A golden era of music movies
Music and film: it’s a winning formula, which makes it no surprise that Hollywood continues to cash in on the success of movies with music at their core. Whether it’s the untold story of an artist’s rise to fame, a coming-of-age tale sound-tracked by a legend of the stage, or a film dedicated to exploring the unique sound of an entire city, music has the power to drive a narrative forward – and incite emotion in a way no other medium can.
The musical biopic is by no means a new genre of film, and the movie hall of fame is filled with extraordinary performances from actors who’ve transformed into their idols to critical acclaim. But no biopic has made an impact quite like last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody – a film that defeated production nightmares, creative disputes and a mid-filming dismissal to break box-office records and land four Academy Awards to boot. It provided audiences with the opportunity to come as close as they possibly could to seeing Freddie Mercury sing some of the most popular songs ever created, as the charismatic Rami Malek threw himself into the role of the celebrated Queen frontman. Since then, we’ve witnessed a wave of cinematic takes on the lives of musical legends – including the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman, which brings the legendary singer’s career to life in glittering technicolour. And this trend doesn’t look set to dissipate any time soon, as in the next two years, we’ll witness Renee Zellweger become Judy Garland; Director Baz Luhrmann bring his signature style to an exploration of Elvis’ musical journey; and Jennifer Hudson belt out the songs of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
However, a film with music at its centre doesn’t always have to be about the singer’s life. Often, the music alone provides the inspiration needed for the story. In June, Yesterday arrived in cinemas; a rom-com about a young singer songwriter who, after a global blackout, discovers that The Beatles never existed – but he owns their library. He uses this unique opportunity to become a global superstar, performing objectively catchy songs like “Hey Jude” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to adoring fans the world over. Another example of a movie honouring an artist rather than detailing their life is this month’s release, Blinded by The Light. It’s been called “a cinematic essay on the impact of Bruce Springsteen”, and tells the story of Javed who, despite living in 1987 Luton, becomes obsessed with the lyrics of The Boss – which empowers him during a period of racial and economic turmoil. These films prove just how much the genre is evolving year on year, and highlights the important role music plays in not only accompanying a story, but telling it too.
So why are music movies more popular now than ever before? The reason is in the revenue. Aside from the usual money generated from ticket sales, the irresistible soundtracks have fans heading straight for their favourite streaming platform to listen again as soon as the credits are rolling – and hitting play time and time again afterwards. Following the release of Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen’s pop opera anthem climbed a huge 72 places in the Spotify charts, and the film’s soundtrack hit number three in the US album charts – helping the band to achieve a level of success that almost surpassed that of their heyday.
It’s clear music sells, but it’s not just about making money. All these films are alike in the way they help audiences connect with both a person and their journey – and sound is undoubtedly at the centre of this connection. It’s a trend that’s not only limited to film either, because businesses in every industry can draw on the power of audio branding to tell their individual story – resulting in a sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on the silver screen.