By Tiffany Carbon
A great original song on a soundtrack has a massive impact on a film. 21st-century movies have noteworthy original songs despite being often overshadowed by old-school classics. When people read about movies with the best original songs, iconic songs from The Graduate, Titanic, or Rocky III top the lists. Though those movies do have great original songs, there are way more and recent ones out there. For WERS’ Live Music Week, we’ll be exploring some of the best original songs from films of the 21st-century.
Paramore - “Decode” from Twilight
Twilight garners a lot of negative attention, yet many people seem to disregard its illustrious soundtrack. Throughout the entire franchise, the soundtrack remained top-notch and made up for where the film lacked. The band was already big fans of the series, especially lead singer Hayley Williams, when they wrote the song. As the lead single from the soundtrack, it gained a lot of success both in the US and internationally following its 2008 release. The song boosted the promotion and fanfare of the movie along with Paramore’s platform. “Decode” perfectly captures the tense, dark, and brooding aura that surrounds the supernatural vampire romance. It’s the perfect version of Twilight in song form that doesn’t stray away from Paramore’s early hard and alternative rock styles.
Sufjan Stevens - “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name
When it was announced that acclaimed indie-folk singer Sufjan Stevens would be crafting two original songs for Luca Guadagnino’s film adaption of Call Me by Your Name, fans knew they’d be in for nothing but the best. The movie had been stalled for years, so audiences knew that the director would make sure that every part was great, including the soundtrack. Sufjan Stevens wasn't new to Guadagnino as he was a long-time fan. The director always wanted Stevens apart of the movie in some way and "Mystery of Love" granted him that wish. The song drops at a brilliant moment in the movie: Stevens’ tear-jerking and emotionally warm voice, tune, and lyricism flow in the background as the main characters embrace the last days of their romance.
Guadagnino granted Stevens the finished script and full control over the song. It flawlessly connects and portrays the romance between the film’s complex characters and captured the hearts of every viewer. After seeing the amount of trust Guadagnino put into him, Stevens wrote an additional song for the film. Many feel that without "Mystery of Love," something would've felt missing not only from the scene but also from the entire movie. The song is an obvious standout on the soundtrack. After becoming the theme of the film, "Mystery of Love" went on to receive both Grammy and Oscar nominations.
Lorde - “Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Fans were just as excited for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack as they were for the film itself. Lorde was still riding the massive success of her Grammy-winning debut album when she was asked to curate and feature on the movie's soundtrack. She reunited with her Pure Heroine producer to write “Yellow Flicker Beat,” the leading single from the movie. The song serves as a direct tie to the heightening plot as Lorde hypnotizes listeners with her voice. The first few seconds start with a numb yet intensifying hum. The song continues to build in vigor, perfectly symbolizing the main character’s state of being.
Listeners highly praised the singer, then 18, for the consistency of her insanely mature and invigorating lyrical ability. Unsurprisingly, "Yellow Flicker Beat" received a lot of widespread admiration both from Lorde and Hunger Games fans. Lorde's musical talents led the song and soundtrack to be in the running for a Golden Globe.
Lana Del Rey - “Young & Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby
Similar to Baz Luhrmann’s retelling of Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby (2013) stuck with inserting elements of modernity into famous period pieces. Lana Del Rey was truly the ideal person to perform the leading single from the soundtrack, “Young and Beautiful." The singer had already made a name and pathway for herself as a budding queen of alternative music. Having already released two albums the year before, she had established her individual sound and aesthetic that perfectly harmonized with Luhrmann’s Gatsby.
Luhrmann adored how Del Rey's writing magnificently captured the cautious love shared between two of the most famous fictional characters. "Young and Beautiful" embodies the style, context, and environment of the movie in a way that only an actual singer from the 1920s could do. Her sultry voice hauntingly looms over the song and the entirety of the movie in a way that’s purely beautiful. The single gained much acclaim. Many fans still seen as one of Lana Del Rey's bests and gathered a Grammy nomination and Satellite Award win.