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Enough With the Generic Rock Music Already

Watching the new trailer for The Lone Ranger, one thought sprang to the front of my mind. No, not “Johnny Deep sounds kind of ridiculous trying to do ‘classic Tonto,'” nor “I’m not sure there’s a way to do the Lone Ranger these days that doesn’t feel somewhat dated,” but instead, “Why do we have to have this terrible rock music for a Western movie?”

If you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is:

Wait until 0:52 for the entirely non-period music to kick in, and you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s the thing: I get that it’s one of those things where it’s music chosen very specifically to appeal to a particular (young, male) demographic and communicate the message that, hey, this isn’t one of those old-fashioned Westerns, we’re totally hep, you guys, but still: There’s something about the music – the way that it mixes the hard rock dynamism of the guitars and the, what, are we still calling it “electronica”…? of the beeps and cuts at 1:04-109 – that just sounds both cliched and horrifically dated nowadays; it sounds like the theme tune from Bones, which honestly sounds like nothing as much as a reminder that people who were young when the Crystal Method was new and exciting are now the kinds of people who’d rather stay in and watch Fox on a Monday night.

It’s not that I am a stickler for period authenticity when it comes to movie music, because I promise that’s not the case. But that doesn’t mean that I’m okay with trailer makers – and, worse, movie makers – thoughtlessly slapping some lazily-chosen generic electronic rock on their footage because it sounds like every other movie aimed at the same audience out there (I’m looking at you, Avengers: Soundgarden? Really? Soundgarden?!?).

Music has always been a hidden art; a well-done soundtrack can add amazing depth to a movie, just as a poorly selected mix tape can cheapen important moments and throw everything off tonally. Even thought we have grown to be more sophisticated viewers in terms of special effects and, I’d argue, narrative tricks and structure, apparently we’re a far less interesting and interested audience when it comes to the way music is used in movies… Or, at least, willing to forgive far greater sins when it comes to musical choices. I’m hardly calling for a boycott of movies with crappy music, as much as I’d like to (Hey, it’s the only way they’ll notice), but… is it too much to ask that people actually realize when they’re just hearing the same kinds of music in movies again and again, whether or not it actually makes sense for what they’re watching…?


  • Alfredo Wilson

    maybe you’re just too old, grandpa.

    totally joking lol

  • johnny

    I saw the recent IMAX re-release of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I was too young to see in the theater the first time around.  I was struck as much by the score of the movie as any of the visuals, then I realized… movies just don’t have scores any more, unless you count Linkin Park/Soundgarden/Let the Bodies Hit the Floor blasting over fight scenes!  

  • bmiddleton2

    Read title.  Know the author of the post before opening the article.  

  • Panji Sudoyo

    And what’s so wrong with Soundgarden for the Avengers?
    Would you have preferred Adele, instead?
    Another good example of rock music that fit well with the trailer was the Watchmen trailer with Smashing Pumpkins (Don’t worry about it, it’s one of those “rock” music that you probably don’t like to hear on trailers).

  • Omegasaga

    no but we would like to hear a great score thats TIMELESS…. a james Horner or John WIlliams wouldnt hurt would it?

    name any big blockbuster of the last 10 years and you will hear dated and tire music which was fine the summer it came out at best.

  • JozefAL

    I would submit that “generic rock music” isn’t really all that bad.  Consider the music that accompanied the original “Lone Ranger” TV series.  A piece that was apparently SO generic that it could be used as the finale of the introductory piece of an opera as well as a TV western series.  That’s right–the “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Rossini.  A piece written in the late 1820s was taken from its original Swiss Alps setting and simply transposed to a 1950s TV drama set in the American West of the late 19th century.

    Now, if that’s not a wonderful description of “generic,” I don’t know what is. 

    I’m sorry.  I just don’t get that worked up about film scores since, if the composer is REALLY doing his job well, you’re NOT supposed to notice it unless/until you’ve watched the film a number of times.  And quite frankly, what’s used in trailers nowadays doesn’t always match up to what actually appears IN the film.

  • James M Hamilton

    The Crow comes to mind…

  • Rollo Tomassi

    Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Carribean, and Dark Knight Trilogies all beg to differ. Those scores are timeless and memorable, all.

  • guest

    Star Trek 2009. Inception. The Dark Knight trilogy. Iron Man (granted that wasn’t timeless, but it wasn’t supposed to be-it was a modern score because it fit the sleek tone of the movie). Captain America. Harry Potter, even the non-Williams music. Almost every Pixar movie. Hell, even some Dreamworks movies have beautiful, timeless scores. A lot of times when we think “timeless music” we think “any John Williams music from the 80s” and that stuff is phenomenal, but it’s not the only timeless music. There’s plenty today.

  • Deathbysquirrelpro

    HEY DO YOU KNOW THE MUSIC THAT LEADS UPTO 0:52?! I totally agree the rock at the end sucked but I personally like the part at the beginning only thing I liked at all. IS THERE ANYWAY YOU KNOW WHERE I COULD FIND THAT SONG? Or even know what it is? I’ve looked EVERYWHERE! It would fit so good in this video I’m making, please lemme know if you do.