One of the first articles I wrote when I joined ScreenCrush eight years ago there was a list of recent trailers featuring sad covers of popular songs. At the time, they seemed to be everywhere. In the wake of the trailer for The social network — which paired images of social media with the sound of a female choir singing Radiohead’s “Creep” to brilliant effect — the concept of inserting grim and/or haunting renditions of popular songs into trailers had exploded. It seemed worth documenting, so I did.
A year and a half later, I had enough examples another list. Two years later, I did another one. ONE fourth followed in the fall of 2020. And now we sit here, two years later, and there are still so many trailers like this – not only for movies, but also for TV shows and video games.
Will I ever stop writing these lists? Yes, if Hollywood trailer editors stop making them. Almost eight years later, they’re still churning them out. Here are 10 recent examples.
1. Super Mario Bros. Movie
Featuring “The Super Mario Bros. Theme”
Who could forget the upbeat cheerful sounds of the theme to Super Mario Bros.? That sound is about as iconic as video game music gets. And that’s one of the reasons to twist and slow down a classic song in a trailer; to make people feel warm and fuzzy by reminding them of something they know and love, and then to spin that song in a new direction, as if to subliminally suggest that the film is delivering a new approach to something the viewer already know and love. To slow it down Mario Bros. theme, and playing it on a shimmering piano, suggests that this film is a grand, mind-bending adventure.
2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Featuring “No Woman, No Cry”
This is certainly an interesting example of the sad cover song trope. The trailer starts with a melancholic cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” but eventually gives way to Kendrick Lamar’s more upbeat “Alright.” I have not seen Wakanda forever yet, but the combination of songs seems to acknowledge the grief fans collectively feel over Chadwick Boseman’s death while hinting that the franchise will somehow find a way to move forward in his absence.
3. Ed Rocket
With “Bye Bye Bye”
Here is another meaningful use of this idea. Red rocket is about a porn star who returns after several years in Los Angeles. The original “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC came out during the character’s heyday; playing a sad version in the trailer emphasizes how far he’s fallen all these years later.
4. Last night in Soho
The song “Downtown” by Petula Clark takes on great significance in Edgar Wright’s Last night in Soho, so using it in the trailer isn’t just trying to capitalize on a trend. (Of course, as relevant as it is to the content of the actual movie, it still qualifies here as well.)
Yes, it’s an instrumental (and somewhat gloomy) version of Coldplay’s “Clocks” that plays during the trailer for Netflix’s Slumberland. As you’re about to see, Netflix is a fan of sad covers of pop songs in trailers.
6. Wendell & Wild
With “How You Like Me Now?”
Jordan Peele is another fan of sad covers – or at least smart toned-down remixes – in his trailers. A version of “I Got 5 On It” was used in the trailer for U.S; Nix messed with the tempo of Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips”. Peele’s animated film with director Henry Selick, Wendell & Wilduses a creepy cover version of The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?”
With “It’s nice to have a friend”
It’s not nice to have a friend, you see. In fact, if your friend is an advanced artificial intelligence that looks like a little girl but murders people like Jason Voorhees on steroids, it’s not nice at all. That’s the ironic point of that song choice. Just want to make sure we’re all on the same page here.
With “Baby Mine”
The original “Baby Mine” isn’t exactly a toe-taker; it’s a lullaby sung by mrs. Jumbo to Dumbo. So the version here is not quite one orchard cover of a popular song. More of an even sadder and operatic version of a popular song, its use indicates the epic emotions of this live-action remake. (At least that was the point.)
9. Midnight sun
With “Enter Sandman”
Although this trend is best known from movie trailers, ads for other things have also caught on. For example, this Marvel video game has a sad cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. I imagine the words “Exit light / Enter night” were the primary reason the song was chosen for a game about the superhero team Midnight Suns.
10. The magicians
With “This Magic Moment”
Do you understand? Because they are magicians? And the song is “This Magic Moment”? You know what I mean.
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