Culture / Music

Films and TV shows are giving a second life to songs from the past

How influential are films and TV shows in resurrecting songs from the past?

The music industry is one that has undergone a significant amount of change in the last two decades. From the implementation of streaming services, to the astronomical price of concert tickets and the hotly discussed topic of AI-generated music and ideas of copyright, just about every facet of the medium seems up for debate these days.

It's also difficult to decipher just what and who is popular. With TikTok soundbites taking over the Billboard charts, music is more subject to the bellwether of micro-trends than ever before – but one particular influence has remained steadfast in the midst of it all: film and television soundtracks. No, we're not talking about Hans Zimmer scores or theme songs (though The O.C.'s opening credits tune, California by Phantom Planet, will never not be a bop). No, we're talking about songs that have been resurrected in popularity from a decade ago or more by the world of cinema – some even outselling the popularity they held at the time of their original release.

Below, we explore some of the biggest songs to be resurrected by film and television shows years after their initial release.


Murder On The Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Saltburn)

If you've been on social media in the last month, you've probably heard many a snippet of Sophie Ellis-Bexter's 2001 tune Murder On The Dancefloor. The song was used in the finale of Emerald Fennel's wildly popular new film Saltburn, and, for more reasons than one, it's quite a memorable scene... Only a few weeks into the film's cinematic release, Murder On The Dancefloor has been propelled back into the UK top 10, more than 20 years after its initial release, and has become Ellis-Bextor's first top-10 single since 2007.

And Murder On The Dancefloor isn't an outlier. The film also saw MGMT’s Time to Pretend music video surge 115% in views, and Princess Superstar’s club mashup with Mason, Perfect (Exceeder) rise to number 5 on Spotify’s Viral 50 chart in the United States. In actual fact, it seems like Saltburn is just one of many films whose success hinged on the selection and resurrection of an old tune at a pivotal moment in the script.


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Goo Goo Muck by The Cramps (Wednesday)

Earlier in 2023, Jenna Ortega's Wednesday was one of Netflix's biggest television shows. On screen, Wednesday Addams cuts shapes to The Cramps' 1981 song Goo Goo Muck, sending the video viral online (the YouTube clip has more than 62 million views at the time of writing), and propelling the tune from around 2,500 daily streams in the US to more than 130,000 daily streams post-release of the show.


Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush (Stranger Things)

In 2022, the fourth season of Netflix's hit show Stranger Things used music as a poignant plot point, catapulting several songs up the charts and garnering new Gen Z fan bases for 80s musicians like The Clash and Journey. Kate Bush's song Running Up That Hill, from her 1985 release Hounds of Love, found renewed attention, going viral on TikTok and reaching a new peak of number three on the Billboard Hot 100. In the same season, following an iconic scene where metalhead Eddie Munson performs the Master of Puppets guitar solo to ward off demobats, Metallica also crashed into the Top 40 for the first time in 14 years.


Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen (Wayne's World)

There's a string of other notable filmic resurrections of classic songs to note in this conversation too – Wayne's World's head-banging rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody brought the 1975 hit back to the charts in the early nineties. Back in 1986, Ferris Bueller's Day Off brought The Beatles' song Twist and Shout back to the Hot 100 for the first time in 23 years. And recently, Nirvana's Something in the Way hit the charts again after the release of the 2022 Robert Pattinson-led film The Batman.

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