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If you're as obsessed with the business of entertainment as I am, you know there is no more satisfying cocktail than a good song playing over a great movie scene (or vice versa). I'm not talking original scores or other music created for a film, I mean whatever tunes the filmmakers found that matched their work so perfectly that it could only enhance the scene. In my opinion, no good movie was ever made that didn't include amazing music-- you cannot survive without it. Some of my all-time favorite songs were brought to my attention because they were used in a film. In addition to that, I often find that if a song is used in an incredible scene, I'll fall in love with it even if I wasn't a huge fan before. Music and film go hand in hand, and that is why this week I am going to tell you about a few of my favorite songs used masterfully in the movies.
Spiritualized "Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space" from Vanilla Sky
If you were to ask me what genre this song was, I honestly couldn't tell you. On Wikipedia, Spiritualized is described as "space rock", but I really don't know what that means. I do know, though, that they write damn good songs. "Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space" is one of the best love songs I have ever heard, and also one of the most different. They layer odd beep sounds on top of soft vocals with powerful meaning. This song paired with the incredible performances given by Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz at the end of Vanilla Sky evokes tears from me every single time, especially when frontman Jason Pierce sings, "I will love you til I die and I will love you all the time."
Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx "Nightcall" from Drive
During the opening titles of Drive, we are hit in the face with an awesome narrative starring Ryan Gosling and set to the tune of "Nightcall", a smooth and sexy techno-pop-rock piece by electro house artist Kavinsky and the lead singer of Brazilian pop group Cansei de Ser Sexy (aka CSS), Lovefoxxx. Every single time I listen to this, I feel like I'm hearing it again for the first time, especially when they slide into Lovefoxxx's relief of a chorus from the male vocalist's breathy, dark verses. As the song continues on, I can still see Gosling driving around Los Angeles, proving that this song and scene were a perfect match.
The Dropkick Murphys "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" from The Departed
If you're from Boston, or visit as often as possible like I do, chances are you know and love this song. Martin Scorsese chose a lot of great music for this Academy Award winning crime drama (two of my favorites include "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb"), but I chose "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" because the city is such a huge character in the film. It only makes sense that there would be a loud, pounding rock song to punch you in the stomach here and there, just in case you forgot where you were.
Tony Orlando "Knock Three Times" from Now and Then
I think the film Now and Then captures what it's like to be a pre-teen girl rather brilliantly, and this scene is a perfect example of that. It's not even necessary to the narrative of the film (in fact, I'm sure a lot of directors would have cut it for time), but it's one of those little details that make certain movies stick with you. In a break from the drama, the four best friends in Now and Then are simply being kids, riding their bikes down the street and singing this song together as it plays on a radio one of them has hooked to their handlebars. It always reminds me of a simpler time in my life. Remember being twelve? You will after you watch this scene.
Matthew Sweet "Farther Down" from Can't Hardly Wait
This song describes unrequited, desperate love so accurately it can sometimes physically hurt when I hear it. In the underrated 90's teen comedy Can't Hardly Wait, Preston (Ethan Embry) is dying to finally tell Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) how in love with her he has been during the past four years of high school. Every other guy is just after her because she's hot, but not Preston. He loves her, really and truly, which he explains in a letter that somehow finds itself right in front of her at the last party after graduation. As she reads, "Farther Down" plays. Sweet's light and steady melodies over Hewitt's tender performance will leave you with hope that maybe, just maybe, you'll find the girl of your dreams, too.
Damien Rice "The Blower's Daughter" from Closer
"Hello, Stranger." This song says so much by saying very little. It's not heavy in lyrics or music, and yet somehow it cuts right to your core. Rice sings simply and straight to the point, "I can't take my eyes off of you," as Natalie Portman and Jude Law see each other for the first time, walking down the street in the film Closer.
Elton John "Tiny Dancer" from Almost Famous
This is the greatest song on this list, and one of the best ever written. If you aren't already familiar with this legendary work of art, just stop reading this right now and go listen to it. Cameron Crowe used this in what I consider to be one of the best scenes in film history (Crowe, in general, excels like no other when it comes to picking the most perfect music to put in his films). After a big fight among friends and a night of debauchery, Russell Hammond, the lead singer of the band Stillwater, rejoins his friends, bandmates, and groupies on their tour bus. Too much has happened and no one knows what to say to each other. As they sit in silence, "Tiny Dancer" comes on the radio. Gradually, they all join in singing it, and there is no more animosity. The fight is over. It's a brilliant metaphor for how music brings people together and can heal almost any wound, and Crowe could not have selected a better piece to include at that very moment.
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