“And I don’t want the world to see me,
cause’ I don’t think that they’d understand.
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am”
Sound familiar? Even if you don’t recognize the lyrics, I’m sure you’d recognize the song once you heard it. Surprise! It’s “Iris” By the Goo Goo Dolls. Most people have never heard of the title even if the know the song because the title is so obscure. What even more people don’t know is where this song came from.
Origin of “Iris”
“Iris” was actually written for the City of Angels (1998) Soundtrack way back when. John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls was approached by the makers of the film to write a song for it. The story of this song is much more than just placing a song in a movie. This song is just one example of how powerful music placement can be. Shortly before writing Iris, John Rzeznik was struggling with writer’s block, a recent divorce and an overall lack of faith of the future of his band. He was actually days away from quitting. Story has it that John was intrigued with being on the same album as Bono and Peter Gabriel if he were to participate in the soundtrack, and so he gave the writing a chance. After viewing a test of the film he was immediately flooded with inspiration and from the POV of Nicholas Cage’s character, he wrote “Iris.”
As result, “Iris” was placed in the movie and the song landed a spot on the soundtrack. I’ve heard mixed things on the quality of the movie but the soundtrack is supposedly very impressive. I wanted to focus on the story of Iris because it’s a great example of how music placement can do great things for musicians.
Uses in the Film
“Iris” is used in the film only briefly to show the struggles of Seth, Nicolas Cage’s character. The lyrics specifically are used to tell the story of the character as the song plays in the background of the character’s actions. I like placement like this because the music doesn’t just serve as a background, it really makes the audience interact with the film and become an active viewer. The audience is left to put the pieces of the puzzle together as they link the lyrics to the character’s actions. The music helps set the mood and tone as well but the song as a whole really helps tell the narrative.
Success of “Iris”
Not only is the song phenomenal in itself and the lyrics are relatable to many situations, but the use of the song in this film gave the Goo Goo Dolls great exposure especially with the introduction of this “new” goo. Iris was a true step away from the traditional sound of the band but it really gave them a fresh and honest identity that could relate to more listeners. The song was included on the band’s latest release, Dizzy Up the Girl along with a strong of other huge hits that contributed to the Goo Goo Dolls becoming a household name. Even besides that, ‘Iris’ “remains one of the biggest crossover hits in the history of popular music, crossing over from modern rock radio to pop and adult contemporary radio, reaching number one on all of these formats and becoming the most played song of 1998 for all formats” (Wikipeda.) Not to mention the numerous awards the song was recognized for.
In the end, “Iris” was a huge success both for the film and for the band. It’s not just the fact that the song was placed in a movie that led the Goo Goo Dolls to fame and recognition. There were a few factors at play.
Alright Ladies and Gents, hopefully my first blog post gave you a taste of what this blog is all about and you’re looking forward to the future. We’ll just have to take it one topic at a time. Speaking of which – Let’s talk about your favorite soundtracks.
This Week on Cinema Tunes
I’m going to focus on a playlist I’ve made for this week for my Cinema Tunes Radio show that airs Thursdays 10pm-11pm on 88.1 WBGU-FM in Bowling Green, Ohio. For those that don’t know, my radio show and this blog are linked in that I talk about the same things. I’m hoping to use this as an outlet to talk about some of the things I don’t get a chance to mention on my radio show.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Spotlight
This week’s playlist is interesting for a few reasons. One, I recently watched the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and I loved the film and soundtrack so much that I’m featuring three songs from it. I know what you’re thinking- how am I just discovering this now? Emma Watson, right? Yeah, yeah. I don’t know how I missed it either but it’s pretty incredible and the soundtrack hits you pretty hard, in a good way. The story is very moving and so is the music. You’re basically on an emotional rollercoaster throughout the entire film, especially if you were a ‘wallflower’ in High School and can relate to how much High School sucks. I know I can…. The film is also appealing because it takes place in the 80s and so it features some popular 80s music, as it should. Charlie, played by Logan Lerman spends quite a good part of the movie listening to new music and connecting with it, even making mix tapes for friends to discuss the latest music they all bond over. Anyways, I realized there was a lot of points I could make about this soundtrack and so I’m going to use a few to do that. The songs I’m pulling from the soundtrack include:
Could It Be another Change?
