Dear movies, stop using covers of classic songs in your trailers

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We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a movie theater, shoveling handfuls of popcorn in your mouth as the lights go down and the trailers begin. “Oh hey!” you think. “I love The Rock! This movie could be awesome!

And then it begins: the heavy, obnoxiously serious cover of a Top 40 hit from the ’80s or’ 90s, reminding you of just how dark and sinister it all is supposed to be. Maybe it’s “California Dreamin ‘”, performed by Sia as if she is attending the saddest funeral in the world, as California is destroyed by an earthquake. Maybe it’s Lorde humming a low-energy version of “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” while Dracula bounces back. Or maybe it’s a bunch of B-list supervillains hanging out on a one-sided Bee-Gees opera cover:

You would have a harder time making a list of recent trailers that not fall back on spooky covers of pop classics rather than putting together a list of trailers that do. In fact, last week there were two brand new trailers that eagerly embraced this trope. Here’s: Ang Lee’s newest trailer, Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk, which tries to make you vibrate with a choral interpretation of “Heroes” by David Bowie:

And here’s a trailer for Woods, an otherwise promising horror film that beats you needlessly on the head with a funeral cover of “Every Breath You Take”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMEgSletjHw

Not since these notorious Creation “BRAAAAMS” has had such an unmissable trend in movie trailers, but unlike this trailblazer, it’s hard to pinpoint where this “sad revival of classic and happy songs” began. At the very least, Gary Jules ‘sinister takeover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”, which first appeared in Donnie Darko, was pretty much a staple for a decade after its release.

But as far as I can remember, Patient Zero for this fast-spreading trailer disease was the 2010 teaser for Social network, which was written on a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, a Belgian women’s choir with a confused name. At the time, the concept was new enough that the teaser “ignites blogs” and sends entertainment venues scrambling to find out who made the “Creep” cover. On receipt of this teaser, Rhino Entertainment signed a recording contract with the choir in the United States. “Familiar songs always have good opportunities, and Scala & Kolacny Brothers were able to give their covers that unique touch,” said Kevin Gore, CEO and President of Rhino.

This was, of course, the last time this particular twist could be described as “unique”. This Social network teaser inspired an absolute explosion of slowed-down covers, made possible by third-rate singers and lazy trailer editors. Once upon a time, crappy horror movie trailers were the only place you’d hear a kid sing an ironically scary children’s song. Suddenly it was the backbone of Avengers: Age Of Ultronthe marketing campaign of:

Why is this trend so irritating? It’s not just because it’s become such a cliché (although that sure doesn’t help). That’s because a lot of these trailers are for horrible movies, getting an unwarranted boost in both gravity and attention by falling back on something audiences already have feelings for. Why bother cutting a good trailer, or even making a good movie, when you can slap a mumbled cover of “Opposites Attract” on a stalker movie and leave early?

Look, I get it: there are a million movies out there. The competition is fierce, and anything that gives an audience that happy flash of recognition is another potential box office ticket. But if your trailer isn’t good enough to stand on its own and you need to give it the kind of artificial boost that only a familiar pop song can provide, here’s a radical idea: why not just use the original version. song instead of a dragging cover? Wouldn’t that have the same effect without submitting the audience to another serious gospel choir?

It turns out we don’t need to guess; we already know. Compare that brooding “I started a joke” Suicide Squad trailer above with a more recent trailer, which sets the action on “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Not a singing viola “Bohemian Rhapsody” that hits the same sharp piano key over and over again – the true “Bohemian Rhapsody”, performed by Queen:

Which trailer looks more fun? What sells the film the best? Remember, Hollywood: As soon as a great idea becomes the norm, the best way to make your movie stand out is to come up with a whole new tip.


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