“I’m Here Because…”
ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash
The Power of Film and T.V. in Regards Discovering Music
THE quote above is what you see endlessly…
when accessing your favourite songs on YouTube. We are spared the sentence on Spotify and SoundCloud but, with the comments enabled, you get to hear those three words all the time (on YouTube)! I used to get angry about the fact and get irked by people’s rather lazy discoveries. If, say, I was looking at a video for Michael Jackson or a Jeff Buckley song; the recent comments would be filled by people saying they were here (at this video) because they heard it on T.V. My normal reaction used to be a mix of derision and annoyance – why do people only discover great songs when they hear them on films and T.V. shows?! I have to confess I have not discovered a lot of new or older music through watching shows/films but I have reversed my attitude regarding others doing so. If there are great tracks that are not being promoted by Spotify and other outlets then how are people going to hear them?! There are only a handful of radio stations that play an eclectic mix and people tend to get settled in their ruts and routines. I have my tastes and preferences and I need to get out of that habit. I listen to BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 2 and, whilst I get to experience some great new releases; I wonder whether I am being as broad and explorative as possible.
I miss the days when I could have my eyes opened and find a song that is new to me – maybe one that has been around for decades. That thrill is hard to find but it does happen and then. I am not going to go to lengths and comment on YouTube but I am discovering songs from new dramas and comedies. Whether it is watching a new U.S. comedy or a drama on British T.V.; I have unveiled a few songs that are new to my mind. I rely a lot on radio and the Internet but, without a formal and visible music T.V. presence, I wonder whether music played on T.V. shows and film is the new music television. Great films can boast great soundtracks. I discovered a lot of new songs (new to my mind) through the Baby Driver score. Directed (the film) and curated by Edgar Wright; there were tracks on there that were new and some I had forgotten about! The fact I had not heard these songs on the radio made me a bit worried. I guess you cannot hear everything and catch each brilliant song but there used to be a time when stations like MTV and VH1 would introduce older songs to young listeners and play the latest hits. There are chart shows on music T.V. but they tend to be very niche and particular – the BBC Radio 1-listening audience and those who like their commercial Pop.
I know there are some good music shows on T.V. but it is hard to find. I also know there are some great new Pop artists emerging and some brilliant Folk acts; brilliant Hip-Hop innovators from the 1980s and 1990s that I am either unaware of or need to keep in my pocket. In fact, T.V. shows set in particular time periods can open up a soundtrack and give free license for producers and directors to go nuts. I often argue that we need music-based T.V. shows and dramas on the air. How often do we see shows set, say, at the birth of Hip-Hop or during the 1990s? A great film about the 1970s’ complex and rich music scene would be great to watch but introduce so much terrific music to a variety of ears. Radio is the most viable and popular choice for those who love finding new music but, as I say, we often do not switch between stations and get a full view of music’s tapestry. So many classic tracks never had music videos made so T.V./film can bring them to life in a way listening to an album cannot. The only problem I have with music on T.V. is when it is used for advertising. One might say there is no practical difference between using a song to score a dramatic scene or one used to sell a credit card.
I would look at those words and disagree! There are very few adverts, ever, that are classy and memorable – music, good music, should be left out of advertising and I wonder why some artists agree to have their songs used. Every year, we see a spate of Christmas adverts with horrible cover versions of great songs (usually by thin-voiced female artists). I wrote a piece about this theme last year and explored soundtracks and shows. The reason I am revisiting the subject is (because of) the way we digest music and consume songs. Music T.V. is a dying force and new artists often struggle to get onto the radio. Streaming services usually promote the biggest artists and do not focus a lot on lesser-heard artists and older musicians. The only other way we can get a good musical education is through radio or word-of-mouth. Many of us are watching T.V. and film more than listening to the radio so it seems like a brilliant platform. I am against music in advertising but I feel there is a huge opportunity for brand-new artists and classic icons to get their music heard by new generations. I am frustrated sites like YouTube do not have an organised way of compiling playlists and opening our eyes – it is all about marketing and promoting newcomers/mainstream acts.
