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Whatever Happened to Theme Songs?

by  in Comic News, Movie News Comment
Whatever Happened to Theme Songs?

Reading today that Fiona Apple has contributed an original song to the movie This is 40 brought back a thought I had during the whole “Here’s Adele’s Skyfall song” thing at the start of the month. Namely: Whatever happened to movies with theme songs?

To be fair, Apple’s new song isn’t named after the film; it’s actually called “Dull Tool”, and sadly Judd Apatow isn’t willing to please me by renaming his movie Dull Tool in response. But listening to “Skyfall” for the first time, two thoughts struck me:
1. Adele isn’t the new Shirley Bassey, sadly.
2. It’s kind of wonderful, how awkwardly she works the name of the movie into the chorus, especially because she works the name of the movie into the chorus.
I miss the days when movies didn’t come with accompanying soundtracks filled with random songs with no connection to the movie, but instead were accompanied by songs written especially for the movie that were part of elaborate opening titles to make the most of the musical accompaniment. I mean, even beyond all the classic Bond themes, you have things like this:

or this:

or even this:

There’s something particularly charming about the theme songs of old, and about the idea that having pop music used in movies was once more than just a way of selling the accompanying soundtrack or tossing unused B-sides onto a compilation without any particular amount of thought. Is this simply being old-fashioned, or longing for some past idea of a cohesiveness to all parts of filmmaking that just isn’t there anymore…? I can’t quite decide, but nonetheless, I’m hoping that the way that producers managed to make the release of the Adele track into a surprisingly successful attempt to promote Skyfall the movie might mean that more filmmakers start to think about music in a different way. Wouldn’t it be nice if all five of the Best Song nominees in the Oscars at some point in the future were actually theme songs again…?

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