What were this year's best musical moments in movies?
05:00 AM, Dec 18, 2013
Last year, Anne Hathaway hit a high note for musical movie performances with her devastating, tear-stained rendition of I Dreamed a Dream in Les Misérables, breaking hearts and winning an Academy Award in the process. But what 2013 may have lacked in French prostitutes living in squalor, it certainly made up for in folk singers, flappers, big-haired housewives and gun-wielding spring breakers. From the Oscar hopefuls to the indie darlings, USA TODAY’s Patrick Ryan picks the eight most memorable melodious scenes that lit up the silver screen this year.
American Hustle (now in theaters)
The song: Paul McCartney and Wings’ Live and Let Die
What’s to love? Wearing yellow cleaning gloves and wiping down furniture, frustrated housewife Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) bursts into a head-banging, hair-tossing rendition of the James Bond theme. In a darkly comic film chock-full of inspired ’70s music cues such as America’s A Horse With No Name and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, this short but uproarious scene stands out thanks to Lawrence’s larger-than-life performance.
Inside Llewyn Davis (now in theaters)
The song: The Death of Queen Jane, performed by Oscar Isaac
What’s to love? Delivering a heartbreaking, folk-rock spin on this traditional English ballad (famously recorded by the Bothy Band and Loreena McKennitt), struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is told he’s not cut out for a solo career and should go back to being in a duo, despite his partner having thrown himself off the George Washington Bridge. The Coens’ latest has many musical high points in the Justin Timberlake-assisted Please Mr. Kennedy and Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) with Marcus Mumford, but this poignant performance by Isaac achingly tugs at the heartstrings.
Frozen (now in theaters)
The song: Ice-queen anthem Let It Go, sung by Idina Menzel
What’s to love? An animated musical and box-office sensation, this frosty tale of two sisters is accentuated by a slew of Broadway-ready tunes, including the standout power ballad Let It Go. Sung by Elsa (voiced by Tony Award winner Menzel) as she flees to the mountains and constructs her icy lair, the combination of jaw-dropping animation and dynamic vocals makes this one of the most memorable Disney songs in years. It’s also generating plenty of best-song Oscar chatter for the married songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
12 Years a Slave (now in theaters)
The song: Roll Jordan Roll, sung by cast members such as Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o
What’s to love? If audiences aren’t already crying during this searing awards contender, the stirring rendition of gospel hymn Roll Jordan Roll will surely make them break out the hankie. Edwin Epps’ (Michael Fassbender) slaves gather at their fallen friend’s grave and sing, soon joined first reluctantly, but then passionately by enslaved protagonist Solomon Northup (Ejiofor). At once uplifting but also gut-wrenching, it’s one of the many moments in this historical drama that haunt viewers long after they leave the theater.
20 Feet From Stardom (available Jan. 14 on DVD and Blu-ray)
The song: The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, featuring Merry Clayton
What’s to love? Morgan Neville’s crowd-pleasing documentary turns the spotlight on legendary backup singers such as Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love and Merry Clayton, who delivers one of the film’s most memorable music history tidbits. She explains how she was called up in the middle of the night wearing curlers and very pregnant to go into the recording studio and sing the Stones’ evocative “rape/murder” chorus. As Clayton tells her tale and her lone, rousing vocals are played once again, it’s impossible not to be moved by this talented woman who is just now getting a chance to shine.
Frances Ha (available on DVD and Blu-ray)
The song: David Bowie’s Modern Love
What’s to love? As an aspiring modern dancer in this black-and-white indie hit, Greta Gerwig is given plenty of opportunities to clumsily pirouette and jive across Manhattan. While the film itself has a killer soundtrack featuring Hot Chocolate and T. Rex, no song is put to as good of use as David Bowie’s joyous Modern Love, which plays as Frances runs and twirls down the streets of Chinatown. Although the scene itself is very brief, it perfectly encapsulates Frances’ winsome nature and the spirit of Noah Baumbach’s film.
The Great Gatsby (available on DVD and Blu-ray)
The song: A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) by Fergie, featuring Q-Tip and GoonRock
What’s to love? Many Gatsby loyalists were initially disgruntled to hear that Jay Z would be helming the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s splashy adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Although the film itself divided critics, the modern tunes actually proved to be one of its strengths, with original compositions by Florence + the Machine and Lana Del Rey seamlessly incorporated into the movie. The pop-infused songs especially thrived in the loud, gaudy parties thrown at the Gatsby mansion, as flappers danced to the stylings of Fergie and will.i.am, and the Jazz Age received a healthy dose of Auto-Tune.
Spring Breakers (available on DVD and Blu-ray)
The song: Britney Spears’ Everytime
What’s to love? Arguably the most memorable musical moment of the entire year is this Spring Breakers scene, as the Riff Raff-esque drug lord Alien (James Franco) sits down at his piano outdoors to play Britney’s melancholy Everytime. Joined by the three remaining spring breakers (Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine) donning ski masks and wielding machine guns their sunset ballet soon transitions into a twisted montage of the girls assisting Alien in robbing and torturing his targets. The juxtaposition of their deviant acts and the mournful pop song is at once amusing, but ultimately becomes one of the most unsettling scenes of 2013.