Trailerization: the cinematic trend brings old pop music back to life | Music
I I doubt my 10 year old daughter will ever forget the first time she fell in love with Nirvana. It’s a combination of things that drew her in: the minor chord swing of an acoustic guitar, Kurt Cobain’s fragile voice, an eerie percussion thump, then Commissioner Gordon looking at Batman and saying, “Is does all of this mean anything to you? as the Caped Crusader grimly strode towards the camera. She was addicted.
One of the best examples of the trend is the use of the grunge ‘Something in the Way’ icons in last summer’s teaser for The Batman, Gotham’s latest Angry Man reboot. current to the “trailer,” where classic songs are rearranged and remixed to line up with the dramatic beats of a successful two-and-a-half-minute trailer. More and more, this is how a new generation is discovering illustrious heritage acts.
Every new big-budget superhero trailer seems to come with one, the latest example being this week’s teaser for Marvel Studios’ Eternals, which revamps Skeeter Davis’s country ballad The End of the World into a vast epic. prog-pop. The preview for Venom: Let There Be Carnage took Harry Nilsson’s One and added an arsenal of menacing symphonics, The Suicide Squad teaser turned Steely Dan’s Dirty Work easy grooves into thumping beats and the band- Last year’s Wonder Women 1984 ad featured an epic reimagining of New Order’s Blue Monday.
Trailer music has been leading it for over a decade. It is a mixture of two approaches: one where the music is inspired by the score of a film (notably displayed on the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Inception, with his giant siren honking) and another where the there has been a tendency for haunting cover versions. This fad was started by Radiohead‘s choral performance of Creep in the trailer for David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network.
“That’s exactly it, now it’s a combination of the two,” says Will Quiney, the supervisor of theatrical music at the GrandSon Trailer House. “The reason great songs that are familiar are used so much is that studio executives don’t want to take risks with music that might alienate people or that sounds too weird or new.”
With the agencies all having the same footage to work on when presenting a trailer, music is where you can have an edge over your competition. “You can create a narrative with your music selection,” says Quiney. “If you can come up with a great idea for a song and the trailer is really cool and mind-blowing, you’re going to beat the competition, you’re going to win this trailer.” Lum agrees, “Music is the secret sauce to a great trailer and the best trailer editors know how to make the most of it.”
Jaron Lum, creative director of Trailer Park’s in-house music production company, Synchronic, says it’s rare to hear a song in a teaser these days that hasn’t had some form of a trailer. “The overall goal of the trailers is to get audiences excited about the movie,” he says, “so it makes sense to step up the classics with huge, punchy impacts and clever re-harmonizations to give a track more in size. “
For the sync and licensing departments, the trailer opened up an exciting new avenue on which to place their songs. BMG Rights Management owns Nirvana’s catalog and Jonathan Palmer, the company’s SVP Creative Sync, says movie, TV and video game trailers are heavily based on the classics. The trick is to try to get the lesser-known songs to the big spots. “The Batman trailer is one of those instances where we were extremely happy to see the interest in a copyright that is not the most obvious title in the copyright treasury of Kurt Cobain. Obviously, we see a lot for Smells Like Teen Spirit. We’re going to see this pop up in the coming months in a Marvel property, so Kurt Cobain is one of those rare entities who can straddle both worlds. Palmer says the publisher’s mission is to grow audiences and keep catalogs relevant. “It’s great that there are a lot of kids in Nirvana t-shirts,” he says, “but they should know music too.”
It’s not always the case that mobile homes come to his team asking for permission to use a track, he says, they are actively pushing the material too. A recent example is the work of Roger Waters. “We had a really big promotional look with his music in Westworld,” says Palmer. “It showed Roger was open for business in the trailer world.” Subsequently, Pink Floyd’s Eclipse was reworked by Hans Zimmer for last year’s Dune trailer.
Will Quiney says the debate over the next step in the trailer’s music is a recurring conversation between music supervisors. “Suddenly a new trailer will come out and that’s the cutting edge piece every customer starts talking about.” This happened recently with the Joker teaser, which incorporated a jaw-dropping version of Jimmy Durante’s standard smile – surely an inspiration for the Eternals trailer.
Jordan Peele’s Us also caused a stir for his trailer which first slowed down Luniz ‘I Got 5 on It, then blew it up with spooky plucked strings and bass disruption. Candyman, co-written and produced by Peele, repeated the trick with Destiny’s Child’s Say My Name. Beyoncé appears in trailers like this a lot, with Survivor covered for Tomb Raider, and her rework of Crazy in Love for Fifty Shades of Gray gets an official release.
Palmer says it works the other way around as well – artists are releasing orchestral versions of their songs as a way to have material ready for the trailer – while BMG has also started making their own trailer. Palmer says BMG has revamped “some Lewis Capaldi songs with management approval, to give the trailer producers a sense of what they can do.”
When I tell Palmer that I tried to play my daughter the original version of Something in the Way and she wasn’t interested, he says it’s all about marginal gains. “If a percentage of those tens of millions of people who watched this Dune trailer come away with a new interest in Pink Floyd, that’s a big win. It animates these flows and increases awareness. Your 10 year old daughter is very important. This is the future of our company. “