Movie soundtracks are typically (a) silly pop songs by whoever is hot at the moment or (b) orchestras cranked up to 11, whether you can afford John Williams, Hans Zimmer or some dude you know who owns a synthesizer.
Sidenote: That last method actually worked with the soundtrack for the Terminator movies.
But we are here to talk about a little snippet from the soundtrack of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, one of five zillion deep romantic dramas that Ethan Hawke has starred in.
Here’s the music video with footage from the actual motion picture and such:
See? Sometimes, you don’t need words.
You don’t even need images for this music to make you feel something.
Most soundtracks are repetitive. The theme from the Terminator movies is well-known because it’s simple and repeats itself five zillion times. Dah-don-don-don-DON.
This bit of music works for me because it ebbs and flows, changes and grows. I’ve heard it a hundred times and it hasn’t gotten boring. And it arouses different emotions in different parts. Subtle ones that silly pop stars and Hans Zimmer can’t touch, though I do love myself some Zimmer craziness.
So: Patrick the Doyle, who I’ve never heard of, I salute you, not only for this piece of musical gold, but for having the guts to also have piano goddess Tori Amos do the song SIREN on this same soundtrack.
Listen: I loved this song on the radio and played the video five straight times. However, it’s my job, my sacred duty and my Bobby Brown prerogative to (a) look for flaws, (b) make fun of things and (c) find serious ways to fix those silly flaws.
Great song and artsy vid, right?
Let’s break it down.
First, for about three seconds I thought Malcolm Gladwell put in his 10,000 hours of hard practice at the piano and formed a band. But no, this singer simply has the same epic hair, which I love. And he rocks that piano.
Second, I salute Christina the Aguilera, who always had more talent than her Mousketeer mate Britney Spears, closer to Tonya Harding than Tori Amos and an even bet to one day go bankrupt and wind up living in a trailer park in Texas, singing karaoke on weekends at the honky tonk. Christina has pipes, common sense and the brains to hook up with new indie bands like Great Big World. So: RECOGNIZE.
Third, the other guy is clearly the other member of the band, and he’s got nothing to do in this video. Zero. Zip. Nada. I suspect he is to the piano stud as Ryan Lewis is to Macklemore, so hey, he’s required to be in the music video, but he’s got nothing to do. And that’s the number one flaw to fix, right off. The solution is easy: Mr. Director, hand that man a violin, a tambourine or a bottle of bourbon so he can properly emote. Give him something to do beside lean on the piano or sit on the piano. The guy looks bored because he MUST be bored out of his skull, and that’s crazy boring for us to watch. The dude must have gobs of talent. Let him show off a little.
The next two problems to fix: a heavy dose of Overly Dramatic Squirrel and on-the-nose imagery, two great problems that don’t go great together.
When we first see Christina the Aguilera, she does a slow-mo version of a model fiercely crosslegging down the catwalk.
The next ten times we see her, she’s dramatically touching her face and such. Listen, the lyrics are dramatic enough. You don’t have to sell it to the people in the back rows of the theater, because this isn’t a Broadway play. It’s a video. The camera is close enough to show off your clean pores, in 1080p or 4k or whatever video format Samsung invented yesterday.
The on-the-nose imagery is the visual twin of dialogue that Hollywood screenwriters, director and actors would say are on-the-nose.
Nobody says what they really mean, and no video should beat you over the head with a sledgehammer with its message. If you want to sing about being sad, sing it. If you want to show sadness while a guitar wails, show it. But don’t sing sadly while a piano tinkles sadly and the actor on screen does exactly what you’re singing about, like hiding her head under the covers. Because that’s on-the-nose overkill.
Subtext is stronger than text. John Waite understands this.
Also, in the climax of the song, the singer / piano master goes completely crazy leg on us, and yeah, we get that you’re really into it, and this is the big finish, but there’s a weird contrast going on between you, your slow-motion Genie in a Bottle, your completely comatose buddy. This part didn’t fly. Maybe they don’t have choreographers for piano guys, and maybe they should.
But these are minor flaws. Nitpicking, really. It’s a beautiful song and an impressive video.
Verdict: Love this song. The video, while flawed, is still 100 times more watchable than whatever nonsense Justin Bieber is putting out in between getting arrested in LA, Miami, Toronto or whatever city he’s being arrested in today.