Music can often seem like it takes a backseat role in many films and television programs. Many fans will be able to name the actors and directors but the composer isn’t always the centre of the conversation.
However, recording artists and musicians are taking on an increasingly larger role in the promotion of film and TV. These collaborations can be especially effective when the artist has a fan base that could be aligned with the content’s audience.
Looking back at 2019, there were some great examples of recording artists elevating the performance of a film for TV show, ranging from scoring to releasing accompanying albums. So, in no particular order, here are 10 of the most interesting collaborations between recording artists and films/TV programmes.
Taylor Swift x Cats
Cats was released just before Christmas with an all-star cast of actors and recording artists. Of course, it is a musical so it’s hardly surprising to see singers involved. However, even with the likes of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and Jason Derulo alongside top actors like Ian McKellen, Idris Elba and Judi Dench couldn’t help Cats from the ruthless critical reviews.
An 18% rotten tomatoes rating. An expected $100 million loss. Zero star reviews. Even a beloved musical that has been running for decades can’t lean on famous singers to make it successful. On top of all that, even the soundtrack has failed to make much of an impact. However, Taylor Swift’s original song ‘Beautiful Ghosts’, written alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber, has proved to be the most successful with over 5 million Spotify streams.
Gerard Way x The Umbrella Academy
Rolling back to early 2019, Netflix’s released an original adaptation of The Umbrella Academy, a comic book by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. The Umbrella Academy has been one of Netflix’s most successful TV shows of 2019, being watched by 45 million people in its first four weeks. This puts it second only to Stranger Things amongst Netflix’s most-watched original TV shows.
Gerard Way even recorded some covers specifically for the show. ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ and ‘Happy Together’, both of which have well over 10 million streams each. These songs were also made alongside Ray Toro, who was also in My Chemical Romance.
Not only has this been a massive success for Netflix, but it has also helped bring My Chemical Romance back into the public eye. An audience of close to 50 million is obviously quite a lot of publicity. Apparently, it was enough to make a reunion a no brainer with tickets selling out instantly.
Rapman x Blue Story
Rapman gained prominence when his rap narrated film, Shiro’s Story, attracted over 20 million YouTube views. Blue Story is his feature debut and unfortunately, Rapman made big headlines for the wrong reasons.
Vue cinema banned Blue Story because of a machete attack in Birmingham, which Vue linked to the film. The ban was described by Rapman as ‘institutionally racist’ and it’s a shame that the anti-violence message of the film seemed to get lost in the noise. Despite this, Blue Story still grossed 3x it’s budget of just over £1 million so we may yet see more from the rapper turned filmmaker.
Miley Cyrus x Black Mirror
Black Mirror is known for pushing the boundaries of comfort when it comes to showing us what technology is capable of. This year, there was a whole episode devoted to the music industry and who better to play the tortured pop star, Ashley O, than Miley Cyrus.
An Ashley O music video was created to promote the episode with a pop rework of Nine Inch Nails song, ‘Head Like a Hole’. Ashley O’s version, ‘On a Roll’, was also released Spotify where it currently has over 75 million streams.
Whilst reviews for the episode were mixed, the notion of Miley Cyrus playing a role that mirrored her career certainly brought a lot of publicity to both Black Mirror and Miley Cyrus, who played multiple European festivals in 2019.
Beyoncé x The Lion King
Nothing was ever going to touch Avengers: Endgame as the highest-grossing film of 2019. However, second place was a clear favourite in The Lion King. Not only were the leads played by superstars in Beyoncé and Childish Gambino, but Beyoncé also released a special album just for the film.
The Lion King: The Gift, may not be as successful as Beyoncé’s previous albums but it has still racked up almost 200 million streams on Spotify. As Disney showed with Black Panther, companion albums to films can be a great asset for promotion, helping The Lion King become the highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Florence and the Machine x Game of Thrones
2019 saw Game of Thrones wrap up what is without a doubt one of the most successful TV shows of all time. Every episode of Season 8 was watched by well over 10 million people and this proved to be quite the opportunity for Florence and the Machine.
‘Jenny of Oldstones’ was sung by beloved character Podrick within the episode and the fully produced version played during the end credits. The song was released shortly after and became Florence and the Machine’s most popular release of the year with over 20 million Spotify streams.
Trent Reznor x Watchmen
Trent Reznor initially found his fame with Nine Inch Nails but has increasingly found work as a composer alongside Atticus Ross. This has been a beautiful partnership that started with David Fincher’s The Social Network.
2019 saw the two of them work together on great projects such as Bird Box and Waves. However, we’re going to go with the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed Watchmen series as the standout collaboration.
It would be interesting to see whether more composers for film and television are former artists and whether this would impact the reception of the soundtrack. There is definitely something appealing about knowing that a quality recording artist like Trent Reznor is involved in a project. It might also might have helped bring more fans of his to watch a show like Watchmen that may not have otherwise.
Graham Coxon x The End of the F***ing World
The End of the F***ing World returned for its second season in 2019 along with Blur’s Graham Coxon for the score. Like the first season soundtrack, original songs were also included with composed pieces of music.
The first season soundtrack proved to be quite popular with a vinyl release and the main single becoming Graham Coxon’s most popular song on Spotify with over 5 million streams. The second season soundtrack hasn’t received the same amount of love but has still proved to be just as popular, if not more popular than any of his other solo work.
Dua Lipa x Alita Battle Angel
Dua Lipa kicked off 2019 with a song for James Cameron’s manga adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel. A music video was also released that featured Dua Lopa in the Akita universe alongside the film’s lead, Rosa Salazar.
Although this might not have hit the charts as well as Dua’s previous singles, it still did quite well across the world. Notably, it cracked the top 5 in China, which isn’t that surprising considering that’s where Alita found the most success. This could potentially be the shrewdest move out of the collaborations on this list if it helps Dua Lipa build a strong position in the Chinese market, especially with a new album coming out in 2020.
Zayn x Aladdin
Disney’s live action remake of Aladdin ended up being a great success for the company. Whilst Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud may have grabbed the spotlight for their renditions of the classic songs, former One Direction star Zayn may have stolen the show.
Zayn’s rendition of ‘Whole New World’ alongside Zhavia Ward ended up being the most streamed song from the Aladdin soundtrack with almost 150 million streams. This is far more than the lead actors and even Will Smith’s versions of the songs from the film.
Although it was released last year, ‘Sunflower’ from Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse was included on Post Malone’s 2019 album Hollywood’s Bleeding. The massive success of the album only increased the popularity of the track and it now has over 1 billion streams, which is now only second to ‘Rockstar’ amongst Post Malone’s most popular songs.
Overall, bringing in a high profile recording artist can definitely make an impact in promoting a film of TV show. Collaborations aren’t only a good tool for marketing but can help bring in extra sources of revenue for everyone involved.
Of course, simply bringing in someone famous isn’t always going guarantee good results. There needs to be quality all around and some types of projects may be more suited. Disney’s presence here amongst the biggest successes is no surprise as musicals are always going to present more opportunities for famous singers. However, you only need to look at Cats to be reminded that even a superstar like Taylor Swift can’t save a sinking ship.
If you want to give any of these songs a listen then check out this playlist below.