Sunday, May 22, 2011

Theme Songs: The Foos vs. Phil Collins

I learned to read in the pages of Spider-Man comics, so it probably goes without saying that I hotly anticipate the upcoming slate of superhero movies.  A couple of weeks ago, Thor was released and I made good on my determined resolution to see it on opening weekend.   I did not specifically follow Thor as a kid, but Marvel was generally my comic company of choice and this character played a large role in that universe.  The most fundamental premise of a movie about Thor requires the filmmaker to bring Norse gods to life in an everyday world, and because of this I think a Thor movie is an incredibly ambitious undertaking.  In this case of this particular release, however, the end result was pretty successful.  The product placement was pretty shameless, though.  Especially in 3-D - I felt a little attacked by a Kashi Go Lean box at one point. 

At another point in the movie, Thor and another character were having a conversation in a bar, and I noticed that the “jukebox” in the background was playing a song that I found immediately familiar.

Walk is among the strongest offerings on the consistently strong Wasting Light, but I don't see that it has any conceptual relevance to the movie.  The song appeared as ambient background music in the aforementioned scene, and re-emerged during the ending credits, but its lyrical and musical contribution to the move was minimal at best.  I have a distinct feeling that it was not written for Thor, but was instead appropriated as a way of tying it to other arenas of commodified popular culture.    

The inclusion of Walk as a featured song in Thor felt like another instance of product placement, which has caused my perception of Wasting Light as a whole to subtly (and negatively) shift away from its artistic merits towards its potential as commodity.  Undoubtedly, viewing music as something to be bought and sold is a standard practice.  When I feel that this perspective emerges as the primary impetus for creating new music, however, it challenges the image of steadfast integrity that I admittedly (and delusionally) project onto my favorite artists.   

I think that songs can strongly set the stage for a movie’s narrative, though, especially if they were written specifically with the movie in mind.  Sometimes, songs that play this role end up being stand-out tracks in an artist’s overall oeuvre.  Some of the best work of well-established artists such as Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Chris Cornell, and many other artists were the result of providing theme songs to James Bond movies.  This song immediately comes to mind as an example:

It's OK, Phil.  You were only playing in front of billions of people....we all make mistakes.

Arguably, Against All Odds the song was quite a bit stronger than its attendant movie.  In fact, I don’t know anyone who has actually seen it.  Regardless, although the song was written independently from a specific album, it is a landmark in Collins’ career.  It represents a turning point in his writing away from the atmospheric theatrics of In the Air Tonight towards the appropriated whiteboy soul of Sussudio a few years later – and perhaps towards Collins’ increased perception of his own music as commodity as he evolved into one of the prominent songwriters of the 80s. 

1 comment:

  1. Ok, now I want to go watch my Live Aid 1985 DVD(s), ha ha! I love him!