Now that I've met you
Would you object to
Never seeing each other again?
These opening words of the song "Deathly" (track 4 on the album) inspired writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson to pen the multi-character drama
Magnolia. It was his idea, being a fan of Aimee Mann, to adapt her music for the screen. Therefore, what better
soundtrack to the film than to have nine Aimee Mann songs (with a few others)?
If most of the songs didn't overlap with others of her albums, this would just as well be a new Aimee Mann album, because it has showcased her sharp songwriting abilities to a whole new audience, resulting in an Academy Award nomination for "Save Me," written especially for the film. The CD begins--appropriately, as it plays over the opening credits--with Mann's cover of the Harry Nilsson track "One," which was previously a huge hit for Three Dog Night in the '70's, but to which Mann adds her own special pained touch.
Next is an unconventional rocker, "Momentum," but then the album slows down considerably with "Build that Wall," "Deathly," and others, before getting back into familiar territory. One of the most memorable scenes in the film is the "music video" stylings of Anderson having all his characters sing "Wise Up." Relive that moment by singing along yourself to track 8, then go right into "Save Me."
Also featured on the
Magnolia soundtrack are Supertramp, who chime in with two of their big hits: "Goodbye, Stranger" and "The Logical Song" (a personal favorite) and ends with Gabrielle and Jon Brion showing their particular gifts. The album is not as cohesive as a normal studio album, or, for that matter, Anderson's soundtracks to
Boogie Nights, but as a collection of songs, or an introduction to Aimee Mann, this soundtrack is hard to beat.
Christopher Guest and company are known for their abilities to take beloved institutions and make hilarious fun of them. Most of these films have layers that often go unnoticed.
This is Spinal Tap,
Waiting for Guffman, and
A Mighty Wind are all musicals in some form. These songs have to be written and performed and must mirror the styles they mock while retaining a love for the form. Thus the soundtracks to these films stand on their own.
A Mighty Wind's collection of seventeen folk songs take the archetypal styles of the 1960s folk period replicate them marvelously. Guest has been making fake folk songs since his days with the National Lampoon (two good examples can be found on
"When You're Next to Me" by Mitch & Mickey is a beautiful love song that works because it retains its beauty in spite of the humor of the surrounding film. It could easily become a standard, if allowed to survive out of context. However, in context, it takes on an entirely new layer with the characters.
The different bands each have a distinctive style that is captured with panache: the love ballads of Mitch & Mickey, the light and airy ditties of the New Main Street Singers, and the mixture of death and humor of the Folksmen. Arranged in such a way that you don't get tired of one style before going on to the next, they make for a full experience that can be repeated multiple times. Songs by the Folksmen blending into those of the New Main Street Singers and Mitch & Mickey, it feels a bit like the concert that ends the film, complete with the final title song sung by all three bands.
I especially like that the filmmakers were not afraid to put two versions of the same song on the album as the versions of "Never Did No Wanderin'" by the Folksmen and the New Main Street Singers are different enough that I didn't notice on first listen.
Folk fans needn't feel that their beloved music is being jabbed injudiciously. The actors are all accomplished musicians so these songs are quality examples of the form.
A Mighty Wind's soundtrack is at least as entertaining as the
film, without the flaws that it has. And you'll never hear the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" the same way again.