Manic Monday

Manic Monday

Imagination experience labs

Imagination's blog for industry insight, innovation, inspiration and general life contemplation.
  • Eduardo Braniff
  • CEO and Creative Director, Imagination the Americas

Manic Monday

In this weeks musical instalment from the New York office, we explore how pop music is incorporated into the narration of movies and how it catalyses powerful and memorable scenes to new heights. The following is a selection of our favorites. As a special bonus we have included links to the footage mentioned, so you can see first hand how these songs work with the scenes.


Warning: There are a countless amount of movies with scored scenes that have different connotations for many. So for the sake of creating a listenable and manageable playlist we have curated a short list based on personal interpretations and preference.  
Track 1: “The Seeker” by The Who from Sam Mendes’ American Beauty “Today is the first day of your life running scene.” Punctuated by the rebellious riffs of Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, we see a powerful overhead pan of a suburban street to hear Lester Burnham’s narration on mortality. The song is perfect for capturing the driving spirit of Kevin Spacey’s character as he searches for himself and metaphorically runs for his life.
Track 2: “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals from Martin Scorsese’ Goodfellas “Copacabana Scene.” When Martin Scorsese did this steady cam shot he said he wanted to capture the seamless ease of newly accepted made man Henry Hills’ decent into the criminal underworld with new girlfirend Karen Hill. What we hear is the 60’s pop sensation the Crystals and their hit “Then he Kissed Me” that emphasizes the naivete of Lorraine Bracco’s character as she is spirited away by the superficial glamor of the Ray Liota’ s mob social scene.
Track 3: “Still D.R.E. (EXPLICIT)” by Dr. Dre from Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day “Monte Carlo Scene.” You hear the sharp piano hook of Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” as it harmonizes to the roar of the Monte Carlo and the beautiful cuts of it prowling the streets of Los Angeles. What you don’t hear is the foreboding that Denzel Washington’s character is not what it seems.
Track 4: “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” by David Bowie from Quintin Tarentino’s Inglorious Basterds “Lipstick Scene.” It is rare to find an out of period song that fits the mood and intensity so well as David Bowie’s Cat People. As we all know Tarentino is a master for scoring his films and his choice to incorporate the song in this scene sets the stage perfectly that a fire is coming and Shosanna Dreyfus is the match.
Track 5: “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” by Edith Piaf from Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” It is a treat to hear this song not only because it is lovely, but because it is a key physical element in the plot. The song hauntingly comes in and out of consciousness throughout the film and mysteriously after the film as the song so viscerally attaches itself to every dream scene.
Track 6: “The Court of the Crimson King”  by King Crimson from Alfonso Cuarón’s film Children of Men “Ark of the Arts Scene.” As we see the Bently Winged B cut through the unrest of London and into the disturbing peace of the Palace Garden’s is a stunning testament to the British state of affairs. King Crimson is the perfect score for the impending doom that rests on this poignant scene.
Track 7: “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel from Mike Nichols’ The Graduate “Opening and Closing scenes.” The bittersweet “The Sound of Silence” perfectly captures the youthful uncertainty of Dustin Hoffman’s character as he struggles with life after college and the trials of early adulthood. The best aspect of this marriage of sound and scene is that as a viewer you too are left with that same feeling of unknowing and profound silence.
Track 8: “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and Roses from John G. Avildsen’s Lean on Me “Opening Sequence.” Only one word describes the decay of an inner-city school and the thrash of the Guns and Roses anthem is “chaos.”  The scenes and song say it all as you see how deeply troubled the school is and the challenge that Morgan Freeman’s character eventually faces.
Track 9: “Needle in the Hay” by Elliot Smith from Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenebaums Richie Tenebaum’s Attempted Suicide Scene.” Wes Anderson has an incredible gift for scoring his scenes that take you into the psyche of his characters and their surroundings. This set of perfectly paced and perfectly shot scenes proves just that, as the song drives Richie’s sorrowful descent only to cut to the urgency as the family rushes to find him alive and changed.
Track 10: “Mad World” by Gary Jules with Michael Andrews from Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko  “Ending Scene.” With so many teenage movies from the 80’s it is interesting to see a darker almost anti coming of age set in that same optimistic time period. It is fitting to finish the movie with a montage set to a remake of 80’s Simple Minds pop song “Mad World.” The series of scenes is a perfect ending to actual madness that is the life of Donnie Darko and the world he exists in. What you are left with is a chilling beautiful epitaph for our antihero. 
Track 11: “Stay Gold” by Stevie Wonder from Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders.” Francis  Ford Coppola rendition of the Outsiders is a perfect translation of S.E. Hinton’s classic book. Nothing captures that better than this final scene as Ponyboy reads Johnny’s last note, which inspires him to write about their life story. The final scene then transitions to Stevie Wonder’s hopeful “Stay Gold” as the credits roll over a golden sunset.
You can listen to the first instalment from the New York office here.


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