Scores That Pop from Composers of Pop

Scores That Pop from Composers of Pop (photo)

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[This article is part of our Radiohead Fanatic Fortnight — check out our box set giveaway here.]

Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead’s lovable multi-instrumentalist, turned heads with his score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s austere critical favorite, “There Will Be Blood.” Immediately upon the film’s opening scene, Greenwood’s orchestration inflames the parched western landscape, superheating it with a man and his struggle to extract a profit from it. Greenwood uses an array of strings to strike an incredibly enormous, unsettling chord, the effect of which is to fuse the two — the man and that broken landscape — as it builds into an alarming cacophony. From this, the character of Daniel Plainview is forged, without a lick of dialogue or any emotive gestures. Nor is there a particularly distinct costume or a queerly menacing haircut involved. Just wordless deliberate action in a barren place, moved expertly along by a score that seems so well-crafted for the particulars of the story that it’s surprising to recall some of it was actually written entirely independent of the film.

This is, of course, why Greenwood was ineligible for an Oscar nomination for best original score in 2008. His composition, “Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” was composed earlier, though much of the score was indeed created specifically for the film with the BBC orchestra with whom Greenwood had already fostered a relationship as a resident composer in 2005.

Greenwood is far from alone in making the crossover to film scoring. Laying down their axe to try out the pen, many rock and pop artists have paved the way, some becoming better known as composers than they were as rock stars. The omnipresent Danny Elfman was once only the lead singer for Oingo Boingo. Randy Newman’s beginnings were as a pop singer/songwriter long before settling into his niche as Pixar’s troubadour. Peter Gabriel first tried his hand at composing for film in 1984’s underappreciated “Birdy,” went on to score “The Last Temptation of Christ” (and of course, recently wrote the Oscar-nominated tune “Down to Earth” for “WALL-E,” though he didn’t score the film).

Stewart Copeland may be best known as the drummer for The Police, but he’s a prolific composer, having so far scored over 70 films and TV shows, with “Wall Street” being an early notable in his long career. The themes in that Oliver Stone film are as played out as a Kenny G song, one of which it uses, but otherwise it’s a nice coming together of some epic musical talent in David Byrne, Brian Eno and Copeland. It also features the brilliant Talking Heads song “This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody),” making it something of a music department supergroup of ’80s Hollywood.

04072009_thelastemperor.jpgDavid Byrne composed some of the music for 1987’s “The Last Emperor,” which earned him the Academy Award for best original score, along with collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also had a role in the film), another pop musician turned composer. Sakamoto’s electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra heavily influenced Japanese pop in the ’70s and ’80s, their influence extending worldwide with the release of their second album, “Solid State Survivor,” which gained notoriety when Eric Clapton covered a track off the record, “Behind the Mask.” (Clapton, too, has dabbled in film scoring, though he hasn’t branched out much further than the “Lethal Weapon” franchise and scores for Gary Oldman’s “Nil By Mouth” and Stephen Frears’ “The Van.”)

New Wave nerd punk god Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo has scored more films than anyone could have imagined upon first seeing him crack that whip in the late 1970s. A strange turn for the bespectacled former art student, who’s scored everything from episodes of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” to video games like “The Sims” series. Most notably, he’s been creating compositions for Wes Anderson’s films ever since 1994’s “Bottle Rocket,” though the director’s rock and pop hit heavy soundtracks tend to overshadow them.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.