Whilst I object to the rather tiring way certain YouTube videos have that inevitable phrase – “I’m here because…” – the fact people are discovering music through T.V. and film is good. Since my last piece, things have not really changed that much. For many younger people; film soundtracks especially are an invaluable and accessible way of diving into a scene they are not aware of. It is much more palatable and potent having a 1980s soundtrack being accompanied by visuals and fantastic acting. Rather than get them to listen to the same songs on their phones or laptops; cinema brings them to life and can change the course of their listening tastes. This article looks at films such as Clueless and how they can define a decade (in terms of their themes and messages) but have no limitations regarding music and the soundtrack:
“Another perfect distillation of American class consciousness, teen romance and youth culture – with an Austenian twist – Clueless reinvigorated the teen film genre and its genre-spanning soundtrack covered all the scenes of the decade, including alt.rock, pop, rap, ska and retro covers (though, noticeably, no grunge). The platinum soundtrack is stacked with Capitol artists (thanks to a famous $1 million advance from the label) that includes Counting Crows covering The Psychedelic Furs’ ‘The Ghost In You’, Luscious Jackson, pop-punks Smoking Popes, Coolio (who’d been enjoying a soundtrack boost from the film Dangerous Minds) and even a nod to the Britpop phenomenon at the time with teen anthem ‘Alright’, by Supergrass”.
Certain film directors have defined decades and helped bring new music to millions. To me, there is nobody better at that than Quentin Tarantino:
“If John Hughes was the grand architect of 80s film soundtracks, then Quentin Tarantino was the auteur of 90s soundtracks. How else do you explain Harry Nilsson’s ‘Coconut’ being in regular rotation at college parties in 1992? Based on his filmography, it’s clear Tarantino was not only a careful student of classic cinema but also of classic albums. In this way, he owes more to Martin Scorsese than John Hughes, picking up the former’s knack for finding a classic song, only to completely redefine its meaning through its – often grisly – use on screen.
As Tarantino explained in the liner notes to The Tarantino Experience: Ultimate Tribute To Quentin Tarantino album, “When I have an idea for a film, I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie”.
The same article talks about directors such as Wes Anderson bringing music to the masses in the past decade or two and current directors like Edgar Wright proving to be golden curators. As the above-quoted article goes on to say; streaming services have transformed the role of film soundtracks:
“When the physical soundtracks market started to dry up in the 2010s, music supervisors and labels no longer had the big budgets to commission original songs. Enter streaming services and the resurgence and redemption of film soundtracks. With the right synchronisation license, older and current artists get to simultaneously introduce their music to a new set of fans and have moviegoers explore their wider discography. Just in 2017, the classic rock-driven Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 soundtrack became the first soundtrack album made up entirely of previously released songs to hit No.1 on the Billboard charts”.
I have been listening to film soundtracks such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever and, between them, getting a taste of the 1950s/1970s and Disco. Grease’s vibe is more 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll mixed with some 1970s winks whereas Saturday Night Fever is a pure Disco fest. Listening to soundtracks, after watching the films, makes me explore music made around the time the films were based. Maybe film is more powerful when it comes to music and opening minds but T.V. is important. A lot of us do not go to the cinema so services like Netflix and Amazon Prime let us see great and new T.V. shows from America. Without knowing it, we will see a great scene unfold and listen to a song that is fresh to us. We can pause the show or bring up the name of that song on the screen. Before long, we have that song in our mind and, because of that, we look in another direction and broaden our scope. I find radio stations are great but T.V. and film are a lot more eclectic and less limited. Filmmakers can dip into the musical world and bring that to people around the world. Maybe the YouTube cliché comment is grating but, if people are discovering music through film and T.V. then that can only be a good thing. I have discovered plenty of great songs through films but not so many through T.V. Alas; I am determined to keep my mind open and wait for the moment something brilliant arrives on the screen. When I do, I will go to YouTube and add that song to my rotation but I will resist the temptation to say…
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images
“I’M here because…”.