We have all witnessed the moment in movies, the moment when things go from ordinary to extraordinary. The moment usually comes in the form of a hero finding the power within. The moment fans will remember for years to come even when the lights turn back on, and the ushers angrily prep to clean. This is the moment where the needle drops. The needle drop of a single song can help relate to the inspiration of the film, characters and context to the story.
A stylistic choice pertaining to why a singular song gets used in a movie is its context to the film. The song is typically chosen for its relevance to the story and characters. In Us, Jordan Peele’s 2015 film, the song “I Got 5 On It” was given a different meaning in context to the events. The song itself refers to throwing down $5 for a bag of weed, though with anything Jordan Peele, nothing is what it seems. Shortly after the film’s release, Marshall Michael, the writer of the songs hook spoke out. He said that he wrote the hook and did not receive compensation for his contribution. This erasure of a great artist from history relates in context to the song’s usage. The film deals with themes of people who have could have contributed to society but have repressed dreams of who they could have been to the darkness. This story gave the song an eerie parallel for Jordan Peele and an added layer to the film.
While films with various songs tend to get overshadowed by the plot of the movie, a singular music cue can have a greater impact. A singular song is a better suited for a film because audiences can easily relate to the films characters through music. Through characters, audiences latch onto the films plot and music cues help make them memorable. With Top Gun (1986) and its epic sequel, audiences were able to track the journey of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. For the character, he went from being a reckless pilot to squad leader over the course of the films. To sum up his character, a song was written to accompany the movie and Mavericks’ journey. Enter “The Danger Zone”. The Kenny Loggins track sums up who Maverick is as a person and tracks his character growth in its lyrics. The song’s lyrics, “You’ll never know what you can do/ until you go as high as you can go!” sum up Maverick’s recklessness as a pilot.
For the director of a film, a song can occasionally inspire the creation of a movie. Some songs have powerful themes and stories that can draw upon for 95 pages of script. The Beatles song “Glass Onion” heavily inspired writer/director Rian Johnsons 2022 film of the same name. While looking for a Beatles song to inspire the follow up to Knives Out, he found “Glass Onion” as its backstory serviced the plot. The lyrics were written by John Lennon, who had intended to confuse people that read too much into Beatles songs to find deeper meanings. The songs usage factored into the plot of the film as fans wanted a much more elaborate mystery but were left with something much more surface level.
A singular song can help make or break a movie. Often, a song can help make the plot and the characters memorable for audience members. For those involved in the film, a song can be seen as a way to help inform of the plot of the movie. For readers, what is the best usage of a song in a movie? How has its usage affected the way characters, plot and context within the films universe?