Movies Can Make Any Song Good

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I don’t care who you are or what music you typically like, if Step Brothers doesn’t make you fall in love with the song Por Ti Volaré by Andrea Bocelli, there’s something wrong with you.

Aside from being a huge film buff, I’m a huge music buff. Hell, I’m just plain buff. (25/m/nyc/d&d free ;-* ). Basically though, there ain’t a genre of movies or music where there ain’t at least some stuff I dig. And that’s the way things should be. Who are these people who, for instance, ‘don’t like rap’ or ‘don’t like horror’ or whatever? How can anyone be so lazy? There’s tons of different types of horror movies, tons of different types of rap. To write off an entire genre is just lame. It’s 2013, people—if you don’t have eclectic taste, get the fuck outta here.

However, I can understand people not liking something if they don’t have any context for it. If you’ve never heard, for instance, reggae, hearing it for the first time will be a love it or hate it experience—it either speaks to you or it doesn’t. Its context is either hardwired inside you, a sleeping giant in your brain waiting to be woken by the right tones, or the context must be instilled. And to instill said context takes volition—it may necessitate listening to lots of different reggae artists, and various styles of reggae, and reading up on the history of the genre, until something clicks in your brain. Or, you could just fucking watch The Harder They Come.

I don’t know how anyone can watch that movie and not come away with a love for reggae. The locations, the cinematography, the lighting, the editing, the acting, the vibe—all these facets and more come together into a perfect crash course of ‘this is what this music is all about’. You may never set a foot in Jamaica in your entire life (and definitely not 1970’s Jamaica, specifically) but after watching that movie, you will have memories as though you did. It will become a part of your past, as vivid in your mind as events you actually lived. (Ain’t art great?!)

Movies are basically the best goddamn way to fall in love with music. Hearing a song in the context of a film gives it weight. It doesn’t even matter what song. Watch Spring Breakers and tell me you don’t fall in love with the Britney Spears song ‘Everytime’. I don’t care if you’re the toughest tough guy who ever toughed, if you enjoy the movie, you will enjoy  the song. Contrast this with the fact that if you merely heard it randomly in your daily life and weren’t a fan of that type of music, it’d probably mean nothing to you. But surrounded by Harmony Korine’s enchanting colors, and the context of a twisted story, it’s the fucking shit.

All the best big name directors understand this phenomenon. Tarantino, Scorsese, Lynch, Gallo, Wes Anderson, P.T. Anderson, the list goes on. They choose the songs in their films very carefully from a wide array of genres, and utilize them in unexpected-yet-perfect ways which hugely enhance the experience. They’re like DJ’s in that way, carefully crafting the perfect order of songs, and constantly on the hunt for great overlooked gems that they can be the first to turn people on to (especially since the rights to deep cuts, and output by lesser-known artists, is often not as expensive).

Though Dick Dale’s Misirlou is now ubiquitous, before Pulp Fiction, nobody really cared about it except fans of surf rock. Tarantino recognized its potential though, and knew that with the right context, it could be transcendent. He was right. Haters often accuse him of being a collage artist who ‘merely’ grabs from other art to make his own, but I see him more as a much-needed tastemaker.

The pop music industry is always focused on ‘what’s new’, and focused on it in a very literal sense—’new’ meaning ‘hot off the presses’. But nowadays, entertainment from all genres and decades is readily available on a scale that is unprecedented. What’s hot off the presses is a lot less interesting when there’s tons of undiscovered brilliance from times past that has yet to experience its due. In fact, the only people these days who care solely about music that is literally new are adolescents (because to them, anything ‘old’ is, by definition, lame). Everyone else, i.e., people with half a brain and an internet connection, would rather time travel.

Without guidance though, time traveling through the annals of art can be daunting. We need people like Tarantino to point us in the right direction. It’s no surprise to me that he used to be a video store clerk. I was one myself many years ago, and a lot of that job really is just steering people towards their new favorite movie that they never would’ve stumbled onto on their own. And though video stores have gone the way of the dodo, that service can still be found—in fact, that’s essentially what we do here at Smug Film.

This service will also forever be provided by film itself. Movies will always be able to turn us on to what’s hot by way of referencing earlier ones through homage, or, through the aforementioned way of cleverly peppering in songs that either clearly or inexplicably gel with the story and the visuals, a powerful synthesis that brainwashes you into adoring anything, from the thrash metal band Powermad (Wild at Heart) to singer Nico’s grating-as-fuck voice (The Royal Tenenbaums). Art itself is the greatest and most powerful tastemaker of all.

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