Songs are a very powerful medium. Depending on the composition, a state of mind or emotion can be bestowed upon the listener within the first few seconds of an intro. Lyric-less music used in games, films and TV shows can imbue a scene with the right emotional oomph and elevate a good scene to a captivating experience. Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman are names that carry weight to them. At times these names have been in the opening credits of a film and for good reason! Their work has enchanted audiences for decades now and their involvement in a project is met with excitement among the film scene, similar to that of a main actor being cast. But today I don’t want to talk about the score of a film or show but an in-universe piece. This is different to songs in films such as Disney, which are usually characters thoughts and emotions expressed through rhyme or a musical which again is usually the same thing. An in-universe song is a component of the world established in its fictional setting. If I were to belt out YMCA, that is an in-universe song as opposed to me delighting the world with a tale of how I stubbed my toe and how the pain is currently killing me. And so here are a few ditties that have delighted me over the years and my thoughts on them.
For the Dancing and the Dreaming – How to Train Your Dragon 2
This one is a very guilty pleasure of mine and quite personal to me. I’m half Scottish and my Dad’s side are very Scottish sounding. Growing up in England and currently living in Wales, a good couple of hours away from any of my family, hearing a Scottish melody or voice just gives me a comforting feeling. I don’t have a Scottish accent and so in England whenever I heard a Scottish accent it was generally around my family. Now I live a fair distance away, I hear it less, as I see them less. I’ve been finding myself coming back to this song a lot over the past few months but that doesn’t detract from this song. This short performance not only mends a fractured relationship, but gives a whole new dimension of Stoic, the…..well stoic viking. A strong, sturdy man who is more in tune with his strength than he is with his feelings. These next few minutes reveal a lot about the man whilst also establishing a bond that we never saw in the previous film. To give some context, mild spoilers following: Stoic and his son have recently discovered that their wife/mum is alive after being previously thought to have been eaten by a dragon. Valka was taken away but gained the role of protector of a colony of dragons. She didn’t return to her husband as he believed that all dragons should be killed. This is Stoic trying to mend a damaged past.
First of…. Stoic sings! Can you believe that?! A boulder of a man in his build and his fortitude. But he had a son, I suppose whenever I pictured Hiccup’s mum I always thought of Stoic but with less beard. Not someone as compassionate as Valka and more Hiccup-like. The song itself though is a beautiful Gaelic-esque rendition of a love song. Whistling at the beginning or end of a song is like number one on a cheat sheet into my heart. I’m a sucker for the pursing of lips followed by a good exhale, I must admit. And I have to give major credit to Gerard Butler for his performance as Stoic here. Amazing job! You can tell how tentative and unsure Stoic is at the start of the song. He wants to mend the damage and bridge the gap between them but he’s an emotionally clumsy man. But he remembers a part of him that won her over decades ago. His sigh he gives is such a monumental moment in this song. That sigh is as close to his heart breaking as it could possibly get. But then Valka swoops in and raises him back to the strong willed man that he is. And then the song just takes off! As Stoic and Valka jump in to sing their role, the music is accompanied by more instruments and an increased tempo until both singers combine in unison to finish this delightfully romantic confession. They start as fractured partners, move onto being duelling lyricists and then finish as a reunited tour de force. Those three minutes, I feel, do a better job at mending their relationship, than any dialogue could do that same time frame and makes it fun to watch and listen to in the process. My favourite scene of How to Train your Dragon 2 and probably the entire series (I haven’t seen 3 yet).
Blunt the Knives – The Hobbit
I’d be hard pressed not to include this on the list. I’ll admit that I’m not a big Hobbit trilogy fan. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy but The Hobbit films just didn’t do it for me, as I’m sure a lot will agree on that. I didn’t care for the 3rd film much, I thought Smaug was excellent and the only real part of 2 that I enjoyed. And I enjoyed the first half of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This scene exemplifies what I would have wanted out of the trilogy. When Legolas among other characters started taking more screen time, the hobbit’s themselves just took a back seat in their own films. Lindsey Ellis does a great three part look at why The Hobbit trilogy stumbled in its execution, which I highly recommend checking out on Youtube. This scene never fails to make me smile but it also irks me that the potential was there for a great trilogy and we get a fantastic glimpse of it in this scene.
