By: Ashton May
Bonjour and greetings from France! Mixtape Monday doesn’t stop for anything, not even international travel. I hope you enjoyed the delightful New Wave jams last week. If you were super into it, here’s a direct link to that playlist here.
So, yes–for the next 2+ weeks I’ll be in Cannes, France for the Cannes Film Festival. As such, I felt it would be appropriate for this week’s Mixtape to feature original songs written for feature films. There are some real gems in this list; some songs are super powerful, and others are some of the cheesiest songs out there. Some of these films are fantastic, and others are…not. Either way, these songs were all written for a major motion picture and really enhanced the film’s success.
Mixtape Monday, 5/15, “Music From The Big Screen” – Listen while you read here!
- “Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street: We’re starting off with probably the least known song and movie on this list. 2016 Irish film Sing Street is both a gritty showcase of realism and also feel-good film full of positivity and teenage wish fulfillment. As the film is set in 1980s, the original music in this film fits right into the new wave genre we discussed last week. There are some GREAT songs in this time, but “Drive It Like You Stole It” is sort of the overarching anthem. Sing Street (2016) directed by John Carney.
- “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor: Originally, Sylvester Stallone wanted to use Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” as the theme song for Rocky III, but he was denied the rights by the band. So, Survivor wrote “Eye of the Tiger” at his request. The song was specifically written to line up with the boxer’s punches in the scene for which it would be used. This song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1982. Rocky III (1982) directed by Sylvester Stallone.
- “Fight The Power” – Public Enemy: When Spike Lee started working on his film Do The Right Thing, he knew exactly what he wanted in “theme” song- “I wanted it to be defiant, I wanted it to be angry, I wanted it to be very rhythmic. I thought right away of Public Enemy.” Lee approached the group about writing a song for his film– and the result was an incredible, politically charged, kickass songs about standing up to injustice. Do The Right Thing (1989) directed by Spike Lee.
- “Can’t Stop The Feeling” – Justin Timberlake: Justin Timberlake served as the executive music producer on Dreamworks 2016 film, Trolls. Timberlake said the film was like “one big, trippy disco experience” but didn’t have a disco song. So he, along with producer Max Martin, wrote this funky disco-pop tune. Debuting at #1 on the U.S. Billboard chart and becoming the best selling song of the summer, “Can’t Stop The Feeling” was arguably more popular than the movie for which is was created. Trolls (2016) directed by Mike Mitchell.
- “Independent Women, Pt. I”- Destiny’s Child: Although the group already had a demo of the song when they submitted it for the producers of Charlie’s Angels to review, the song was tweaked to fit the movie. This song was a huge hit for the group, staying for eleven consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard, and getting an Oscar nom. Charlie’s Angels (2000) directed by McG.
- “Mrs. Robinson” – Simon & Garfunkel: Mike Nichols, director of The Graduate, was obsessed with the young duo’s music at the time of filming. He commissioned the group to write an original song for the film. Simon & Garfunkel brought Nichols and the producers two new songs soon after, but the team wasn’t feeling either of them. During a break in this meeting, the duo went outside and soon returned with an early outline for “Mrs. Robinson,” which Nichols was immediately gleeful about, and which became one of the main themes songs for the film. The Graduate (1967) directed by Mike Nichols.
- “Falling Slowly” – Glen Hansard Markéta Irglová: Another gem from a John Carney indie film, the film was based around a handful of songs Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (also known as a duo as The Swell Season) had written. However, “Falling Slowly” was written after production had already started. This beautiful duet earned the band and the movie an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Once (2007) directed by John Carney.
- “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” – Aerosmith: Written by the queen of movie soundtracks, Diane Warren, this song became Aerosmith’s biggest hit ever. It was one of three song on the Armageddon soundtrack by Aerosmith. A slow dance staple, many people feel song’s cheesiness is irredeemable. As such, this song is notable for being both nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song. Armageddon (1997) directed by Michael Bay.
- “Young and Beautiful” – Lana Del Rey: Although the majority of the song was already penned before Baz Luhrmann commissioned Lana Del Rey for the film’s musical theme, Del Rey completed the song with Luhrmann and producer Rick Nowels. “Young & Beautiful” became the lead single for Luhrmann’s film adaptation of the novel The Great Gatsby, and was written from the perspective of Daisy Buchanan. The Great Gatsby (2013) directed by Baz Luhrmann.
- “Stayin’ Alive” – Bee Gees: The Bee Gees wrote quite a few songs for the 80s disco film Saturday Night Fever. Although at the time, other tracks from the soundtrack were more popular overall, “Stayin’ Alive” has perhaps had the longest life in terms of popularity. The band wrote “Stayin’ Alive” over the course of a few days while at the Château d’Hérouville studio in Paris. The soundtrack made history, as it became the best selling soundtrack album of all time. Saturday Night Fever (1977) directed by John Badham.
