Features and Columns · Movies

The Surprisingly Novel Music Choices of the ‘Twilight’ Series

Part of Allison Loring’s Aural Fixation column, a look at favorite soundtrack cues in the first few ‘Twilight’ movies.
Twilight Music
Chop Shop/Atlantic Records
By  · Published on November 17th, 2011

Much has been said, screamed, analyzed, obsessed over, and dismissed about the Twilight series over the years that sometimes it is easy to forget it all began… with a book. That book alone created a fandom that was quickly compared with another famous book series (Harry Potter), but once the books were brought to the big screen, that fandom seemed to reach a whole new fever pitch and rocketed its leads Robert Pattinson (Edward), Kristen Stewart (Bella) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob) into superstardom (whether they were prepared for it or not).

Seeing these books (or any book, for that matter) brought to life is always a matter of living up to the expectations of what people had imagined and envisioned while reading. While scene and character descriptions are usually included, the one wild card that is rarely described when reading is the music. Author Stephanie Meyer certainly noted the music that helped influence her while writing, the films themselves were essentially a blank slate for the Chop Shop’s music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas to inject life and movement into.

With the fourth Twilight film (Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1) set to hit theaters this weekend, I started thinking back on some of the more notable music selections used in the past three films (Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse) and how the always impressive soundtrack listings (from Muse and Death Cab for Cutie to The Black Keys and Florence + the Machine) were put to use in the films.

Music helps to not only fill out a scene but also influence the tone making it an integral part of any film (and no pressure for those trying to please the expectations of droves of rabid fans). Even in the gory (ahem — I mean “glory”) of Bella and Edward’s post-wedding life in this latest installment, a scene that could read silly (awkwardly seduce a prudish vampire!) ends up fun with the use of The Features’ “From Now On” making the tone less serious and (let’s be honest) more tolerable.

“Super Massive Black Hole” by Muse in Twilight

Vampires playing baseball? Yes – it is ridiculous, but when it is set to a rocking song from Muse? Suddenly a silly concept becomes fun and gave the film some much-needed life (something that had been severely lacking between all the strained glances and drug addiction metaphors). Plus the song actually sounded good set to a thunderstorm (well played, Patsavas).

“Never Think” and “Let Me Sign” by Robert Pattinson in Twilight

The scenes that made all Pattinson fans double swoon. Director Catherine Hardwicke proved she did not just let her leading man flex his musical chops on the soundtrack; she put those songs to the test and included them in the film. The fact that each song is featured in scenes Pattinson also happens to be in is a bit weird (this usually happens in musicals, and the performer is usually singing along with the tune), but his stripped-down vocals worked well behind each and were a nice change-up to the normal scored pieces you would expect to hear in scenes like those.

“Bella’s Lullaby” by Carter Burwell in Twilight

How do you woo a teenage girl? Well, beyond giving her a pet name (spider monkey) and sneaking into her room to watch her sleep (don’t do that), playing the piano for her in an empty room seems like the next “logical” step. “Bella’s Lullaby” was one of the few songs that actually did get noted in the books and although this scene looks like it was ripped out of a music video or a fan-vid, the song itself fits and has worked as a theme for the couple called back on throughout the series. And bonus points to Pattinson being able to actually tickle the ivories.

“Possibility” by Lykke Li in New Moon

When flipping past blank pages that simply note the passing months, you wonder how it would play out on film and not be incredibly boring. To capture this moment, director Chris Weitz had the camera pan around Bella and show the changing seasons outside as it passed by the window set to Lykke Li, giving this scene melancholic weight without being overly depressing. This is certainly not the first time a film has shown a teenage girl depressed over getting dumped (although taken to the extreme here), but this song choice helps to keep you from wanting to fall over the edge with her.

“Hearing Damage” by Thom Yorke in New Moon

One of the best scenes in the film (in my opinion), Thom Yorke’s electronic sound and almost hypnotizing lyrics not only gave this chase scene some life, it helped prove that loud rock does not have to be the only music choice when creating an action scene. The unexpected choice made this scene far more interesting and helped it stand out not just in this film, but the series so far.

“Neutron Star Collision” by Muse in Eclipse

From headlining a baseball game to nearly settling as background music for a party scene, Muse returns to the series and even though their song isn’t as prominently featured this time around, it does make the party feel like an actual one (even if Bella is neither dressed nor acting like one is going on). It created a nice “normal” moment of a bunch of teenagers at a party that worked to remind you of the first movie when these kids’ biggest problem was who was taking who to prom. (Oh those were the days…)

“With You In My Head” by Unkle in Eclipse

If vampires play baseball to Muse, they naturally do fight training to Unkle. This is another example of a slightly unexpected choice playing over a more action-packed scene. The trip-hop group would not be one you would think of when training to kill newborn vampires (who are apparently all aggression and semi-human strength), but the pairing works and set off a guessing game of trying to guess what scenes the songs would actually play in when the soundtrack listings were announced.

Bringing books to life is no easy task and selecting the right music for a scene can be just as daunting. For all that has been said about this series (and will continue to be said), they do try to make the most out of the heavy hitters they are able to get to provide music for the films and that music has helped to make the slightly (totally) insane storylines work on screen.

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