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by Oscar van Duijn
For as long as there have been movies, there has been a desire to combine image with sound. In the past couple of decades a shift can be seen in the music that accompanies the movies. Where symphonic orchestras used to dictate the music in the cinemas, they have been replaced by modern pop artists, who introduced the soundtrack as we know it today.
Musicals like "The Sound of Music" and "Grease" opened up a totally different aspect of music and movies. All of a sudden music was not just a complimentary feature of a movie, it was the subject. Because of this, during the late seventies and early eighties, pop artists started to have a keen interest into the movie business.
At first, artists only made film music as a sidetrack from their work as a pop artist. They included Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Mike Oldfield and The Eurythmics. Perhaps influenced by their record companies (who earned a large share of the profits from a soundtrack), soon the majority of the artists saw the potential that filmmusic had.
Series of movies such as James Bond became well-known, and artists would stand in line to be allowed to write and produce the soundtrack. Artists such as Duran Duran, A-ha, Tina Turner and Garbage have all associated their name with Britain's most famous secret agent. Disney's cartoon movies are also a phenomenon for which artists stand in line. Elton John, Phil Collins and Eternal were lucky enough to pass the high standards this company sets for the music that accompanies their movies.
In the past couple of years we have seen a keen interest from artists to link themselves to big movie productions. In 1997 Celine Dion made a huge impact with her title-song "My Heart Will Go On" for "Titanic" - both song and movie broke almost every record that could be broken. More recently: Limp Bizkit found its way onto "Mission Impossible 2" and Destiny's Child released the No. 1 "Independent Women" for "Charlie's Angels".
Some artists want even more out of a relationship with a movie. Playing a part or role in it seems to have found their interest as well. And they are not satisfied with just some small role. One well-known film is "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome". The soundtrack was performed by Tina Turner, who also took the role of the evil Auntie Entity, one of the main characters in the movie. Other artists who are famous for their acting tendencies are Madonna ("Who's That Girl", "Evita"), Whitney Houston ("The Bodyguard", "Waiting To Exhale", "Preacher's Wife") and more recently the soul singer Aaliyah ("Romeo Must Die") and Will Smith ("Men in Black", "Wild Wild West").
The latter has his own sitcom on TV, also a popular thing among a growing number of other artists who want to be actors.
Some dare to take the step the other way. The best example of this is Jennifer Lopez, a respected actress who released her debut album "On The Six" last year.
A collaboration of an artist with a movie is bound to boost their reputation. Being mentioned with a blockbuster movie, having your music being heard by a large cinema audience will have a positive effect on your record sales, which in turn makes the record companies very happy. On the other hand, movies reach a larger audience by entering the pop charts with their respective soundtracks. No doubt that this will attract more people to the movie theatres, which is a good thing for the movie production companies.
So it seems collaboration between artist and a movie production company is beneficial for both. It's a win-win situation for each side. But what about us, the audience? Sure enough, when you're a fan of Madonna, you'll rush to see her next movie. And there is a fair chance that you will come out of the cinema, praising the acting talents of your favorite pop star.
But not every artist is capable of acting as well as not every actor is good at making music. Some of the artists already give us a hint of their lack of acting talent in the videos they make. Others apparently want to have the best of both worlds by making records and movies as fast as possible. The result might very well be that both projects fail, because neither of the two gets enough attention and dedication. The production of a good album takes a great deal of skill and time, it is not something that is done overnight. Even if an artist has other people writing the songs, it still takes a lot of effort to get into the music and perform it the way it was intended.
Likewise for the artist, an actor must put all of his talents and experience into each and every scene of a movie. Although we live in an era where the success of a movie seems to be determined by its budget, without good acting no movie will ever make the final cut.
Take for instance Michael Jackson's attempt at acting in "Moonwalker" (1988). A large portion of the movie was already filled with music videos for his songs, however the scenes in between were somewhat enervated. Without the music and dance routines Michael uses so much in his videos, he seemed lost. He acted in a shy and frightened manner, much as he is perceived in normal life. Pinnochio could have done better, nevertheless his fans were thrilled back then.
More recent is the Spice Girls' embarrasing "Spiceworld - The Movie". Having someone following you with a camera during your everyday routine does not require much acting at all. It is more a question of feeling comfortable around a camera than having to put down an inspirational acting performance. Although in the movie the girls' intention was to make a joke out of themselves, let's hope they refrain from any further serious endeavors on the silver screen.
The introduction and evolution of music in films has certainly been beneficial to music in general. Symphonic compositions such as can be found in the "Star Wars" movies, to the soundtracks of movies like "Titanic", have stunned the musical world. Many have become world famous music. The influence of pop music has played a major part in all this.
Many artists feel now is the time to take the next step towards taking part in movies. They prefer to call themselves 'entertainers' rather than just artists or actors. However caution should be taken here, after all acting and making music are two completely different professions. The only thing that combines them is that they are both ingredients of popular culture.