Being a music star is just as much about the image as it is about the music. Some musicians cultivate an image that they're "bad boys" or otherwise difficult to work with. Others are the girl (or guy) next door.
Ed Sheeran is one of those pop stars that comes across as just a really nice guy. He seems pretty friendly and like he would be easy to get along with. However, when it came to working on Danny Boyle's new movie Yesterday, even Sheeran says that he got downright rude with the director when it came to one particular aspect of the movie. Unsurprisingly it was the music.
Newcomer Himash Patel portrays the lead character Jack Malik who becomes a superstar on the backs of the Beatles' music in Yesterday, and Ed Sheeran says that when making that music on the set, the singer insisted that Patel's performance be clean, with as little interference from the technical side of audio production as possible and that the music was all done live. According to Sheeran...
I am rarely rude, but I was bossy and difficult about that, to make sure that everything, Himesh and his instruments, were all live, that none of that had been interfered with at all throughout.
Danny Boyle tells Indiewire that making sure that the natural performance of Himesh Patel came through was his "main job" on the set of Yesterday. It seems that after Ed Sheeren insisted that the music not be interfered with, Boyle ran with the idea and made sure that Patel's vocals stayed clean. They have apparently not been altered in any way.
It makes one wonder how things might have turned out if Sheeran hadn't been cast in the film in the first place.
The director says that the reason Patel was cast in the role was because he had soul, that there was a connection between the performer and the music that others who auditioned did not have, regardless of how well they could sing. The fear was that if the music was processed too much, that soul would be lost.
Yesterday follows struggling singer/songwriter Jack Malik, who, following an accident, wakes up in a world where, somehow, the Beatles never existed. In a last ditch effort for musical success, he "writes" the Beatles music and passes it off as his own. Needless to say, the idea works, and Malik becomes an overnight sensation.
While the character of Jack Malik performs for large crowds in the movie Yesterday, the real audience of the music is the audience of the film. By keeping the music free of alternation the movie audience has the same experience hearing the music played as the in-movie audience had.
Clearly, the decision to keep the music simple worked. While Yesterday is a movie with a few issues, and one divisive scene, the music isn't one of the film's problems. The idea that the songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney would be hits regardless of era or performer certainly feels true having watched the movie. While the Beatles were no strangers to using technical trickery to enhance their songs, most of the numbers performed in Yesterday are much simpler, and the performances are better for it.
For whatever it's worth, the Beatles apparently liked the way the movie worked too.
Yesterday is in theaters now.