The Collegian
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Music Mondays: Summer soundtracks

Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian
Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian

What makes a great movie? Casting, a good story, and cinematography are all important. However, one characteristic that turns a good movie into a phenomenal one is the soundtrack. Music enhances emotions in a way that makes you feel exactly what the character feels. Immediately, you become one with the movie. As summer draws closer, it’s a great time to talk about two of my favorite summer movies and how their soundtracks are perfectly crafted.

1993’s “Dazed and Confused”  takes place in Texas on Lee High School’s last day of school in 1976. The duration of the movie takes place in one day, as part of the gang, including Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd, Ron Slater, and Don Dawson, prepare for the summer before their senior year of high school. Matthew McConaughey’s breakout role as David Wooderson, the town’s 22-year-old high school washup, is one of the most iconic characters in the movie. His famous lines “Alright, alright, alright,” sum up the movie's laidback, meandering storyline, as the characters spend most of the film driving around town until they find a party out in an open field. It’s the music that makes this movie stand out. Here are two songs featured in my favorite scenes:

“Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith

This Aerosmith classic from the album “Toys in the Attic” opens the film. Its echoing intro plays as the opening credits pan over a black screen. Then, the drums kick in, and the camera pans to the gang pulling into Lee High School’s parking lot on the last day of class, while indulging in illegal substances, of course. The song and the scene set the tone for the entire movie, and it was perfectly placed to showcase not only the setting but each character’s role and personality. 

“Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Tuesday’s Gone” off the album “Pronounced ‘Leh-’Nérd ‘Skin-’Nerd plays as dawn approaches, the keg taps out, and the party in the grass field comes to a close. The song feels warm and fuzzy, introducing a nostalgic sound that makes you feel like you’re part of the movie. The song fades out as the open field is left with stragglers from the party. I could not think of a more perfect song to match this moment. Everyone has a high school memory they feel nostalgic for, and this song is perfectly matched to that feeling.

The next summer movie is my personal all-time favorite. “Almost Famous” takes place in 1973 and follows William Miller, a gifted 15-year-old from San Diego with a passion for music and a dream to be a rock and roll writer. He goes on tour with the up-and-coming band Still Water and is tasked with writing a review on their music for Rolling Stone magazine. As a young writer, he mistakenly makes friends with the band members and struggles to write a truthful piece. His adventures with the band and their groupies generate memorable life experiences. Here are two songs in my favorite scenes:

“Tiny Dancer” by Elton John

“Tiny Dancer,” from Elton John’s album “Madman Across the Water,” plays when the band is at a low point. Their lead guitarist, Russel Hammond, has a superiority complex and doesn’t appreciate the other band members. After picking him up from a drunken evening, the band is angry. Tensions are high on the tour bus. Then, suddenly, “Tiny Dancer” plays. The bus is silent. 

However, as the song plays, each member starts to sing the song one by one until they are belting it together with smiles. This scene epitomizes what music is all about: uniting people and creating an emotional connection. The song playing reminds the band of the reason they’re all there together: the music. In the end, the music speaks the words the can’t say, and they proceed on their tour as a more united group.

“Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin

This song, off the album “Led Zeppelin III,” plays in the movie's final scene. William is home and struggles to grapple with life after being on tour. As he is moping in bed, Russel enters his room, and they discuss the girl they both fell in love with on tour. William asks the question he waited the whole tour to ask: “What do you love about music?” Russel responds with: “To begin with…everything.” “Tangerine” then plays as the movie concludes, characters resolve their conflicts, and life goes on. This particular ending completes the development for each character. William goes from a 15-year-old boy to a published writer, and Russel rediscovers his love for music. The beautiful acoustics of the song encapsulate the scary yet exciting feeling of a new beginning. 

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Soundtracks enhance a movie to create relatable connections between characters and audience members. We feel such a connection because music soundtracks our own lives. It is a necessity for enhancing our emotions, just like the characters in these movies. Connections and emotions: they are what makes life worth living.

Contact writer Avery Piantedosi at

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