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“Trailerization”, this Hollywood fashion that recycles pop-music classics in trailers

For the past fifteen years, blockbuster trailers have given new life to old pop or rock titles. The musical phenomenon, called “trailerization”, culminates with superhero films.

The real hero of the latest Batman trailer isn’t Robert Pattinson, it’s the sound. The acoustic recovery of Something In The Waythe hit of Nirvana released in 1991, plastered on the ultra-dark images of the film, occupies all the space and monopolizes the attention of the spectator.

Batman isn’t the only superhero to rock a vintage soundtrack. The trailer of Venom: Let there be carnage is punctuated by One, hit by Harry Nilsson in 1968. ForWonder Woman 1984, we called Blue Monday, of New Order, which sticks completely to the time of the film.

“Trailerize” a song

The phenomenon of covers of pop music pieces, all the sauces in trailers, does not only affect superheroes and has invaded blockbusters, such as Duneswhose images are enveloped by theEclipse, of Pink Floyd, or spencertrue-false biopic of Diana dressed in a cover of Perfect Dayby Lou Reed.

He even won the playoffs, like Youwhose disturbing third season was announced to the sound of a Baby One More Time lascivious, or the Italian series Babyto the second season trailer against the backdrop of a Girls Just Wanna Have Fun ethereal.

There is even a term to describe the operation, as the Guardian last May. To completely re-orchestrate a song, keeping only the lyrics, to make it into trailer material is therefore called ‘trailerizing’ a song. The extent of the phenomenon is such that majors like Sony have teams dedicated to these re-orchestrations, as mentioned variety last August.

“The key is often the words”

There are also companies that specialize in this work. This is what Go West does, the company that Nicolas Neidhardt founded in the United States about ten years ago, and whose activity consists in exploring the catalogs of record companies, in search of exploitable songs. in trailers.

“The key is often the lyrics,” explains the musician and producer, who notably worked on the trailer for blade runner 2049. “We often look for the hook that will make the song work with this or that trailer”.

This is how the song Starman, by David Bowie, was used in the very recent trailer for Buzz Lightningthe animated film recounting the adventures of the “real” space ranger of Toy Story.

The reorchestration of these songs often adds a dramatic effect to trailers with very worked images.

“The trailer is punctuated by the pulsation of the music”, underlines Nicolas Neidhardt.

“An American-style trailer is built on a very precise format of 2’30 in three acts”, he explains. “There is a whole dramaturgy that rises and culminates at the end in a sort of apotheosis, of cliffhanger so that we really want to go see the film”.

Authorization of rights holders

The music is composed for the trailer and the images edited from the music. However, adds the specialist, apart from a few franchise themes such as Star Wars Where Jurassic Park, few film scores are dynamic enough to stick to such dramaturgy. But the choice of the song of course also depends “on the price of the song and the authorizations of the artists or rights holders”. Some artists are fiercely opposed to this practice, but others see it as a significant source of income.

If the lyrics must stick to these ultra-calibrated trailers, the choice of the vintage of the song owes nothing to chance either.

“It’s a choice made by the studios or the producers of the film or the series, depending on the target they want to reach”, indicates Nicolas Neidhardt. The idea, for example, of re-orchestrating a song from the 80s makes it possible to reach listeners who liked this song in the 80s”.

“A form of nostalgia”

This is how David Bowie, Pink Floyd, or New Order find themselves associated with the biggest blockbusters of the moment. It works with all eras. Everyone who was a teenager in the 1990s, when Nirvana was on the radio and on MTV, had a little heartbeat when hearing the notes of Something In The Way in the trailer for Batman.

“This choice to mobilize pieces of the past in contemporary trailers corresponds to a very strategic stimulation ecosystem”, analyzes Stéphanie Marty, lecturer in Information and Communication Sciences at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier.

“There is first of all a stimulation of the contemporary generation to these pieces, in whom this will reactivate a form of nostalgia.”

Choir of young girls and depressive lyrics

We owe this fashion for covers of pop or rock songs in trailers to Mark Woolen, the pope of Hollywood trailers. Whoever created the trailers for Schindler’s List and Moonlight had the idea in 2010, to illustrate the trailer of The Social Network, by David Fincher, to use the ultra-famous piece of Radiohead, creepy. Not the version of Thom Yorke and his group, but that of the Scala & Kolacny Brothers Choir, a choir of young Belgian girls. The contrast between the depressive lyrics of the song and the creation of Facebook is stark. The trailer is a hit.

In addition to launching the choir’s career – which found itself propelled onto the Coachella stage in 2011, as Mark Woolen tells New Yorkerthe trailer for The Social Networkdeeply influenced the sound of the trailers.

Singing a title known by another person thus contributes to this winning shift, as Nicolas Neidhardt explains. The producer thus often replaces a male voice with a female voice, or vice versa, to create a contrast that commands attention.

For the New Yorkerthis great musical recycling is fairly symptomatic of the Hollywood industry, very busy producing reboot of old franchises…promoted by covers of old hits. Will Quiney, music supervisor interviewed by the Guardian in May 2021 on the subject, sees there, too, a desire of the studios not to take risks.

“The reason we use so many great songs that are familiar to us is because studio executives don’t want to take chances with music that might upset people or sound too strange or too new.”

Do-it-yourself and misappropriation

For Stéphanie Marty, however, this music is a source of real creativity among young Internet users fond of vintage. Without denying these trailers their marketing aspect and the search for virality.

“The fact of mobilizing pieces of the past triggers, in the younger generation, a taste for vintage and retro, and stimulates their appetite for ‘DIY’, diversions, the appropriation of cultural content, especially on TikTok.”

Through covers, playbacks, duets, battles, quizzes, young Internet users contribute to the virality of trailers.

These trailers nurture a very pronounced taste for vintage among young audiences, which is also evident in the interest in clothing or objects from previous decades. But they also contribute “to the resurgence of this music, its permanence and the extension of its existence through the generations”.

In France, the phenomenon of covers of vintage hits in trailers is still very rare. Only a re-orchestrated version of Travel TravelDesireless’ 1980s hit recently punctuated the trailer for In his lifetime, by Emmanuelle Bercot. “In France, we don’t have the culture of the trailer”, underlines Nicolas Neidhardt, who dreams of developing the concept in France.

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