A score with bite for bestial blockbuster Twilight
A horde of pop stars have been jostling for a lucrative berth on the soundtrack to the latest Twilight film. Gillian Orr takes a look at a particularly toothsome collection
Friday 11 June 2010
Last year, New Moon, the box-office breaking, second instalment of the Twilight film franchise was given a considerably icier reception than the original. Well, the critics certainly thought it a weaker film; the hardcore fans, of course, were always going to be happy as long as Robert Pattinson took his shirt off. One feature that was substantially superior to the first film, however, was the soundtrack.
Not that the first film's soundtrack was rubbish. There were tracks by Muse and Paramore. A song by the underappreciated Iron & Wine was thrown in on the recommendation of the film's other star, Kristen Stewart. There may have also been a warbling track from Pattinson himself, but the less said about that, the better (and I'm saying less because, quite frankly, I'm scared of his zealous fans).
But look at the delights that were featured on the New Moon soundtrack! Somehow the producers had managed to get original songs from a selection of the hottest bands around. Death Cab for Cutie, Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke, Lykke Li and Bon Iver were among those who wrote tracks specifically for the film.
So how did the producers secure such a musical coup and get some of the coolest and self-consciously credible artists to contribute to a fantasy film about vampires and werewolves, adored predominantly by teenage girls around the world?
At a time when the music industry is struggling, being featured on one of the biggest film franchise's soundtrack is going to make you some cash. Death Cab for Cutie's manager, Jordan Kurland, has said "There aren't a whole lot of ways to sell records anymore, and this is a guaranteed way of doing that".
So far, almost four million soundtracks have been sold. Both previous compilations have gone to No 1 in the US Billboard charts. And that's not to mention the wider audience bands can potentially reach when some of the most dedicated fans in the world decide to look up the artists featured in their favourite film.
But there is someone else lurking behind the scenes responsible for all this. Step forward Twilight's music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas. Her company Chop Shop Music Supervision is also responsible for soundtracking a number of hit shows, including The O.C., Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl, her choices usually reflecting her own more alternative tastes.
These soundtracks have won great acclaim and given the acts a platform. Although, unfortunately, you can also blame her for Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" being used in just about any television scene that requires two actors to look at each other gooey-eyed, it's not all bad. She is a big champion of unsigned and little-known bands and without her help, some of these artists would never be discovered, let alone make any money. In 2007 Patsavas launched her own record label after signing a deal with Atlantic Records. Chop Shop Records signs mainly indie rock bands and also distributes the Twilight soundtracks.
For the upcoming latest instalment of the Twilight saga, Eclipse, Patsavas invited bands to submit songs to be included. While some fervent music fans might want to cry "sell-out!" it's not considered tacky to be on the soundtrack. In fact, artists are jumping to be involved. Almost 400 bands sent in original songs to be considered for the film. And while you could argue that producers are merely using these bands to be cool by association, surely if we get new music out of it and it gives a deserving band some exposure, then doesn't everyone win?
So who actually made the cut this time? Muse, one of the favourite bands of the books' author, Stephenie Meyer, are responsible for the first single, "Neutron Star Collision (Love is Forever)". The Black Keys provide a rollicking, sleazy track, "Chop and Change". Vampire Weekend are on top form with "Jonathan Low". Band of Horses, The Dead Weather and a duet between Beck and Bat for Lashes also feature on the soundtrack. There are smaller, up-and-coming bands too, such as Fanfarlo and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Most of the acts are edgy and credible. You can see why American Idol's Adam Lambert failed to get his song "Suburban Decay" included (better luck next time, Adam). A lot of the bands chosen specialise in a certain dark, evocative sound.
Patsavas explained to Rolling Stone that "New Moon was about love lost. This is about the battle between the vampires and the werewolves. There's a louder, more dissonant component to the music."
Released before the film comes out in the US on 30 June, the soundtrack is now one of the most eagerly anticipated features of the lucrative movies and it provides a great marketing tool for the distributors to create buzz prior to the film's release. The song listing was closely guarded before being announced, and tracks were unveiled one by one on MySpace last month.
So just how do acts get involved in writing a song for one of the films and what demands are made of them?
Florence and the Machine have a track, "Heavy in Your Arms", included. One of the finest songs on the soundtrack, it's a classic Florence number: dark and moody with a big, sweeping chorus and electrifying vocals. Florence Welch explains why she wanted to be involved. "I thought it would be something fun to do; I'd never written a song for a soundtrack before. It's an interesting exercise as a songwriter. You're thinking about it more in a visual tone and imagining a film score, which I think is really exciting.
"They didn't specifically say what bit of the movie it was going to be in or anything, but they did say it should have nothing about vampires or werewolves in it. I don't think they wanted anything with specific references to the story; it's not a musical, opera type thing – they just wanted something that fitted the emotional tone of it. I just thought about some of the themes in the book and wrote the song."
So was she a fan of the books? "Yeah, my sister and I read them to each other last Christmas. It's pure escapism. We get really excited for the films, they're fun."
Welch also seems to be charmingly unaware of the huge demand to be on the soundtrack. When told how many bands submitted songs for it, she gasps, "No way, really? Mental. They wouldn't tell us for ages if it was on. I did the song, they said they liked it and then only at the last minute did they say it was included."
With Patsavas's claim that "great songs were sent in by world-class talent" and "the would-have-been album is quite stunning", it's not surprising to hear that Welch had to be kept waiting as all the different tracks were trawled through.
It remains to be seen if Eclipse is going to be worth checking out or not, but one thing's for sure: the soundtrack certainly is.
'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)' is out now. The film 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' is released in the UK on 9 July
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