Ah, “Could it be Another Change,” the song that plays through the opening sequence of the film. I didn’t think too much when I first heard this song other than it was pleasant and gave the film a nice opening. However, part of me could immediately tell that this movie would be good just from that song alone. Maybe it was my indie senses tingling but it gave me a good feeling. Listening to it now, I realize that the tone of the film was set from the use of this one song. The film revolves around this idea of ‘happy sad’ and I think this song demonstrates this idea from the very beginning. Another thing I realized listening to the song after finishing the film is how the lyrics relate to the film as a whole as well. Charlie is saved by Sam and Sam finds herself through Charlie. While selecting appropriate music for a film or whatever it may be, many factors have to be considered. This point may seem like an obvious one but it’s important to recognize and appreciate. Some scenes have the lyrics of a song tell the story of the character or situation. Some scenes or moments rely on the music itself to set the mood. This song begins telling the story by setting the mood. It’s peaceful, its light, anything can happen. But if you pay attention, you hear “Could it be another change?” and if you’re really paying attention you may use that to foreshadow elements of the film. I’ll admit, I didn’t pick up on it right away. Now however, it’s clear that this song is an anthem for the main idea of the movie. Change is good. Change is sometimes necessary. Change can save you. The only time I feel good falling – is when I’m falling fast and hard for you. If this doesn’t explain Charlie and Sam’s relationship and friendship, I don’t know what does.
“Tugboat” is another story. This song does not have quite the spotlight as being an opening sequence. This song was actually played in the background of Charlie’s first party as he waits for Sam to make him a milkshake as result of his craving for one after accidently eating a pot brownie. When I heard this song on the soundtrack, I couldn’t think of where it was in the movie. It wasn’t until after watching the film again that I realized it was in this scene. The song was background music. It made sense I didn’t recognize it. Listening to it now it makes sense that it was background music. The musical melody is definitely more appealing on its own than listening to the song as a whole. The song is suitable in the film not just for being background music but the guitar sound is very similar to that of the Smiths, another band featured in the film. Both songs/artists have the same spacey and relaxing guitar tone that also helps set the mood for the film.
We Could Be Heroes
Moving onto the main attraction, “Heroes” is definitely the anthem of the film. The song is discovered by the characters on night driving home and Sam immediately identifies with it properly naming it “The Tunnel Song” as she boldly stands in the bed of the truck with her arms out and free while driving through a tunnel. The premise seems silly if you think about it literally but the song is incredible and you can feel the emotions of the characters and the power of the scene as result of this captivating song. It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling this song has on you when you listen to it. It’s quite literally – moving. You can sway to the music and you feel like a part of something bigger. It’s easy to see why this song was chosen for that scene and to embody that moment. Fun Fact: The tunnel song was supposed to be “Landslide” By Fleetwood Mac but eventually changed to “Heroes” instead. Landslide is great too, but nowhere near as powerful or as fitting as “Heroes.” This is just one example of how powerful song selection can be.
A Sense of Mood
The rest of the songs in this week’s “Cinema Tunes” interestingly enough – are not featured on soundtracks at all (at least to my knowledge.) I knew that I wanted to feature The Perks of Being a Wallflower after I watched it, but it just didn’t seem right to fill this week’s radio spot with other seemingly random songs from various soundtracks as I have done in the past.
This week is all about mood. All the songs I selected fall under the umbrella of “happy sad.” You’ll probably notice that half the songs have a raw and whiny way about them. These songs are relatable and similar to Bowie’s “Heroes,” in that they can move you. When I first heard these songs, something clicked in me. You can feel the passion, the strain, and the authenticity. This style would include:
The rest of the songs have similar twinkly guitar effects that resemble a sound similar to “Tugboat” or that of a distinct shoegaze sound. This would include:
The last few songs fall into the “Background” music category. I don’t say background music to mean that they don’t deserve a spotlight. Their melodies and guitar riffs just have a familiar and appealing feeling to them, which is always a good quality to have.
Just a few things to consider.
