The Hunger Games: Catching Fire's soundtrack is the latest in a proud, increasingly long young-adult franchise movie tradition: Pitching their soundtracks at the college-rock types who actually buy compilation albums. It's streaming now on iTunes, and that means it's time for another set of strikingly competent tracks pointed at aging male near-hipsters. Which is great for me, because I'm one of those! The National? Check. Coldplay? You bet. Lorde?
Okay, sure, everybody loves Lorde. But how and why does this keep happening?
Because it keeps working.
else works. Nobody is buying albums, and nobody cares about soundtracks except to get pissed off when iTunes won't let them buy the one exclusive song without also buying all the pieces of the score named after scenes they don't quite remember.
The Twilight soundtrack is -- sure, I'm willing to buy this, Wikipedia -- the best-selling soundtrack since Chicago, which A) hardly counts and B) came out before everybody's phone turned into an MP3 player. It's the one people talked about, in large part because it was so confusing.
It makes a weird kind of sense.
Of course, a novelty campaign could only work once.Twilight
's strategy had to survive the sequel booksand
the now-obligatory reluctant-two-part-conclusion. It did that because, in the end, it made a really weird kind of sense.
That is, at some point, after you were done being surprised by Death Cab for Cutie being on a Twilight soundtrack, you realized that most of their recent singles had been about chasing down and metaphysically capturing women anyway. "Meet Me on the Equinox" wasn't a step in a new direction so much as a more confident step in the same one. I will possess your heart.
The National performing in a dystopian and ultimately hopeless hellscape in which your nine-to-five is only furthering your alienation from the broader culture? Well, sure, I guess.
Everyone is obsessed with counter-programming themselves.
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For the most part, we've given up on doing one thing that appeals to everyone, but the remaining pop-culture juggernauts -- professional sports and big movie studios, basically -- have found a brilliant substitute, which is keying up a bunch of sideshows that all appeal to everyone except the primary audience of the entertainment.
This is Faith Hill on Sunday Night Football, basically, and I think it must be working or else somebody would have stopped trying it by now.
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The weird soundtrack switch-up seems like the most successful counter-programming this side of the Super Bowl halftime show, and I think there's a good reason for that, too -- people outside the band's demographic already are looking for an excuse to like these things. Twilight might be a tough sell to adult males, but the Hunger Games trilogy was a Potter-style crossover hit; the soundtrack just helps bring those aging male near-hipsters (who might have been reading the books on the sly) out into the open, where they can buy a ticket for one without shame. Or without as much shame. (We're an ashamed demographic, as a rule.)