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…