How much do movies influence our music tastes?

19th March 2018

Have you ever enjoyed a film so much that you can’t stop thinking about it, or listening to the music that was in it for days after? Course you have. Soundtracks have always been a massively important part of film, but outside the cinema, how much do films really influence the music we listen to?

The power of feelings

Aside from the main emotions humans experience, such as sadness or joy, music can elicit feelings of nostalgia, power, peacefulness, wonder and tenderness, researchers say.

Sometimes after a good film, with good music, we find ourselves rushing home from the cinema to listen to the soundtrack on repeat. Considering the cognitive, sensory and motivational effects music can have, this is hardly surprising.

Filmmakers are aware of the power of music in film and meticulously select the perfect songs, to fit the vibe of the story and pull us in.

For years successful films have been influencing the charts. Here are a few good examples of songs which have topped the charts after the films were released in the cinema.

The big hits

I will always love you – Whitney Houston: This song was originally written by Dolly Parton in 1975 but was made popular after it was used in The Bodyguard more than fifteen years later. It soared to number one and stayed there for 14 weeks.

Endless Love – Diana Ross and Lionel Richie: This song was written for the film Endless Love and the single stayed in the charts for 27 weeks in total, and for nine at number one, making it one of the biggest hits of both Ross and Richie’s careers.

My heart will go on – Celine Dion: Recorded by Celine Dion for James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster Titanic, My Heart will go on is the most successful song written for a movie of all time, selling 18 million copies globally and achieving number 1 in countries all over the world.

Can’t help falling in love – UB40: Originally recorded by Elvis Presley, this song reached number one and stayed for seven weeks after the film Sliver was released in 1993. The film also helped the original version to climb back into the charts.

Magic – Olivia Newton-John: Featured in the film Xanadu, this was Olivia’s biggest hit at the time, staying at number one for four weeks.

Everything I do (I do it for you) – Bryan Adams: This song was used in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and was Adams’ biggest ever hit. The single spent seven weeks at number one.

Greatest showman
The Greatest Showman music has been extremely popular 📸 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Recently, The Greatest Showman, Black Panther and Fifty Shades Freed have successfully topped the UK and Ireland box office index, so it comes as no surprise that the soundtracks from all three have successfully topped the charts.

The Greatest Showman contains mainly inspirational music to mirror the plot of the film, which leaves the audience feeling energised and ambitious (I now listen to the soundtrack while in the gym to help motivate me through the torturous struggle of the treadmill).

Black Panther is comprised of a more experimental soundtrack, to fit the Afrofuturist and bad-ass nature of the film. The success of this latest Marvel hit has also helped to promote the emerging artists who feature on the album.

In February, Saudi’s popularity increased by 44%, both Sjava and Reason’s audience grew by 47%, and Yugen Blakrok’s increased by 49%, according to Deezer. Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther saw a 35% increase in popularity in this period, too.

Other successful films have also helped to re-popularise old music. An obvious example of this would be the effect after Mamma Mia was released in 2008. The ABBA Gold album, which was first released in 1992 and includes many of the hits that were used in the film, returned to the charts and stayed at number one for at least two weeks, according to Official Charts.

Sam Smith
Sam Smith was almost guaranteed a hit when he wrote a Bond theme 📸 SJM

Other film franchises have artists dreaming about being a part of the film soundtrack, because of the prestige associated, and the promise of huge audiences. The James Bond films are an obvious example of this. Two Bond themes have even gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song: Skyfall for Skyfall (Adele, 2012) and Writing’s on the Wall for Spectre (Sam Smith, 2015).

In an interview for Official Charts back in 2015, Sam Smith said: “It was such an honour to be asked to write and record Writing’s on the Wall for the new James Bond film, and it’s incredible that it’s become the first Number 1 Bond theme song.”

Aside from James Bond, so many other films have enabled artists to win awards too, boosting their popularity and fame. Eminem’s song Lose Yourself used in the film 8 Mile won two Grammys, an Oscar and became one of Eminem’s biggest successes. Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 won two Grammys and the Flashdance hit song What a Feeling by Irene Cara won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy back in the 1980s. Additionally, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head was used in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which also went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Though most, if not all these songs are objectively good in their own right, it’s hard to imagine all of them having the success they did, were they not associated with the movies they featured in. In that sense, films really do have an influence on the music people listen to, and it’s all down to the intelligence of filmmakers, who are fully aware of how emotional us human beings can be, and toy with us accordingly.

19th March 2018