Welcome to Films + Songs, the series where I draw parallels between songs from my music library and films I’ve watched! Songs are selected at random by putting my entire music library on shuffle. As in Vol. 1, I’ll be discussing five songs today. On to the good stuff!
“…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears + Angel Face (1940)
Eddie Muller’s commentary of Angel Face points out that Diane (Jean Simmons) is a unique femme fatale in that her actions aren’t motivated by money (of which she already has plenty), but by her twisted affection for Frank (Robert Mitchum). When “…Baby One More Time” popped up on my shuffle I knew I wanted to pair it with a noir film and I think Angel Face is a perfect parallel. Britney Spears and film noir may seem like a strange pair, but if you separate the song from its singer and your own ’90s nostalgia, the lyrics are kiiiind of emotionally manipulative. Diane could absolutely use these lyrics in attempt to sway Frank to forgive her mistakes, playing innocent by asking, “How was I supposed to know?”
“Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley + My Reputation (1946)
I could’ve picked a film about journalism to suit this song better, since it’s a critique of the media, but that would be too easy. Instead, I draw a parallel between “Dirty Laundry” and 1946’s My Reputation, a film in which Barbara Stanwyck falls victim to the rumor mill. While the song explicitly mentions television news as the target of its critique, its more general sentiments could be applied to society on the whole. Stanwyck’s character of Jessica faces judgement from her community when, after the death of her husband, she strikes up a romance with a man she meets at a ski resort. Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down!
“Hear Me Out” by Girls Aloud + Laughing Sinners (1931)
“Hear Me Out” must be interpreted quite over-dramatically to suit the story of Laughing Sinners, but it does remind me of the journey Joan Crawford’s character takes in the film. It’s a break-up song, and Joan’s Ivy Stevens goes through much more than a break up. She attempts suicide and deals with a shady ex-beau trying to send her on another downward spiral, but eventually she finds redemption. Key lyrics: “I know (I was lost but now I’m found), as the rain pours down the window (and I’ve turned my life around), I’m no longer here in limbo. No more dramas, smeared mascara on my pillow.”
“Chances” by Jill Barber + On the Town (1949)
“Chances” is a sweet, romantic song, so of course it reminds me of a very sweet, romantic film: On the Town, the 1949 musical starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and a bevy of other talented folks. The film contains not one, but three romances that suit the mood and lyrical content of this song. “Chances” is all about the odd, fateful circumstances that bring people together. On the Town follows three sailors who happen to have shore leave at just the right time to fall in love — with three women they meet and random while exploring the city.
“Love is Wasted On Lovers” by Jessie Baylin + The Women (1939)
This song reminds me so much of Mary, Norma Shearer’s character in The Women, and her relationship with her husband Stephen. Blinded by the love she still has for her husband, Mary is reluctant to accept the fact that he has been stepping out on their marriage with a perfume saleswoman (Joan Crawford). Once she does realize that the rumors are true, she seems to resign herself to the fact. The melancholy, reflective mood of this song is very reminiscent of how Mary acts in the wake of her marriage’s end.