Monday, January 12, 2009

Soundtrack Songs: Danny Elfman Goes to the Movies

Oingo Boingo: Weird Science


Oingo Boingo was a band that had a short string of hits in the 1980s. Their success was great enough that the powers that be in Hollywood thought of them when they needed someone to write the theme for the movie Weird Science. The film was one of those teen sex comedies which proliferated during the 80s, this one with a science fiction twist. I still have a fondness for many of these films today, at age 48, even though I was technically too old for them even then. I don’t think that this type of film has been done as well since then.

Danny Elfman: Sally‘s Song


The band Oingo Boingo did not last much beyond the 80s. Their leader, Danny Elfman, might have been expected to form another band at this point, or start a solo career, but that’s not what happened. Somewhere in there, Elfman met director Tim Burton, and Burton started using Elfman to compose the music for his films. And Elfman turns out to have a real gift for it.

Although Tim Burton has sometimes used other composers, and Elfman has worked with other directors, there was no question who would do the music for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Elfman’s music showed a full command of the orchestra, and even the influence of Kurt Weill, best known for his music for The Threepenny Opera. And Danny Elfman returned to the microphone to sing the lead part of Jack Skelington. But I have chosen to present here a song Elfman wrote for Catherine O’Hara’s character, Sally. Sally’s Song highlights a side of Elfman’s songwriting that is not often heard. It is a tender ballad, not overwritten or oversung, which shows off what a beautiful and subtle songwriter Danny Elfman can be.

Danny Elfman: Remains of the Day


Corpse Bride was Tim Burton’s return to animation, and once again, Danny Elfman was on board to handle the music. Remains of the Day shows Elfman’s love for a certain kind of jazz music. Think Minnie the Moocher. And Elfman never loses sight of the most important part of composing music for films; the song fits the scene perfectly

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