Films using less original music



Dave Hogan/getty images


There was a time when My Heart Will Go On, the Celine Dion ballad from Titanic, dominated the airwaves.

There was a time around 1997 when no matter where you were — in the car, on the StairMaster, at the dentist’s office — you couldn’t help but hear “My Heart Will Go On,” the soaring Celine Dion ballad from Titanic.

Resistance was futile. It did go on, and on, and on — an example not just of great marketing, but of the kind of movie theme song that no longer exists.

These extinct songs were big and poignant on their own, but also used skilfully within their films. They became “a souvenir” of the theatrical experience, as six-time Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren puts it.

For decades, theme songs like Evergreen or Arthur’s Theme or (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life were huge radio hits, often peaking at No. 1 on the pop chart and going on to win the Academy Award for best original song.

But in the past few years, filmmakers like Cameron Crowe and Wes Anderson have been more likely to choose pre-existing songs to punctuate a moment or create a certain mood. Then those soundtracks — like the ones for Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, Anderson’s Rushmore or Zach Braff’s Garden State — go on to be popular themselves.

Jesse Harris, the Grammy-winning songwriter of Norah Jones’ hit Don’t Know Why, who also wrote the music for Ethan Hawke’s The Hottest State, thinks filmmakers just don’t bother to seek out original songs anymore.

“What movies used to do,” he said, is “create a nostalgia that was specific to the film itself, and the only way to do that is to use original music.”

8 Mile
Eminem’s Lose Yourself rap from the 2002 film 8 Mile is the rare recent Oscar winner that’s also had radio success.