Where have all the great movie songs gone?

In 1997, while putting the finishing touches on his massive budget drama, Titanic, James Cameron was approached by the film’s composer, James Horner, who had recorded a song with Celine Dion in secret. Cameron had said he didn’t want any songs with real vocals in his film, but Horner reportedly waited until Cameron was in a good mood to introduce My Heart Will Go On to him. After listening to the song several times in a row, Cameron finally relented and agreed to put the song in the film, thinking a hit song might win over some anxious studio executives from what many thought was a massive box flop. -office. .

As we now know, Titanic won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, and remains the third highest-grossing film at the global box office to this day. Meanwhile, My Heart Will Go On also won the Oscar for Best Original Song, topped the charts for weeks around the world and remains one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Fast forward 12 years for Cameron’s next film, another multi-Oscar-winning box office behemoth, but you’d be forgiven for not even knowing that Avatar had its own answer to My Heart Will Go On, one that was also co-written by film composer James Horner. I See You, performed by Leona Lewis, peaked at No. 24 in the US and No. 47 in Ireland (the only other country in which the song appears to have charted), before sinking completely without a trace. Within a decade or so, it seemed like the whole concept of hit movie songs had almost died out.

Which doesn’t mean they’ve completely disappeared. There are still film institutions that will regularly provide us with our dose of great movie soundtracks – you need look no further than the James Bond franchise, or just about anything Disney has to offer.

While No Time To Die’s April release date was scuppered by Covid-19 (it’s now slated for November), Billie Eilish’s title track still became her first UK No. 1 hit in February this year, and it is only the second time ever that a Bond song has topped the UK charts – the first being Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall for Spectre. And then there are the songs from Frozen (Let It Go), Moana (How Far I’ll Go) and Frozen II (Into The Unknown), which never really bothered the charts but are practically unmissable for anyone with a child. in their life.

However, outside of 007 and Disney, where are the big movie producers? There was a time in the 1990s when a hit movie would barely be a hit movie if it didn’t come with a hit song. We’re not talking about songs from the most musical movies of the time (Purple Rain by Prince or Lose Yourself by Eminem), which still exist in one form or another today (Shallow by Lady Gaga), but rather an appropriate theme song for the film.

We’re talking about Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing from Armageddon or Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. The ubiquitous hits, like How Do I Live by Trisha Yearwood for Con Air or Whitney Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You for The Bodyguard. There was even a time when movies didn’t settle for just one huge hit song, but needed two: Batman Forever had Seal’s Kiss From A Rose and U2’s Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, while that 1998’s Godzilla had Deeper Underground by Jamiroquai and Come With Me by Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page.

Movie soundtracks and hit singles have long been big business, so what happened?

Well, a lot of that must be down to how the music industry itself has changed. Believe it or not, there was a time when people spent up to ¤5 just to buy a single. Yes, for half of your monthly Spotify payment, which pretty much gives you access to every song ever made, you’d be spending that just to listen to a song on your CD player. With the advent of music streaming, most of the money of people buying physical copies has evaporated, and no artist can afford to be a “single artist” anymore. The majority of a musician’s income these days comes from live events, and no one is going to pay a ticket to your gig just because they like a song you did for a movie.

Moreover, movie soundtracks are a perfect marriage of visuals and sounds, with the worlds of cinema and music colliding beautifully. That’s why most of the time the music videos for these songs were also so memorable. People specifically tuned into MTV to watch Will Smith hunt aliens in the Men In Black video, or Coolio rapping to Michelle Pfeiffer in Gangsta’s Paradise, and of course Destiny’s Child learning how to be secret agents during Independent Women.

But when was the last time you heard someone talk about MTV? Sure, bands like BTS and Blackpink are breaking records with their music videos on YouTube, but just like physical copies of music, the accompanying videos aren’t as prevalent as they once were.

Luckily, some artists are trying to keep the idea of ​​the film’s soundtrack alive, if not to keep it alive in the way that many of us would remember it. Instead, they embraced the concept of film soundtrack curation, bringing together a who’s-who of talented artists to work on the project, while contributing heavily to it themselves.

That’s how we luckily ended up with Kendrick Lamar overseeing the soundtrack for Black Panther, or The Lion King: Beyoncé’s Gift, which also came with its own music video on Disney+. We also had Lorde as curator of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One soundtrack, which brought together everyone from Major Lazer and Grace Jones to the Chemical Brothers, while Ariana Grande managed to chain Nicki Minaj. , Lana Del Ray and Chaka Khan for her musical version of the latest Charlie’s Angels reboot.

So while the essence of a hit movie soundtrack hasn’t completely disappeared, it feels like the idea of ​​a hit movie song is a thing of the past. There are so many things an artist has to overcome – the lack of physical sales, the expense of a music video, the film itself has to be a box office hit, the duty of fitting it into your set filming for the rest of your life as a performer – and even then you’re not automatically guaranteed success.

Yet it is something that we all miss. A ubiquitous mega hit whose lyrics seem to be learned all over the world simultaneously. To that end, we’ve got an idea to make sure they come back: James Cameron is hard at work on Avatar 2, which is currently set to hit theaters in December 2022, so we’ve got over two years left for him. ask Celine Dion if she is up for a reunion to conquer the world…

Did you know?

Gaga wasn’t the first choice for ‘A Star Is Born’

Yes, we all loved her performance in that movie, and the soundtrack makes us want to get up and equal parts twerk (Why did you do that?) and cry (Shallow), but Gaga, pictured here- above, was not first choice for this role. Originally, the film was to be directed by Clint Eastwood. He had chosen Beyoncé as the upcoming singer, which would have given us a much different soundtrack. Better? We will never know…

Some very famous acts have had their Bond songs rejected


Pierre Brosnan as James Bond

Pierre Brosnan as James Bond

We could argue into the wee hours over which have been the best and worst Bond songs of all time, but did you know that some very famous artists have submitted their songs for Bond films, only to be rejected by film producers? They include Johnny Cash (Thunderball), Pet Shop Boys (The Living Daylights), Ace Of Base (Goldeneye) and Radiohead (Spectre).

Big hits refused by artists

On the opposite side of the scale, there have been a number of massive movie songs that were rejected by the artists they were originally offered to. Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing would have been intended to be sung by Celine Dion; Liam Payne and Rita Ora’s duet For You on Fifty Shades Freed was meant to be a song for Justin Bieber; Happy by Pharrell Williams from Despicable Me 2, pictured above, was turned down by CeeLo Green. Talk about those who fled…

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