- “Everything Is AWESOME!!!” – Tegan & Sara, The Lonely Island: This silly song was written as a tongue-in-cheek parody of creeping fascism. The single version of this song was performed by Tegan & Sara with The Lonely Island, who, despite wanting to maintain credibility as a serious band, felt the song was just too cute and fun to pass up. Their version was produced by former Devo member and producer Mark Mothersbaugh. The song was nominated for both an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe. The Lego Movie (2014) directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
- “I Believe I Can Fly” – R. Kelly: Space Jam was a HUGE hit with kids and adults like in the mid-90s, and the soundtrack was just as successful. Going double platinum within two months of its release and featuring the hit singles like “For You I Will” by Monica, “Fly Like an Eagle” by Seal, “Hit ‘Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem)” by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J and Method Man, R. Kelly’s smash “I Believe I Can Fly” was one of the top songs of 1996. The song earned three Grammy awards and was easily Kelly’s biggest hit. Space Jam (1996) directed by Joe Pytka.
- “My Heart Will Go On” – Celine Dion: Yes, this is probably the cheesiest song of all time, but let’s also remember it was the top single in the world for the entire year of 1998. This is ironic as 1. James Cameron didn’t want a pop song to promote his movie and 2. Celine Dion didn’t want to record another song for a movie soundtrack. Her manager, and the film’s music producer both insisted that Cameron give it a chance and Dion give it a shot. The result– hands down Dion’s biggest hit, and one of the best selling singles in music history. Titanic (1997) directed by James Cameron.
- “I See Fire” – Ed Sheeran: Ed Sheeran was commissioned to write a song for the soundtrack of the 2013 film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, where it played over the closing credits. Director Peter Jackson, asked Sheeran to write a song for the movie, after his daughter suggested Sheeran. Sheeran agreed, and when he saw the film, he wrote the song and recorded most of the track elements on the same day. Jackson was aware when he first asked, by Sheeran is a huge Tolkien fan and was absolutely stoked to receive the offer. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) directed by Peter Jackson.
- “Lose Yourself” – Eminem: Eminem wrote “Lose Yourself” early on during the production of 8 Mile during breaks on set. The song became the rapper’s most successful single to date– both in commercial and critical terms. “Lose Yourself” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2003, making it the first ever rap song to have received this award, and also was awarded with a couple of Grammy awards in 2004. 8 Mile (2002) directed by Curtis Hanson
- “Gangsta’s Paradise (feat L.V.)” – Coolio, L.V.: Coolio co-wrote “Gangsta’s Paradise” with producer Doug Rasheed after hearing and being inspired by “Pastime Paradise” from Stevie Wonder’s album Songs in the Key of Life. After recording a short demo, Coolio’s manager shopped the song around to film studios, and the producers behind the Michelle Pfeiffer starring movie Dangerous Minds (a film about a high school teacher in a poverty-stricken, racially segregated, economically deprived city) paid big for the song. The early tests of the movie weren’t going well, and producers wanted a big musical single to help boost the film’s marketing efforts. Coolio and co. developed the song further with the movie in mind. Coolio received a handful of Grammy’s for this song, and it became one of the the best selling singles of all time. Dangerous Minds (1995) directed by John N. Smith.
- “Moon River” – Audrey Hepburn: This is the oldest song on the list, and might seem like an odd addition; however, I think the song is absolutely beautiful, so I wanted to include it. Composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote the song for Audrey Hepburn to sing in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Mercer’s nostalgia lyrics are reminiscent of his childhood in Savannah, Georgia. The musical theme is present throughout the film, but the lyrics are first heard in a scene where Paul “Fred” Varjak discovers Holly Golightly singing the song outside their apartments on the fire escape. Before the film’s release, a Paramount Pictures executive suggested removing the song from the film after a lukewarm Los Angeles preview. Hepburn’s reaction was apparently rather extreme varying from her saying, “Over my dead body!” to her using more “colorful language” at the producers. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) directed by Blake Edwards
- “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes: Singer-songwriter Franke Previte was approached by producer and head of Millennium Records, Jimmy Ienner about writing some music for “a little movie called Dirty Dancing”. Previte, along with some other songwriters, wrote the song and hired Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes for the final product, after Donna Summer and Joe Esposito turned down the offer. The song was a huge hit on the airwaves, and also obtained the Academy Award in 1987.
- “Come What May” – Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor: Although “Come What May” was the big love song from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, it was originally intended for an earlier Luhrmann film, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, but wasn’t used in the end. It is the only “original” song that is sung in the musical film. Sadly, the song was ineligible for an Academy Award, since it was intended for a different fim. Moulin Rouge! (2001) directed by Baz Luhrmann
- “Exit Music (For a Film)” – Radiohead: We’re ending with another song written for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Luhrmann approached the band about writing a song for the film, and proceeded to give them the final 30 minutes of the film. Yorke said, “When we saw the scene in which Claire Danes holds the Colt .45 against her head, we started working on the song immediately.” The band wrote and recorded “Exit Music (For a Film),” and the track plays over the film’s end credits but was not included on the soundtrack album at Radiohead’s request, because they intended to include on their next album. Yorke later said “Exit Music” helped shape the direction of the rest of their highly successful album OK Computer, and that it “was the first performance we’d ever recorded where every note of it made my head spin—something I was proud of, something I could turn up really, really loud and not wince at any moment.”