Do Well-Known Singers Distract From the Impact of a Film?

By  · Published on November 14th, 2013

There are many factors that grab a person’s interest in seeing a film – the actors, the director, the material that inspired the film, the film’s trailer, but with more and more popular artists and bands trying their had at composing, sometimes hearing new music from these artists can be just as big of a draw. Artists like Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, and Trent Reznor have taken to the sound stage to create music for films such as Tron: Legacy, Hanna, and The Social Network (with Reznor and Atticus Ross even winning an Oscar for their efforts), but what if these recognizable artists were considered a distraction rather than an enhancement to the films they are featured in?

Out of the Furnace was rumored to have tapped Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame to create new music for the film – a solid choice considering the success Vedder had creating the music for Into the Wild. Vedder’s music was one of the highlights of that film and proved he understood how to create music for picture as much as he does for the stage. But Out of the Furnace director Scott Cooper seems to have changed his mind about this decision. While Vedder did create new music for the film, Cooper decided to take it out in favor of Dickon Hinchliffe’s score citing that Vedder’s music was, “… so powerful that it took me out of the narrative.”

Vedder certainly has an iconic voice, but that voice and Vedder’s sound are the perfect companion for the stripped down, raw world Cooper created in Out of the Furnace. Vedder is an unquestionable word smith and has written many powerful and memorable songs over his career so the idea that his lyrics (especially when written specifically for the film) may have been overpowering is possible, but seems like a weak excuse. Scores are typically just instrumentation without lyrics, intended to be used only as underscore to allow an actor’s dialogue to be the focus of a scene. But placing music with lyrics has become a mainstay of television (see: any show on the CW), a medium that has proven lyrics can add to the emotion and tone of a scene, not take away from it. Plus the fact that Vedder sang all throughout Into the Wild, and elevated many of the film’s scenes, seems to disprove this claim.

Cooper did include one of Vedder’s songs in Out of the Furnace, a re-record of Pearl Jam’s “Release” which plays in the beginning of the film, but the song fades into Rodney’s (Christian Bale) car radio as an almost unspoken justification of why you are hearing a recognizable singer. But is is more interesting that the track Cooper was comfortable having in the film is not a new song, it is a song from Pear Jam’s first album, “Ten.” This choice is interesting because a known song could be considered more distracting than just a recognizable voice because it would prompt listeners to think about where they may have heard the song before or question why it sounds familiar.

When a song is well placed, it should not matter whether or not people know it or recognize it, and that was certainly the case here. Vedder is known for singing about various struggles and his raspy voice is the perfect match for Out of the Furnace, a film who’s narrative focuses on struggle and trying to overcome the odds. “Release” works incredibly well in the introductory scene, adding life to the action on screen and helping to set the tone of the film, and will likely leave audiences wanting to hear more.

The fact that “Release” fits so well within the fabric of Out of the Furnace’s narrative makes Cooper’s choice to take out Vedder’s new material all the more vexing. Music should work to elevate the feel and tone of a film and Cooper seems to have had the right idea turning to an artist like Vedder to create music to get the message of Out of the Furnace across. But it was odd that the one Vedder song he did allow in the film was one people may know rather than new material they would relate to Out of the Furnace.

Out of the Furnace will be released Friday, December 6th.