Tunesday: Songs That Make a Scene

In case your summer media indulgence has taken a dip, Tunesday will help you get right back on track. This week’s playlist takes iconic scenes from movies that simply would not be the same without the musical overlay. Therefore it is not only a collection of notable tracks but also a suggestion of films to watch during any lulls in July. If you’re wondering why the playlist leaves out the likes of the “Risky Business” dance scene and Heath Ledger’s serenade in “10 Things I Hate About You“—it’s not because they’re unworthy, but because other scenes needed some time to shine.

Eddie Vedder—“Guaranteed”: “Into The Wild”

“Into The Wild” recounts the autobiographical journey of Christopher McCandless, who, after graduation, burns his savings to set out across America to eventually reach Alaskan wilderness.  Director Sean Penn cuts the film between his travels across the states and his period of five-month solitude in Alaska.  Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder created the track for the film, leading him to win a Golden Globe award in 2007 for Best Original Song and a nomination at the 2008 Grammys. The second half of the video features Vedder humming the track. Though the video is not of an iconic scene, the track embodies the entirety of the movie anyways.

Gary Jules “Mad World”: “Donnie Darko”

Gary Jules and Michael Andrews slow down the original “Mad World” by British band Tears For Fears to create something a bit more somber and minimalist. Andrews accompanies Jules’s vocals with only a piano, removing the synths and percussion of the ‘80s version. “Mad World”, played at the end of the film, is the only lyrical track featured on an otherwise instrumental score.  As it involves visions and time travel, “Donnie Darko” is one of those films you need to watch a few times. So if you have a day or two free, take a whack at trying to interpret it and see how your opinion stacks up with others.

Elton John—“Tiny Dancer”: “Almost Famous”

After the head of “Almost Famous”’s fictional band consumes a bit too much acid, he yells “I am a golden god!” while atop the roof at a high school house party. Considering tensions already ran high amongst the members due to the lead outshining the others, his testimony didn’t exactly settle well. When their manager forces them back onto the tour bus, the discomfort only disbands when “Tiny Dancer” plays, convincing the band to sing along. The drummer plays on the back of the seat, Kate Hudson leads the chorus and the young journalist relaxes for the first time since he got sucked into the tour. Elton John credits the film for reviving the track he created in 1971.

Chuck Berry—“You Never Can Tell”: “Pulp Fiction”

Uma Thurman turns hit man John Travolta into a master of the twist when they enter a dancing competition at the fictional restaurant Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Unfortunately Travolta doesn’t hop into his “Saturday Night Fever” polyester suit. Berry wrote the track in the ‘60s while in prison, and it became temporarily popular after the release of this Quentin Tarantino film. Although the track never became as renowned as the film, which won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, it made a Tarantino scene iconic without his signature violence.

The Pixies—“Where Is My Mind”: “Fight Club

This piece plays during final scene and ending credits in the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name. Edward Norton, the film’s protagonist, assures Helena Bonham Carter that everything will be alright. But then the buildings around them crumble as the chorus begins and reality and delusion remain intertwined.  Norton tells her “You met me at a very strange time in my life”. Considering the circumstances, she had probably realized that by then.

Elliott Smith—“Miss Misery”: “Good Will Hunting”

Like “Where Is My Mind?”, “Miss Misery” also plays during the closing scene. However, rather than high rises falling around him, we get Matt Damon, the unrecognized math protégée, driving off into the distance “to see about a girl”. This closing song, which rolls through the credits, was nominated for Best Original Song in the Academy Awards of 1998. Elliot Smith recorded a version of the track with different lyrics, which was re-cut at Jackpot! Records.

Elton John—“Bennie and The Jets”: “27 Dresses”

Katherine Heigl and James Marsden recount the all too familiar sentiment of belting out lyrics to a song that are completely wrong and in turn make hardly any sense. The cluster of awkward humans who can’t seem to take their attention off the couple make this scene even more painfully uncomfortable than it already was, and then Marsden adds some quality dance moves into the mix. Locals of course recognize the pair the next day for their flawless rendition. To clarify, Elton John’s lyrics read “electric boots”, not “electric boobs” and “solid walls of sound” rather than “solid walrus sound”.

Françoise Hardy—“Le Temps De L’Amour”: “Moonrise Kingdom”

Wes Anderson presents a dance scene that mirrors the initial discomfort found in the performance in “Pulp Fiction”. The title of the track by the French artist translates to “The Time of Love”—perfectly  fitting for a look at a pair of awkward teenagers dancing in their underwear. Anderson featured the song on the movie’s original trailer, so its presence on the official soundtrack came as little surprise.

The Shins—“New Slang”: “Garden State”

When they first meet each other, Natalie Portman hands Zach Braff her headset, telling him “you gotta hear this one song. It’ll change your life; I swear”—really how any great relationship starts. In regards to The Shins, the film score also includes “Caring Is Creepy”. These two tracks aside Zero 7’s“In The Waiting Line” and Iron and Wine’s version of “Such Great Heightsleaves Garden State to have one hell of a soundtrack.