Music on trial: Music in the movies – How attuned are you?

How many times have you heard a song in a movie and considered looking it up, but forget by the time the movie was over? How many times have you heard that same song in other movies, television shows or advertisements?

Certain songs simply lend themselves to popular use in the media. Both the popularity and emotional color of a song can contribute to its usability in video. Some songs define a scene, like “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, the song John Cusack plays from his boom-box in the film “Say Anything.” Other songs define a series, like “I Don’t Want To Be” by Gavin DeGraw, the theme song for “One Tree Hill.” We know these songs because they are more or less shoved in our faces, but what about the background songs that you hear over and over but don’t really know? Here are a few that you may recognize, but you won’t know why right off the bat.

“The Funeral” by Band of Horses

This is the song that inspired this list, and for good reason. Not only does it have its own Wikipedia page, as many of the other songs here do, but the page is dominated by a list of 10 movies, 14 TV episodes and 10 other forms of media in which this song is featured. The most prominent features are in “The Stepfather,” “Battleship,” a trailer for “127 Hours” and episodes of “90210,” “Criminal Minds,” “Gossip Girl,” “Numb3rs” and “How I Met Your Mother.” What makes this song so prevalent in the media is the combination of lyric drama and dynamic shift, seamlessly transitioning from quiet and thought-provoking verses to passion-fueled rock choruses.

“Under Pressure” by Queen

This classic rock tune is one of Queen’s better known songs and is used for it’s low-key opening. The song is featured in “World’s Greatest Dad,” “Jersey Girl” and “Stepmom.”

“Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall

Popularized after opening the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” this song saw much more success in the UK than in the U.S. It spent 26 weeks in the Top 75 Singles of the UK and was also featured in “Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Dancing with the Stars” and the finale of “The Hills.”

“L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole

Often used because of its memorable and meaningful lyrics, “L-O-V-E” is something of a “classic” love song, frequently used at weddings. This song is famously featured in “The Parent Trap,” “The Little Rascals” and many more.

“Mad World” by Gary Jules

Gary Jules’s cover of Tears for Fears’s song was surprisingly more popular than the original. Recorded for “Donny Darko,” this version of the song can also be heard in ten dramatic television series and an award-winning commercial for the video game “Gears of War.”

“Cobrastyle” by Teddybears

Even if you are already familiar with this song, what you may not know is that the piano riff is originally from “Good Thing” by Fine Young Cannibals. This song is a great filler for comedies and mild action sequences, as can be seen in “Employee of the Month,” “Epic Movie,” “The Benchwarmers” and a half-dozen other movies, more than 10 television shows and a number of video games, advertisements and even athletic complexes.

“You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates

Featured in “Step Brothers,” “Dumb and Dumberer,” “The Wedding Singer” and “500 Days of Summer,” this song is one most of our parents know much better than we do. It is an upbeat love song that will never fail to put a smile on your face.

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