like an Irish/Quebec venture based on the end credits…is it for kids?

          • Just going over to my neighbour’s for some bbq burgers now. But his name’s not Bob. It’s Bill. So I’m having Bill’s burgers. I look forward to your considered appreciation of what looks like the movie hit of 2022.

            • Until you get a good look at it… I didn’t know Bob’s Burgers, but it was OK I guess…

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