Sound Choices

Alex Schaaf

When it was announced that Thom Yorke would be contributing a song to the soundtrack of “New Moon,” the latest film in the “Twilight” series, a collective gasp ran through the community of not just Radiohead fans, but of “indie” music fans in general. Could this be true? Could Thom Yorke, one of the most vague and mysterious characters in rock music today, be a “Twilight” fan?
It must be a joke, we told ourselves. It must be some sort of ironic comment on the state of society, right? After all, this is “Twilight” we’re talking about, the book series for preteen girls and middle aged women everywhere. Not that “Twilight” is complete trash, it’s perfectly fine for some people, but it’s just not the first thing we would associate with Thom Yorke.
More ripples ran through the hipster world when it was announced that Grizzly Bear was also on the soundtrack. Oh yeah, and Bon Iver. And St. Vincent, too. Also, add Death Cab for Cutie to that – well, all right, that one wasn’t as much of a shocker.
All of a sudden we found ourselves in a quandary – if all of these beloved artists chose to be associated with something that we had previously hated, what do we do next? Do we blame the music industry, for making these artists so hard up for cash that they’ll take anything they can get? Do we blame the movie studio for tricking them into joining the soundtrack? Do we blame the bands themselves for “selling out”? Do we blame Obama?
After thinking about it for a while, I think the ultimate lesson here is that we’ve reached an advanced stage in the relationships between musicians and the rest of popular culture. First, it was considered “selling out” for Bob Dylan to appear in a Victoria’s Secret commercial, or for Outback Steakhouse to use an of Montreal song for theme music. Then, we grew to accept these instances as proof that the music industry was sinking, that these artists had to do these things in order to make a decent living.
Now I think we’re in another stage, where it’s become “hip” to be associated with otherwise lame things. In one way, this could be another example of the ever-present “rebellion” of rock music – this is the musicians’ way of going against what the majority of their listeners believe, challenging them to reorganize their beliefs about what is “cool” and what is not.
Or this could just be a case of the music supervisor for “Twilight” seeing an opportunity to bring these kinds of artists together under one project, much like the “Dark Was the Night” charity compilation that came earlier this year, bringing together such acts as Sufjan Stevens, The National, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and more on one album.
The soundtrack of “Twilight” does boast some impressive names. The actual music, however, is not as valuable as the track listing may indicate. The offerings from Thom Yorke and Grizzly Bear are probably the most impressive, but those tracks are still nowhere near the caliber of the rest of those musicians’ catalogues. The collaboration of Bon Iver and St. Vincent was my most anticipated, but it resulted in a beautiful-yet-unremarkable song.
Overall, while the “Twilight” soundtrack may be one of the more puzzling releases of the year, it has to be accepted for what it is – an interesting idea on paper, but ultimately unfulfilling. And as for Thom Yorke? Maybe “New Moon” really is that good of a movie. Maybe the next Radiohead album will be a concept album based on the “Twilight” series. Let’s cross our fingers, shall we?