Although we only get a minor look at each individual characters traits here, with Balin’s calm smirk as he watches his younger dwarves enjoying themselves and Bombur’s ‘cleaning’ of the plates, being my favourites. But what this does give us a great look at, is the camaraderie among the dwarves. As individual’s, that they not be the most talented but when they combine their skills, strengths and trust, they excel as a unit. It also gives us a great look into their lifestyle. Similar to how in Snow White, the dwarves sing Heigh Ho during their work to boost moral but also to form a working rhythm among the team, The Hobbit’s dwarves do the same. In fact, their talent at clearing the table and doing the dishes, shows that they have had many a meal around the table together and performed this very same routine probably daily in their previous situations. Their bond as a unit, is unrivalled in the Hobbit/LOTR established film universe and should have been at the forefront of the trilogy. Granted I haven’t read the books, but I imagine this behaviour was a key component of the book and ne’er a sight of Legolas CGI-ing on falling debris. Great song, great scene but a wasted potential unfortunately.
Bink’s Sake – One Piece
Oh, One Piece! How I binged you so, back when I had lots of free time. I stopped watching One Piece many years ago around the episode 450 mark. It currently is at *Googles the latest episode* 899?! OK, well that works out well then. Basically I was half way through One Piece. And while I remember a lot of the arcs and big moments, Brook’s introduction and past will forever remain one of my main memories of the anime. A musically talented skeleton with an afro. In most things that wouldn’t work but One Piece’s world is one where that kind of bonkers can exist. I have to give some context for this song as I do think the song benefits from knowing the driving force and character of Brook.
So Brook was one of the Rumbar Pirates. I group of musician’s who would sail the seas playing music as they went and would play for anyone who wanted to listen. They were pirates but that was more of a vehicle for which to spread their music with people across the world. Now, in One Piece, there are things called Devil Fruit which is fruit that grant you an ability when you eat it but also make it so that you can’t swim, you just sink. In most universes, that wouldn’t be a huge deal but this is One Piece we’re talking about. It’s 90% pirate shenanigans. Brook ate a fruit that with return his spirit to his body upon death. A kind of, second chance. Brook’s ship was attacked by pirates who used poisoned blades. The enemies boarded the ship, cut everyone and then sailed away. I think their intention was to return when every one was dead. Again, not watched in years and this is from memory. As the Rumbar crew were dying they decided to play their favourite song, one last time. Brook is playing on piano, he didn’t know the fruit would revive him. As they play, they all start falling, one by one. It’s a very emotional scene. Unfortunately for Brook, when they were attacked, they were in a thick fog that covered a huge area. When Brook’s spirit tried to return to his body, he couldn’t find the ship. His spirit searched for years until he happened to find it. By that point, his body had decayed away to just bones. Brook entered his bony remains and was revived as a skeleton. Don’t question it too much. This following version of the song is the English dub which I didn’t originally watch but I think it does a good job of translating the song. At this point in the story, Brook has been welcomed in to the main cast of characters as a part of their family. He starts playing this tune and we are treated to a sing song with his new friends, as well as flashbacks to his old adventures, the Rumbar pirates befriending a baby whale and the demise of the Rumbar Pirates. You will hear thudding sounds towards the end of the song, around the 3 minute mark, which is his old crew falling over as the poison takes hold of them. A truly heart wrenching scene but also heart warming as we know Brook has finally found a new family.
I think that’ll do it for today. If you have any suggestions of in-universe songs I should listen to then please leave a comment and I’ll give them a go. Thanks for reading and as some of you may notice, it’s been about 3 months since my last post. Had a lot going on and my time is more limited these days but I will make more of an effort and will actually start talking about games at some point. Until then though, take it easy!