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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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life staff picks - movie songs

Life Staff Picks: songs from film scores

The best numbers and themes written for the silver screen

The crossovers between film and music have yielded some of the most unforgettable movies and songs ever made. 

With their legendary scores and soundtracks, composers like Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and Philip Glass have etched their names into entertainment history. Their works are beautiful on their own, but elevate movies to another level of brilliance.

The Life staff looked back through the history of cinema and picked out our favorite tracks. 

Here is a list of our favorite songs, from our favorite movies:

Tears in Rain –– by Vangelis from “Blade Runner” (1982)

From Silver Screen Beat Reporter Alfie Pritchard

Although the entirety of Vangelis’ “Blade Runner” soundtrack is mesmerizing and unforgettable, it is the final track from the film that stands out: “Tears in Rain.”

The song begins with the in-film soliloquy of character Roy Batter (Rutger Hauer), where he delivers the iconic line: “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” Vangelis captured Roy’s words musically to a tee.

“Tears in Rain” is a dreamy sensation of ambient electronic music that evokes immense feelings of longing and melancholy. As the track expresses itself through its gentle synths, listeners can get lost in the song and float to its lulling composition.

Jessica’s Theme (Breaking the Colt) –– by Bruce Rowland from “The Man from Snowy River” (1982) 

From Food, Wellness and Style Editor Eliza DuBose 

Inspired by the great Australian poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Patterson’s poem, “The Man from Snowy River '' follows Jim Craig (Tom). Craig is a young horse rancher who struggles to define himself in the wake of his father’s death as he falls in love and struggles to prove himself to his fellow cowboys. The film was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Golden Globes and composer Bruce Rowland won the Australian Film Institute’s award for Best Original Score. 

The soundtrack is a love letter to the wilderness of Australia and the people who dared to make their living from it. Every song on the soundtrack thrums with the grandeur of the untamed spirit of wild places, the trumpets heralding long camera angles over breathtaking mountain ranges and close up on the pounding hooves of the horses.

“Jessica’s Theme (Breaking the Colt)” is one of the only songs that wonders at the smaller marvels of human life within that space, such as the beauty young love inspires. It still has the strength and movement that define the rest of the soundtrack but adds something sweet. 

In a wonderful film about love, nature and family, the soundtrack in this film defines its beauty and takes it to the next level. 

Romantic Flight –– by John Powell from “How To Train Your Dragon” (2010)

From Environment Editor Clair Sapilewski 

Fill your mind with wonder and your heart with memories by listening to John Powell’s score from this animated classic. 

The song begins as main character Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) takes Astrid (America Ferrera) on her first dragon flight. Hesitant at first, Astrid’s eyes fill with wonder as they soar through golden clouds above the ocean. This is when gentle violin notes begin. They then speed up, backed with a full symphony, as the characters take in the aurora borealis. 

There’s no dialogue here because there doesn’t need to be. The song’s simple melody is made more complex through sweeping scales, counter melodies and forays into higher, fast-paced sections. Each measure mimics their flight and elevation with crescendos and decrescendos. 

It is hard to beat listening to this piece on a plane, gazing out the window and pretending you are on a Night Fury instead of a Boeing. Extra points if there is a sunset or sunrise. 

If you are already a fan of the original from the movie, check out the beautifully done piano cover by Patrik Pietschmann.

Hand Covers Bruise  — by Trent Renzor and Atticus Ross from “The Social Network” (2010)

From Music Beat Reporter Kyle Galvin

When the minds behind Nine Inch Nails write the score for a David Fincher movie, you get something that sounds like “Hand Covers Bruise.”

This sorrowful, simple song from the 2010 biographical drama’s Academy Award-winning soundtrack makes just about the perfect sound for the opening scene. Grim Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, jogs back to his Harvard dorm after being dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). 

With light piano over a trembling drone noise, this track sets an icy, unsettling tone. The soundtrack coupled with Jeff Cronenweth’s stellar cinematography instantly draws the viewer into the creation of Facebook. 

