With sequels, reboots, and franchises aplenty in Hollywood, the creative state of the modern film industry is always up for critiquing. Luckily, despite this rut, we can steadily depend on the unabashed uniqueness of their music composition. In fact, this past year was a glorious time for film scores: we were blasted with nostalgia by John Williams' revamped score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, reduced to a puddle of tears from Michael Giacchino's work on Inside Out, and were even lucky enough to watch Ennio Morricone finally take home that coveted Oscar statuette. But perhaps the most exciting and engaging part of prevailing film scores is the generational mix of classically trained legends and popular, contemporary musicians working among each other. That being said, here's a look at 10 rock stars who put a lively and intriguing spin on the art of composing:
10. Damon Albarn- Ravenous (1999)
Damon Albarn can foremost be recognized as front man for beloved alternative bands Blur and The Gorillaz (or his jazzy solo album), but most remain unaware of his haunting compositions for the independent thriller, Ravenous. With Albarn penning psychedelic hits such as "Feel Good Inc." and "Rhinestone Eyes" with the Gorillaz, it's no surprise the rocker was able to channel an electrifying dark side for his work on this terrifying tale of cannibalism. Collaborating with the classically trained Michael Nyman, Albarn created a soundtrack that will leave you with a dreadfully ominous pit in your stomach (which sounds like a terrible experience, but is an A+ feeling for horror movie fans).
9. Nick Urata/DeVotchKa- Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
DeVotchKa is every love-stricken hipster girl's dream: the band's romantic and European-inspired melodies captivating a very dedicated fan base (yes, I am at the heart of it). Their talents only expanded by lending their style to the soundtrack of Little Miss Sunshine, the Academy Award-winning indie darling. If receiving this beauty of a score wasn't lucky enough, the experience sparked Nick Urata (the band's front man) to continue his journey as a film composer. Urata has since comprised the soundtrack to the ever-so-charming Crazy Stupid Love and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and lent us a whimsical (yet oddly powerful) original score to 2012's enchanting comedy, Ruby Sparks.
8. Beck- Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
While the soundtrack as a whole features a delicious compilation of artists, Beck took on the challenge of composing original songs for the film's punk band Sex Bob-Omb. Praised for infectiously bizarre hits such as "Loser" and "Where It's At," Beck was the perfect match for capturing the essence of the band's humor and grunge (creating strange and clever lyrics for "Garbage Truck" such as "I'll take you to the dump 'cuz you're my queen"). The Grammy-winning rock star furthered his chops by crafting a minimally endearing love song for Scott Pilgrim to croon to Ramona Flowers.
7. Jonny Greenwood- There Will be Blood (2007)
When Jonny Greenwood is not touring with Radiohead as their lead guitarist, the multi-talented musician is busy crafting stylized and chilling scores to some of our favorite films. Not to mention his Grammy nominated contribution to the soundtrack of the epic drama There Will be Blood led him to become Paul Thomas Anderson's musical...well, muse (Greenwood continued on to compose for the director's future projects The Master and Inherent Vice). Though he may be best recognized for these collaborations with PTA, let's take a moment to thank Greenwood for his truly important performance of "Do the Hippogriff" in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
6. Karen O- Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Karen O is a queen among women. We are all familiar with her feisty and passionate vocals in such Yeah Yeah Yeah's jams as "Heads Will Roll" and "Gold Lion," but her work on Spike Jonze's adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are allowed a glimpse into her softer side (for those of us who weren't already emotionally attached to the real heartbreak of "Maps"). The songstress has yet to compose for another feature-length film, but she did go on to write the 2014 Academy Award nominated song, "The Moon Song" in yet another collaboration with her dear friend Spike Jonze.
5. Will Butler/Arcade Fire- Her (2014)
Though Her features songs from indie-rock sensation Arcade Fire such as "Morning Talk/Supersymmetry," it is the band's talented multi-instrumentalist, Will Butler, (younger brother of front man Win Butler) that gave us the film's truly mesmerizing scores "Photograph" and "Song on the Beach." His work with Canadian musician Owen Pallett was a match made in heaven--their musical interpretation of what it means to look at a photograph is enough to make anyone's eyes misty. Let's just say Spike Jonze's directing within the music industry paid off--the man sure knows how to pick his composers.
4. Mark Mothersbaugh- The Lego Movie
Mark Mothersbaugh is the Stephen King of music. His ideas are strange and out-of-the-box, but always turn out to be some form of brilliant. Parents identify him as a founding member of infamous, red hat wielding, rock-synth band Devo, but to youngsters (whether they know it or not) he is the proud composer of hilarious family films such as The Lego Movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and Hotel Transylvania 2. Aside from film, Mothersbaugh can be worshiped by children and stoners alike for his work on Cartoon Network's Regular Show and Nickelodeon's nearly cult classic 90's cartoon, Rugrats.
3. Daft Punk- TRON: Legacy (2010)
Daft Punk already possessed the skills to make teenagers and ravers everywhere want to dance all night ("Get Lucky" became a college party anthem), but putting their beats in the context of a futuristic cyber world heightened their music to an entirely new level. Though songs like "Derezzed" and "End of the Line" channeled the electronic duo's more popular sound, they managed to craft scores ranging from slick and exciting to dramatic and utterly tension-enhancing. I would love to see the two grow as artists and remain in the composing world, but bringing ElecTRONica back to Disneyland would be a nice consolation prize.
2. Trent Reznor- The Social Network (2010)
The industrial rock music of Nine Inch Nails is certainly an acquired taste that appeals to a specific audience (although Magic Mike XXL brought a new life to "Closer"). However, the band's founder and lead singer found a way to connect to a widespread demographic by crafting a gorgeous and chilling score for David Fincher's Facebook drama, The Social Network. Reznor's work clearly wasn't too shabby--his compositions earning him a Academy Award and a thriving career working along side Fincher.
1. Danny Elfman- ...Just about everything
Danny Elfman, lead singer and songwriter for new-wave rock group Oingo Boingo, gracefully transformed into one of the greatest film composers of our time. Elfman began his work on feature films in 1985 with Tim Burton's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and has since accomplished the enormous feat of scoring over a hundred films (nearly a quarter of which have been in coalition with Burton). Though Elfman is typically associated with this creative partnership, he has crafted subtle masterpieces for countless Academy Award-winning films and has allowed his projects to strike a rare and beautiful balance between commercial and artistic. So, ladies and gentleman: it never hurts to try something new.
Who is your favorite film composer? Comment below!