There’s usually no way to put a rock song in a movie without it sounding a little clunky. Unless the band is specifically writing a song for the movie in question, sometimes it’s hard to squeeze licensed music into a movie without a bit of creative tension. However, every now and then you hit that sweet spot where everything seems to fall into place.
While not all of these songs lend themselves well to the big screen on paper, it all depends on where they’re placed in the right scene. All of these scenes may have worked wonders on their own, but they became a whole different animal once they added the right song to them. But what exactly are the criteria to make a song like this work?
Well, you have to see if it fits the type of movie first (you can’t really imagine a Radiohead song in a romantic comedy, can you?). You should also consider the lyrical content and whether it has anything to do with what is actually happening on screen. But more than anything, it must be able to leave an impact on you that the scene itself could not have had on its own. If you still have the song ringing in your head every time the scene plays, you know you have a little magic on your hands.
Every time you use a licensed song in your movie, you have a small opportunity on your hands. Even though music lovers know the song from listening to it on the radio, it’s the context of the song in the film that makes all the difference. And when you go to the Stealers Wheel stage in Reservoir Dogs, that upbeat little folk tune has been knocked down.
When first released, Stuck in the Middle With You was meant to be this carefree folk tune, taking a few hits in Bob Dylan’s songwriting style and making your head spin as you listened to it. This is a Tarantino movie though, and hearing that over an interrogation scene is just plain disorienting the first time you see it. While we see someone getting their ear cut off by Michael Madsen in the film, you have this song playing in the background, emphasizing how twisted the whole scene is.
It’s not really meant to celebrate the act of cutting off an ear. From the moment the song begins to play, we hear this song from Mr. Blonde’s perspective, as he finds great joy in inflicting pain on this person. Rather, it simply draws you into the world created by Reservoir Dogs. You may be scared to see this kind of chart scene happening, but for Mr. Blonde, it might as well be another Tuesday.