Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Top Gun Soundtrack

The original ten song soundtrack for the movie Top Gun spent five weeks at the top of the charts in the summer of 1986 and has gone platinum in over 6 countries along with an estimated twenty million copies sold worldwide. Needless to say it can be seen as one of the most successful soundtracks in the last 40 years. What really makes this soundtrack special is the mix of fast paced rock anthems and sweet melodic ballads that accompany the scenes of this movie quite well.

The song entitled “Danger Zone” performed by Kenny Loggins basically goes hand in hand with Top Gun. This song is the first one you hear in the movie after the opening credits, and it along with the visual of fighter jets taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier in the ocean create an experience that pleases the eye and ear. The intensity of the song creates a mood of action and danger that really grabs the viewers attention right out of the gate. This appeal to the viewers emotions, or pathos, successfully sets the tone of the movie early on. Also on the logical level, the landing strip of the carrier can literally be viewed as a “danger zone” with all of the high speeds and power of the fighter jets.

In opposition to the fast paced feeling of “Danger Zone” is the soundtrack's most successful song, “Take My Breath Away” performed by the group Berlin. This single won an Oscar for "Best Original Song" and the Golden Globe for "Best Original Song" in 1986. This iconic song represents the love between Maverick and Charlie. In every intimate scene between these two, the song is there, either in instrumental form or along with the lyrics. The melodic and sensual lyrics establish a very romantic and passionate mood that perfectly contrasts the more intense action packed scenes of the fighter jet training and dogfights. The love interest between the two characters helps to appeal to a wider variety of viewers, therefore contributing to the overall success of the film.

Other songs, like “Mighty Wings” performed by the band Cheap Trick and “Top Gun Anthem” by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens can be heard throughout the film. These are usually playing softly in the background during scenes of dialogue. A common purpose of some music in movies is to “underline speech, especially dialogue”(Giannetti, 218) and this is apparent in multiple scenes. Especially in the case of “Top Gun Anthem” which is played mostly towards the end of the movie while Maverick struggles with the loss of his wingman Goose. This song has an encouraging and motivational vibe to it which is a great representation for Maverick's return to the cockpit.

“Characterization can be suggested through musical motifs,” (Giannetti, 216) and some characters in Top Gun are defined by the music that accompanies them. For instance, in one scene Maverick's wingman Goose is playing the piano in a cafe and singing the song “Great Balls of Fire.” Now this song is not included in the original soundtrack from 1986, but it was later added as a bonus track in the 1999 Special Edition release of the album. The light-hearted theme of the song really defines the character of Goose, who was always there to lighten up the mood of the scene. This characterization of Goose creates a memory linking the song to him that some fans will remember forever.

Top Gun is recognized as one of the most iconic movies of the 80's. The success of the movie can be attributed to not only the action packed scenes of fighter jets racing through the sky, but the equally as entertaining music that accompanies the film. I give this soundtrack 5 slurpees because of its ability to perfectly convey the messages and themes of the movie and its continued success today.

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