- Tim Boden’s Letter From Australia #2 – The Scene - 18 April, 2014
- Captain America – 70(ish) Years of Heroism - 27 March, 2014
- Tim Boden’s Letter from Australia – First Impressions - 15 March, 2014
Valentine’s Day is nearly here – that special time of year when romance, tradition, and shameless commercialism combine to make those of us in relationships feel obliged to demonstrate affection through the purchase of material goods, and those of us who aren’t in relationships feel bad about having nobody to purchase material goods for. Remember, don’t be Eggsy. But this year, dear reader, you’re in luck. Vada loves everyone, and to prove our love, we’ve acquired some very special material goods that we’re giving away to several lucky winners – copies of Forever, a compilation of darkly romantic songs ‘inspired by’ the Twilight movies.
Oh, stop laughing. The tracklist is actually surprisingly good, populated with names such as Iron and Wine, Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie and other respectable purveyors of moody indie pop. It’d make a fine soundtrack to a romantic night spent discussing the bourgeoisie and Baudelaire with your floppy-haired hipster beau (just remember to hide the CD case), or equally suitable background music for a Valentine’s Day spent alone, eating a pint of ice-cream while sobbing into your Edward Cullen love pillow.
It’s certainly more listenable than some other compilations influenced by popular musical franchises, such as the bafflingly nu-metal-centric Avengers Assemble album, or this selection of gangsta rap songs which are somehow loosely connected to Scarface. Even so, a Twilight album is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s clear that there’s a huge opportunity out there for other book and movie franchises to cash in with compilations of their own. So if you’re reading, record company executives, I’ve suggested a few pop culture-inspired Valentine’s Day mixes that I’d like to see on the market…
1) The Hunger Games
I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already, actually. Now that the Twilight books and movies have been and gone, The Hunger Games is the biggest thing in young adult fiction. Like Twilight, The Hunger Games stars a teenage girl who finds herself having to choose between two guys. Unlike Twilight, however, The Hunger Games is mostly about children being forced to kill each other for entertainment, with the love triangle relegated to a secondary plot ranking somewhere between ‘unsubtle social commentary’ and ‘elaborate wigs’ on the scale of priorities. In light of this, then, a Hunger Games Valentine’s mix would be superficially glossy with an undercurrent of ultraviolence, to celebrate both the triumph of love in adversity and the importance of not pissing off girls who could turn you into a living effigy of Saint Sebastian in a matter of seconds.
2) Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Contrary to the occasional grumblings you hear from horror fans who like their scary movies to contain more stabbing and less smooching, vampires have always been sexy, and Francis Ford Coppola was raunching up the classics back when Edward Cullen was still but a particularly twinkly twinkle in Stephanie Meyer’s eye. Now remembered primarily for being the one with Gary Oldman’s bum-shaped haircut, this was quite a fun sexed-up romp through the original novel, as long as you didn’t mind the hamminess, the heaving bosoms, and Keanu Reeves appearing permanently dazed throughout. Still, alongside the film soundtrack itself this would be a fine starting point for a campier, gothier take on the ‘dark romance’ compilation concept, to soundtrack the secret midnight trysts of the kind of people who think that silk sheets and scented candles are a short-cut to sexy times rather than a terrible fire hazard.
Now, the obvious choice when it comes to Shakespearian romance is Romeo and Juliet, that classic tale of what happens when teenagers decide they’re in love within fifteen minutes of meeting each other and also know some priests who are suspiciously willing to sell them poison. (Just say no, kids.) However, when it comes to making an accompanying soundtrack of indie hits, you’re unlikely to best what’s already been done – so why not go a bit leftfield by making a compilation themed around ol’ Billy Shakes’ other most famous tragedy instead? Hamlet has all the elements you’d need for a sexy revival for today’s audience: a troubled and brooding hero, an ill-fated heroine, plenty of family intrigue and the odd ghost or two. Plus, Scandinavia is very fashionable right now. Put together a few moody Nordic songs (so probably not ABBA), stick a picture of Mads Mikkelsen looking pensive on the front, and Bob’s your murdered uncle, you could have a hit on your hands.
Suggested tracks: Sadness Is A Blessing, Lykke Li; Be Mine, Robyn; anything by Sigur Ros which hasn’t been so played to death over BBC nature programmes that you automatically associate it with hi-def close-ups of badgers mating.
4) Game of Thrones
It’s a nice day to start agaaaa-aain, it’s a nice day for a red wedding (cue guitar riff, inconsolable sobbing)
Love isn’t always easy. Sometimes, in fact, it’s downright painful. Game of Thrones has been reminding readers and viewers that for years, both by inflicting heartbreak and misfortune on its characters, and by causing untold anguish to fans by being utterly unsparing in the choice of which characters to inflict that misfortune upon. Being into Game of Thrones is a somewhat masochistic experience; yes, it hurts, but it hurts so good (and every now and then there’s an adorable wolf puppy or sassy dwarf to lighten the tone a little). As such, then, it’s ideal fodder for a romantic compilation which combines sweeping epic majesty, a generous dollop of smut, and occasional moments of utter misery. Just like real relationships!
5) Top Gun
Twilight is often ridiculed for being a cliched, overwrought, politically-dubious bit of wish-fulfillment fluff which is completely implausible even within the boundaries of its genre. Top Gun is also all of these things, but gets away with it because it’s aimed at guys. Just as Twilight dispenses with the horror aspect of vampires and werewolves in favour of teenage drama, Top Gun ignores the horrors of war in favour of drooling over sexy, sexy planes. It’s even got a love triangle, of sorts, albeit a subtextual one – sure, the script has Tom Cruise fawning over Kelly McGillis, but everyone knows his true feelings lie elsewhere. The only question is, are you Team Iceman or Team Goose?
So obviously, if Twilight merits a compilation of dark, moody love songs, a Top Gun Valentine’s compilation should be replete with big, dumb, 80’s rock songs, all about flying and motorbikes and definitely not about how much you’d like to shower off with your buddy after a sweaty game of shirtless volleyball.
Suggested tracks: Can’t Fight This Feeling, REO Speedwagon; Broken Wings, Mr Mister; Ten Seconds To Love, Motley Crue (bonus track: In The Navy. It’s not romantic, mind, but it sure as hell fits. Someone in the US Navy PR department in the 70s and 80s either had an ironic sense of humour or was trying to undermine the ban on gay servicemen by the backdoor. So to speak.)
So, those are my suggestions – feel free to leave your own in the comments, and to win yourself a copy of the Twilight compilation, keep an eye on Vada’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
And while we’re talking of pop culture music mixes that actually exist, I’ll leave you with a special Valentine’s Day present of my own: a link to where you can acquire the magnificence that is Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero, which contains songs such as No-One’s Got A Crush On Peter. Because no matter how terrible your love life might be, you can always rest assured that Spider-Man has it worse.