30 “Breaking Bad” Soundtrack Selects

Perhaps the most stunning slice of entertainment to grace any screen in the last five years, Breaking Bad continues to grip, shock and awe. While lost in the drama at the edge of your seat, you seldom notice a major element that contributes to this show’s brilliance: the soundtrack. Blessed by the talents of ZZ Top, Norah Jones, Beastie Boys, Nancy Sinatra and many, many more, the tracks the music supervisors were able to lock for the show are themselves an impressive feat and well worth a listen on their own. To celebrate the premiere of the fifth and final season of the show this upcoming Sunday, I listened to every song used in every episode to date (156 in total) and selected my top 30 for your listening pleasure (iTunes and Amazon links below). In order of my play counts:

  1. BlackDanger Mouse & Daniele Luppi (feat. Norah Jones) [S4, Ep13] Amazon
  2. Horse With No NameAmerica [S3, Ep2] Amazon
  3. Waiting Around To DieThe Be Good Tanyas [S2, Ep3] Amazon
  4. GoodbyeApparat (feat. Soap & Skin) [S4, Ep13] Amazon
  5. Catch Yer Own TrainThe Silver Seas [S1, Ep6] Amazon
  6. If I Had a HeartFever Ray [S4, Ep3] Amazon
  7. The HoleGlen Phillips [S1, Ep2] Amazon n/a
  8. TruthAlexander Ebert [S4, Ep1] Amazon
  9. We Are Born When We DieApollo Sunshine [S4, Ep12] Amazon n/a
  10. TushZZ Top [S3, Ep3] Amazon
  11. WindyThe Association [S3, Ep12] Amazon
  12. Out Of Time ManMick Harvey [S1, Ep1] Amazon
  13. Magic ArrowTimber Timbre [S3, Ep2] Amazon
  14. Who’s Gonna Save My SoulGnarls Barkley [S1, Ep7] Amazon
  15. Into the NightBenny Mardones [S2, Ep4] Amazon
  16. DLZTV On The Radio [S2, Ep10] Amazon
  17. Boots Of Chinese PlasticThe Pretenders [S4, Ep7] Amazon
  18. Rocket ScientistTeddybears (feat. Eve) [S3, Ep5] Amazon
  19. Good Morning Freedom Blue Mink [S2, Ep9] Amazon
  20. EnchantedThe Platters [S2, Ep11] Amazon
  21. Didn’t IDarondo [S1, Ep4] Amazon
  22. UhFujiya & Miyagi [S1, Ep5] Amazon
  23. ShambalaBeastie Boys [S3, Ep13] Amazon
  24. Crapa PeladaQuartetto Cetra [S3, Ep13] Amazon
  25. The Peanut VendorAlvin “Red” Tyler [S2, Ep5] Amazon
  26. Sabado en el ParqueGrupo Fantasma [S3, Ep11] Amazon n/a
  27. It’s Such A Pretty World TodayNancy Sinatra [S2, Ep4] Amazon
  28. Dead Fingers TalkingWorking For A Nuclear Free City [S1, Ep1] Amazon n/a
  29. Without YouSasha Dobson [S1, Ep3] Amazon
  30. Negro y Azul: The Ballad of HeisenbergLos Cuates de Sinaloa [S2 Episode 7] Amazon
Advertisements

The Stakes of Live Performance

In a world showered with readily accessible recorded content, the cost and inconvenience of a live show leave many audiences at home. We often forget that live shows open a far greater threshold for surprise and magnetic energy than the recorded medium. Why? Because something might go wrong. The risk of failure is much greater on stage than in a recording. You cannot edit a live performance. If something breaks, thousands of people will be there to see it. As a live audience participant, you share in an exclusive opportunity to witness this single autonomous performance – never to be experienced the same way again. The pride in exclusivity, tension behind the stakes at hand, and energy through sharing it all with others make live performance more engaging, valuable, and expensive. More often than not, it’s worth it. And it may be the only thing that can keep the arts lucrative. But that’s another story.

Step Aside, “Thriller”: Interactive Music Videos Are Coming To Haunt You

In the 1980s, MTV kicked music culture up a notch by engaging audiences with interpretive motion pictures a.k.a. music videos. The phenomenon swept the globe. To date, few albums slip out the door without a video or two in tow. The prominence of music videos dropped at the turn of the millennium due to high production costs, meager advertising or promotional return, and the widespread music industry free-fall. Rightfully so, I think, because things were getting ugly. As an example, Madonna’s 4 minute 28 second “Die Another Day” music video in 2002 cost over $6 Million, more than most festival-bound independent feature films today. Not sure how you feel, but I don’t think the video is worth it. Luckily, those days are behind us. People need to use their heads now instead of their pocketbooks to tell a strong visual story.

Fortunately for the music video format, cheaper production workflows and negligible Internet distribution costs have allowed them to return with a vengeance. Everyone can pick up a camera and release a music video online. Exciting times. The problem? There’s more competition to hear your song now than ever before. It is much more difficult to grab an audience’s attention.

It’s time again to kick things up a notch. Watching your music is not enough anymore; it’s time to interact with it as well. I don’t mean Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band; I mean dynamic music experiences online. I’ve seen a few interactive music projects before, but Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” ranks at the top of my list. Built for the browser with WebGL, “Lights” takes you on a visual 3D journey of light and form through which you have some control. I STRONGLY encourage you to experience it for yourself.

