Intrigued by the Movie or the Music?

When you hear about a new “chick flick” making an appearance this upcoming Valentine’s Day, what are you expecting? For many of us, solely based on the previous romance movies that we’ve seen, we expect to see a couple, mid to late 20’s in age, falling in love, right? You’re expecting there to be a “love at first sight” moment between two very attractive people, a third party making their love seem forbidden, a huge argument, the couple realizing just how in love they are, the big kiss and then everything is okay again, usually even marriage.

Oh! And don’t forget the sappy music all throughout the film. Is there even a romantic movie out there without the depressing, love-centered music?

No, there is no such movie. If, however, this soundtrackless movie does exist, there’s a reason that we don’t know about it; it’s because it was probably horrible and the audience got no emotion from it. Let’s just face it, the music is what makes the movie; even a bad movie with the right music can seem fantastic. In a podcast from NBR dedicated to the soundtracks of movies, the podcasters discuss how a movie’s well-curated playlist can sometimes be why the movie is in fact so popular. They use classic examples such as Footloose, Dirty Dancing, and the Titanic. Producers put extreme time and effort in choosing the perfect song to add to a movie. But why is that?

There are several studies that show how different tempos and modes of music can affect our emotions. Typically, if a song is upbeat we feel happier and the other way around. In the article “Music and Emotions in the Brain,” author Carlos Silva Pereira informs the readers that “basic emotions are the immediate [e]ffective responses to music.” This is every producer’s goal for the music they choose to add to their movie, to add dramatic effect, to force emotion on the audience to make the movie, or at least the scene, remembered. They want to set the tone for the audience through music. It’s all psychology; your brain is directly affected by the beat (tempo) and pitch (mode) of the music. From the map below, we can see exactly

brain-and-musicwhat areas of the brain are affected and how. We see that the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala, and the cerebellum are in control of making us feel happy or sad on account of the music.

The idea that music can affect our emotions in such a way is why it is essential for a producer to carefully pick the right song to use. They want the audience as a whole to experience the same shared emotions as the characters in the movie. If the music is just happy enough, or just sad enough, the scene in the movie automatically seems more dramatic to us. This explains why we get so sad when Celine Dion’s voice booms through the television at the end of the Titanic.


With this in mind, it makes you wonder if the movie itself was even any good, doesn’t it? Did you like the movie or was it the music that did it for you? Dylan Harper, played by Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits, said it best, “…Not as awesome as this ambiguously upbeat pop song that has nothing to do with the plot they put in at the end to try to convince you that you had a great time at this [bad] movie.”


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