“Hand Covers Bruise” may be the first piece of music one hears in “The Social Network,” but its haunting allure ensures listeners will be transfixed for the rest of the movie.

Caravan— by John Wasson from “Whiplash” (2014) 

From Life Managing Editor Sara Winick

In a list all about film scores, how could we not mention “Whiplash?” 

This Damien Chazelle classic follows drum student Andrew (Miles Teller) as he enrolls in a cut-throat music conservatory and attempts to win the favor of his relentless instructor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). 

In a movie that centers around sound, it’s vital to have a score that goes beyond ‘good.’ “Whiplash” doesn’t disappoint, and the various artists who contribute to the soundtrack give it all the intensity and purpose that Fletcher brings out of Andrew throughout the film. 

It’s “Caravan,” however, that serves as the true embodiment of “Whiplash.” A captivating nine-minute tale, “Caravan” takes place at the finale of “Whiplash” in a show-stopping performance. In this performance, Andrew reclaims his power and autonomy from Fletcher, who has spent the better part of the film trying to get him to break under pressure.

It’s a scene too intense to convey with just words, and like all the best songs from movie scores, it’s something that speaks for itself. 

City of Stars— sung by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with lyrics by Justin Hurwitz, from “La La Land” (2016)

From Life Staff Writer Gabby Landis

From yet another Damien Chazelle masterpiece, “City of Stars” from “La La Land” — particularly Stone and Gosling’s rendition — is pure perfection.

This is the ideal movie song. It’s performed in its entirety by Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) at a crucial point in the film. The struggling actor and jazz musician finally get together, only for Sebastian to be swept away on tour for months at a time.

If you listen without watching, this sounds like a raw, real love song about making your dreams come true alongside your person. But its juxtaposition in the film with Mia and Sebastian trying to keep their relationship afloat despite impossible circumstances exposes the song’s duality and deep emotion.

The soft piano, untrained voices and organic laughter solidify this as a relatable song that makes you smile while it breaks your heart.

Givin’ Up (Not The One)” — by Don Toliver, 21 Savage and 2 Chainz from “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2023) 

From Life Staff Writer Faith Starchia 

Envelop yourself in the world of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) with this three-way collaboration from some of America’s most notable rappers.

The song opens with vocals from the character Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) who says he’s, “given up too much to stop now.” The hip-hop track embodies the responsibilities O’Hara is forced to uphold, and the vibrant and contrasting animation used throughout the film. 

For a film that is ever-changing and moving, the score makes its listeners want to do the same. 

Wild Uncharted Waters — sung by Jonah-Hauer King and lyrics by Lin Manuel-Miranda and Alan Menken from “The Little Mermaid” (2023)

From Life Staff Writer Jessica Ackerman

The 2023 live-action remake of The Little Mermaid brought a breath of fresh air to the classic love story. 

Rob Marshall’s innovative interpretation of the tale, however, cannot be mentioned without discussing the new song “Wild Uncharted Waters,” masterfully sung by Jonah Hauer-King and written by famed musical theater composers Lin Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken.

The song is featured after the young Prince Eric resolves to search for whoever saved his life after he was shipwrecked in a storm. While portrayed as somewhat shallow and one-dimensional in the original 1989 film, his new soliloquy proves otherwise. It gives Eric’s character a voice of his own and a refreshing foundation based on a common desire the characters share to explore the unknown. 

“Wild Uncharted Waters” is more than just a part of the hour-long extension of the original movie’s duration – with crooning crescendos, dramatic orchestral interludes and Hauer-King’s expressive expertise – the song is sure to pull at the heartstrings of Disney fans and fairytale aficionados alike. 

This article was edited by Marina Zaczkiewicz and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Charlie Mennuti.

Editor’s note: This podcast discusses topics like suicide, sexual abuse and violence.

In this episode of Couch Potatoes, hosts Sydney Hsu and Sara Winick talk about shows that are created to elicit an emotion response from viewers. Listen along as they discuss past and current trends within media, and how they have affected audiences.

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