If I heard Ellie’s song in a stack of other songs on Spotify or saw it on a video playlist in YouTube, I would probably pass right over it. Not because the song is bad, no. But because there’s so much noise in the world now and it takes an extra step to stand out. Ellie stood out to me tonight. It may take this much work or more for rising artists to build a new name online. I, for one, am very excited to see where this movement goes.

Bootlegging Yourself (Marketing Controversy 101)

A few days ago, a bootlegged version of a red band trailer for David Fincher’s latest film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, hit YouTube with a vengeance. Before Sony Pictures pulled it for “a copyright claim,” the video had nearly 2 million hits after only two days. There is speculation that Sony launched the trailer themselves to kick-start a viral marketing campaign. Whether or not this is true, the video’s premature release certainly did not hurt Sony or the film. The leak was awarded widespread coverage in press and online. If audiences were not aware the hit novel trilogy was being adapted for the American screen, they definitely are now.

I find the entertainment industry’s preoccupation with piracy amusing. Sure, I am a filmmaker and can appreciate revenue lost to piracy. But as veteran studio executive Bill Mechanic once pointed out to me, “Pirating means that people want to see your movie.” As I see it, stolen entertainment media suggests one of two things: your content is not good enough to pay for or too difficult for the average consumer to find. Both problems are your fault and worth solving. iTunes rivaled music piracy by promoting easier access to music: it became easier to buy a song on iTunes than steal it from a torrenting site. With bandwidth evolving and platforms like Netflix and YouTube on the rise, movie studios are running out of excuses not to open their libraries. Simple: help audiences consume the entertainment they want to consume. Most people will gladly pay for that. And pirates will help spread the word in the meantime.

But I digress. In a world saturated by media noise, it has become necessary for marketing materials to have unique stories wrapped around them. The Dragon Tattoo leak promoted three levels of discussion: the bootlegging of the trailer in the first place, whether or not Sony released it on purpose, and finally the irresistible quality of the content presented. Trailer discussion spread the word and inadvertently spread the message: “She’s coming.”

Movie studios should bootleg themselves more often. And you should too.

Organizing Your Music Library

In the digital age, we are saturated with music. It’s amazing to me that people aren’t more overwhelmed by it. I have 12,297 songs (nearly 700 hours of music, 56.2 GB) in my library, 82% of which I haven’t listened to yet. That does not include some 1,200 tracks that haven’t been added to my library yet. Almost all of my music comes from recommendations and shares by friends. Without some sense of order, I may never be able to listen to it all. But I’m going to try.

To keep things straight, I use the 5-star rating system integrated into the major audio players (I use both Windows Media Player and iTunes to manage my library). Inspired in part by the way friend Greg Stanwood rates movies, I assign each star a qualitative value. To get a 5-star rating, a track must:

Star 1:  Demonstrate strong musical talent
Star 2:  Be recorded and mixed well
Star 3:  Have a captivating arc and appropriate duration
Star 4:  Survive repeat listening
Star 5:  Evoke a notable emotional reaction

Conveniently enough, the result of awarding these stars to tracks informs me how to handle them in the future (I delete tracks that get zero stars):

1 Star:  Never again!
2 Stars:  Not terrible, but no thanks.
3 Stars:  Average, sweet enough to keep at hand.
4 Stars:  Listen again!
5 Stars:  Love and keep forever.

Only tracks that get four or five stars (636 and 265 tracks respectively so far) make it to my iPod or car stereo. With this level of organization, you can bet I have a pretty awesome party mix.

In hopes of discovering new music, I am methodically working my way down the entire library song list to listen to everything I own. Over time, I will share some of my data and ratings with you. Pulling the metadata into excel, I have already discovered my favorite music year so far was apparently 2003!

Film Friday: How to Listen to Your Audience Online

In digital filmmaking, you have many tools at your disposal to help better-understand the work you create.  The Internet offers an unparalleled platform for distribution and audience feedback. It is easier than ever for audiences to actively and passively communicate what works and does not work about your film.

A under-utilized and invaluable tool for filmmakers looking to grow through their body of work is YouTube Hot Spots (available in the insight section for “My Videos”). These graphs map audience attention to your videos throughout their duration by tracking drop-out rates, mouse clicks and rewinds. You are able to pinpoint moments in your video that are more or less successful than others.

A year ago, I posted a comedy music video called Cocaine Crazy. While it only has 8,000 hits, those impressions shaped an extremely informative portrait of successful and unsuccessful aspects of the video.

 Cocaine Crazy Hot Spots

  • The opening skit was the least successful attention grabber (a large mistake considering the opening is key to hooking web audiences from frame one).
  • The choruses became redundant as the video went on (except for the second half of the third chorus when cocaine started to fly everywhere).
  • The joke and rhyme-packed verses anchored the video and had high rewind power.

Self analysis is invaluable. No where else have I seen a tool that can tell you when moments are dragging, redundant, funny, not funny or downright failures. More often than not, this data will merely support intuition. But in a few instances in my career, this data has redefined major structural changes to development material.

Pay attention to your audience.