I was recently listening to Mr Blue Sky by ELO and straight away the trailer for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind popped into my own far from spotless mind. This may be because I am, rightly so, obsessed with the film but also because it was a time when a song was used to such powerful effect in a film’s trailer that it becomes impossible to think of one without the other. It then got me thinking of other trailers that had become burned in my retina because of the song choice.
The potency of a composition of images and sound together should never be underestimated and here are five recent examples of when a song and trailer have, in my opinion, been combined to extreme effectiveness.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)- Wake Up (Arcade Fire)
For Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved book, there seemed to be no better fit for the trailer’s music then to go to purveyors of multi layered emotional masterpieces Arcade Fire, particularly from their seminal album Funeral. For the Where the Wild Things Are trailer, the band rerecorded a new version of Wake Up which unequivocally captures the heart bursting joy and simultaneous melancholy that comes with childhood and growing up. Their songs often build with rousing anthemia that then sends the song on a different course, such as an increased tempo in the case of Wake Up, which when used in the trailer takes us through the rises and falls of the film yet doesn’t give away every detail of plot.
As it moves through its harmonised chant section the sight of James Gandolfini’s wild thing crying set to the tones of Arcade Fire still makes me want to weep. The song breakdowns to a giddy playful rhythm which then becomes the soundtrack to the exhilaration of tomfoolery and the delight of finding new friends but all the while hinting at the fleetingness of youth. It is simply magical and watching it on loop, which I have been known to do, makes me teary.
Jarhead (2005) – Jesus Walks (Kanye West)
Though Sam Mendes’ Jarhead turned out to not quite be a classic war film and though Kanye West may now be a tool of epic proportions, the use of music in the trailer is an excellent example of how a so-so film can be remembered. The clip actually begins with T-Rex’s Get it On whilst we are privy to the hi-jinks that happen amongst the soldiers at base camp but when things begin to turn serious the mood and the song changes, kicking in with West’s Jesus Walks whose beat resembles the marching of soldiers. The song has the right amount of bombastic nature and infectious tempo to create the feeling of impending doom that we are hurtling towards something which is unavoidable, as the song builds, the images become more intense, signifying the chaotic nature of war. So whilst the film may not be a contemporary classic, watch the trailer then try not to hum along with West’s persistent beats.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Mr Blue Sky (ELO)
Of course I had to mention this one, not just because it is one of my favourite films ever but because the trailer is the perfect example of a great pop song becoming intertwined with a (great) film. The original trailer of Eternal Sunshine also warrants merit as one of the most inventive intros to a film in recent years which hints at the premise but rather than give the entire film in a condensed version, which is the norm these days, it entices the audience with a montage of weird and wonderful images. The trailer begins as an advertisement for Lacuna Inc., the fictitious company which provides a memory erasing service, with Tom Wilkinson’s doctor Mierzwiak explaining the procedure, then as Jim Carrey’s character prepares to undertake it, the sounds of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky kick in and the trailer turns into a concoction of images. ELO’s song moves at an infectious pace, beautifully mimicking Michel Gondry’s ramshackle but arresting visuals, including the ever welcome sight of Mark Ruffalo dancing in his pants. A second trailer for Eternal Sunshine emerged after this initial teaser, which kept the same soundtrack but built upon the premise, though it still retained some of the mystery surrounding the film, the original is still the best, short sharp, intriguing and built around Mr Blue Sky, it is sure to stay in the memory.
The Social Network (2010) – Creep (Scala and Kolacny Brothers)
When I started to think about trailers which use effective music, I had a feeling some David Fincher might, excuse the pun, creep in there. And immediately I remembered The Social Network, with its haunting cover of the Radiohead classic. As the trailer begins with photos of Facebook profiles, the eerie version, performed by a little known Belgium women’s choir, fills the promo for Fincher’s drama with a sinister edge. It also encapsulates Jessie Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg; his insecure yet vicious weasel routine is displayed to be the creep of our story. The ominous melodic tone coupled with Fincher’s low lit visuals gives the trailer a feel of a contemporary Greek tragedy set against the backdrop of the privileged, deliciously and devilishly crafted to perfection.
You’re Next (2011, released 2013) – Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
To most film lovers Lou Reed’s sobering classic will always be best remembered for its use in Trainspotting, and whilst it is a brilliant execution of a song in a scene, it was also used again recently to chilling effect in the trailer for Adam Wingard’s underrated nasty gem You’re Next. Setting up the classic horror film plot of a group of people, this time a family, in a secluded area who are attacked in grisly fashion, the trailer echoes the feel of Reed’s contradictory creeping tour de force. It begins with the song then is reintroduced later on; its melancholy menace builds as the trailer turns darker and darker. Some may argue that Reed’s song is of such effective prose that you could lend it to anything and it would instil resonance, which is probably true, but set to a horror trailer it is a fiendish delight, the song title revelling in the impish juxtaposition it creates.