Have you ever wondered where the music in a film comes from? No film is the same, some of the music may be composed specifically for the film and will only be those compositions. Others may have an original score along with songs from artists not related to the film at all. Still, others may not have an original score at all. Regardless of the type of film and musical selection- who makes these choices? For the sake of simplicity in this blog, it mostly all comes down to the Music Supervisor. Music Supervisors are usually hired by filmmakers to select music to be placed into their film or TV series. In fact, Music Supervisors can be used for film, TV, video games, advertising, or any other visual media. Part of the job is creative -- knowing what type of music is appropriate for a specific scene or moment and having enough music knowledge to make suggestions that would fit those scenes or moments. The other part of the job involves acquiring the rights to use the songs while also working on a specific budget for a project to ultimately please the director and/or producers of the project. The Music Supervisors are not so much in charge of composing a score, they are more involved in the selection of specific songs to be placed in visual media.
Most of the music I know and love has been discovered through movies and TV shows which eventually sparked my interest in this topic. This information is useful to music lovers looking for ways to discover new music or those interested in this field as well. This information may also be useful to musicians who are interested in having their own songs placed in movies and TV. All the music I have discovered has been through a variety of different mediums. Not all films or Shows handle their musical selection the same way. I may not know everything about this business but I will share what I have found through my discoveries and personal research.
When I was a freshmen in High School I started watching the ABC TV series, Lost (2004). I won’t go into the specifics of the plot as I doubt anyone is not familiar with the series, but I will say that established songs were not often used in the episodes. This made sense as the characters are stranded on an island without such luxuries. However, it is for that reason that when I heard Damien Rice’s “Delicate” during one episode, it really caught my attention. Having that song play throughout the entire scene was a change of pace for a normal episode, and the style of the music resonated enough with me to do some digging and find out what song was being played. Ever since then I have become a huge fan of Damien Rice and I am thankful to that episode for exposing me to him. Not only is music placement in movies/TV good money for artists, but it’s also great exposure. If your song is captivating enough, fans will go out of their way to find you. If a show has a lot of episodes it might be a bit tricky to find the song but it’s still possible. I think I found the song by looking at the Lost Wikipedia page.
A different type of musical discovery for me came from the indie film, Once (2007). This film was unique in that John Carney, the writer and director, decided to hire real musicians who could half act, rather than actors who could half sing. In doing so, he hired Glen Hansard of The Frames along with Glen’s friend and musical partner at the time, Marketa Irglova. Together, the duo’s songs written together were used in the film while contributing a song or two written specifically for the film. The song “Falling Slowly” featured in the film went on to receive an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song. In this case, John Carney, the writer and director of this indie feature was in charge of the musical selection. He knew what we wanted and needed for the film so he handled it himself especially since he knew Glen Hansard when they were in The Frames together. An authentic and raw film like this clearly benefited from having real music and musicians directly involved in the process. The film did have a Music executive and consultant probably to handle the logistics, but working with the artists hands on, I can’t imagine he had to jump through hoops to acquire the rights to the songs. Indie movies sometimes have an advantage in that they don’t necessarily need a music supervisor to make these choices. Besides ‘falling slowly’ in love with the soundtrack (pun intended), this film introduced me to the musical genius that is Glen Hansard along with Marketa Irglova and their project together known as “The Swell Season.”
Other soundtracks follow a different approach. The romantic comedy, Dan In Real Life (2007) for example, had all the music written by Sondre Lerche, an established singer-songwriter. Sondre wrote the instrumentals and themes for the film while also contributing some of his previously written material to the film. Dana Sano is listed as the Music Supervisor and was probably the one who chose Sondre to contribute the musical score. I wish I knew the motivation behind that choice but these things are not advertised. Although the film stars big name actors like Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, and Dane Cook, the film was still on a somewhat smaller scale. My guess is that besides Sondre’s obvious talent, choosing an indie artist would definitely help keep the film on a low budget.
Music Placement is an interesting thing and its true that every project incorporates music in their own way- even though its usually with the help from a Music Supervisor. These are just a few examples of some of my favorite music and how I came to be interested in this topic. I thought I might as well introduce the topic before flooding the web with blog entries on it. Hopefully you find this as interesting as me and you will stay tuned. 'Cinema Tuned' even, to learn more with me.