'New Moon' Rising: The Billboard Cover Story
Just in case you've been in a sight-, sound- and Twitter-deprivation tank for the past two years, here's the lowdown on the "Twilight" franchise: It's a series of four books written by Stephenie Meyer about Bella, a human girl who hearts Edward, a vampire boy. This is awkward, due to Edward's predilection for snacking on platelets, but also because high school relationships are invariably angsty and messy.
The first of the series, "Twilight," became a feature film starring bed-headed porcelain heartthrob Robert Pattinson, and made almost $400 million last year at box offices around the world for its fledgling movie studio, Summit Entertainment. The accompanying soundtrack, featuring Paramore, Muse, Linkin Park-and a rather lovely track by Pattinson himself-sold 2.2 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
On Nov. 20, the adaptation of the second book in the series, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," hits theaters. But more than one month before-on Oct. 16-Atlantic/Chop Shop Records released the soundtrack, bumped up from Oct. 20 after the album leaked on the Internet. In its first three days of sales, the soundtrack sold 115,000, copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, landing it at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
For the next three months, Atlantic wants to make the "New Moon" soundtrack inescapable. The label is teaming with teen lifestyle all-stars to promote the album: Hot Topic, MTV and MySpace. For those too old to wear black nail polish, the soundtrack also will be sold at Whole Foods, Nordstrom's, Hallmark and Hollywood Video.
But besides its omnipresence, there's a secret weapon the label is deploying for "New Moon." The soundtrack features tracks from Thom Yorke, Bon Iver & St. Vincent, Lykke Li and Sea Wolf, among others-and they're all exclusive to the album.
"We had offers from artists that were incredibly wonderful and incredibly commercial, and it would have been easy to say, 'Oh, let's go for it because we'll sell more records'-but it wouldn't have been true to the project," says Paul Katz, founder/CEO of Eye2Ear Music, which consults with Summit Entertainment on music; Katz produced the soundtrack album and has been involved since the script stage to determine where music could fit into the film.
The track list mediates the one bit of risk to the "Twilight" series: So far, the franchise owes its popularity to the capricious crushes of teenage girls. Getting "Twihards" who love virtuous vampires to buy the soundtrack is easy -- but getting Radiohead fans to plunk down cash for a little bit of the "New Moon" universe will be a coup.
"Keeping it as a combination of obviously great artists -- but making it interesting for people to discover -- was a very carefully considered view," Katz says.
As "New Moon" opens, there's a complication in the story of our star-crossed lovers: While Bella may love Edward forever and ever-eh, Edward thinks it's best to take a break. Enter boy-next-door Jacob, who-in the grand narrative tradition of mystical Native Americans-is a werewolf.
This love triangle forms the plot of "New Moon," and accordingly the soundtrack is moody and wistful, but with an undercurrent of strum und drang machismo. Each song is exclusive to the soundtrack, as-yet-unreleased, and most were written specifically for the movie, remixed or given new lyrics to fit the film's themes. "I was very inspired by the John Hughes movies of the '80s, which made me listen to indie rock bands that probably weren't meant for 13-year-olds: Yello, the Psychedelic Furs, New Order," says music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, who also produced the album, as she did for the soundtrack to "Twilight." "Hopefully we can create a similar moment in time for 2009 teenagers."
Patsavas received coffins and Dracula pictures in her South Pasadena, Calif., office from bands trying to get her to listen to their tracks for inclusion on the "New Moon" soundtrack. "The big difference between the last album and this album is that the last album we really had to go out there and beg and plead for the first album and for this one, it was completely the reverse," Katz says.
The first single is Death Cab for Cutie's "Meet Me on the Equinox," currently No. 15 on the Alternative chart. The song debuted on MTV.com Sept. 13 in tandem with the Video Music Awards; the music video, a sepia-toned intermingling of the band with footage from the movie, debuted Oct. 7.
"With Death Cab we felt like they were hip enough, they were cool enough, and they were musical enough and broad enough without being super commercial super pop," Katz says. "And one thing Summit is cognizant of, when we choose an artist-and they choose us, it's a mutual thing-is that we want enthusiasm."
And Death Cab is nothing if not enthusiastic about discussing the travails of Bella, Edward and Jacob. It can follow in the footsteps of the singer of the "Twilight" soundtrack's first single: Paramore's Hayley Williams, who blogged relentlessly about the series on the band's Web site, posting pictures of herself holding the books and attending the movie's premiere. Her fan-girl joy caught on; the "Twilight" soundtrack significantly boosted Paramore's profile with its single from the album, "Decode," selling 927,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"Paramore did a fantastic job for us-and for them," Katz says. "We want somebody who will feel really good about being involved in the project and talk it up."
But the plan is to work "New Moon" like a traditional album, with several singles being released. Two contenders for the next single slot are Lykke Li's "Possibility," which is the longest musical take in the movie and played over a pivotal scene in the film as Bella pines for Edward, or the Killers' "A White Demon Love Song."
Patsavas has a longstanding relationship with Atlantic -- her imprint, Chop Shop Records, is affiliated with Atlantic, and "New Moon" artist Anya Marina is signed to it -- but ultimately the soundtrack's tone was a group effort. Marina, for instance, was selected by director Chris Weitz after Patsavas, looking to boost the number of female vocalists on the soundtrack, sent him a compilation CD with 15 female artists. Marina's cover of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" won him over.
"[Patsavas] doesn't get force-fed priorities to follow because they're going to be big songs," says Livia Tortella, GM/executive VP of marketing and creative media at Atlantic. "She starts with the feeling of the film and then she creates a mood around it. I can't tell her, 'Oh, you've got to use this band because it's a priority.' I've got to give her a band that's going to fit the mood she's creating and also has a bit of a base so I can open up the film. They're about the mood, about the feeling of it, and that's really exciting because it's really creative."
The Yorke track came about after Patsavas established the relationship by licensing the Radiohead track "15 Step" for the end credits of "Twilight." "Early on in the summer I was speaking quite a bit to [Bryce Edge, Yorke's manager] and he said Thom had something already recorded that would be appropriate for the movie," Patsavas says. "I was thrilled."
Patsavas' credentials are well-established-she's the music supervisor for "Gossip Girl" and "The OC" -- but the music for the "Twilight" series also receives invaluable support from Meyer, the books' author. The fourth novel in the series, "Breaking Dawn," is dedicated to Muse, which appears on both soundtracks. "They are super important to the 'Twilight' family," Patsavas says.
Meyer writes on her blog at StephenieMeyer.com about what music she listened to while writing the novels. Her site now includes streams of her suggested songs, as well as links to purchase ringtones. "You start out with a [reading] experience that people are so excited about and she's such a passionate lover of music, so it has her stamp all over it," Tortella says. "The music is like a character with a life of its own, and Stephenie gave birth to that."
Since Meyer wrote "Twilight" in 2005 and started singing the praises of Muse, the band has seen steady sales in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan; when the track "Supermassive Black Hole" was placed on the "Twilight" soundtrack, the band's popularity jumped. In the six months leading up to the release of "Twilight," Muse's 2006 album "Black Holes and Revelations" sold 41,000 copies, according to SoundScan. In the six months following the film's U.S. bow, the set sold 73,000-up 78.5% compared with the pre-"Twilight" week.
"Supermassive Black Hole" had already peaked on the Alternative radio airplay chart at No. 6 in September 2007. In the track's two-and-a-half years of release before the "Twilight" film's debut, it had sold 154,000 downloads. In the 11 months since the film hit screens, the track sold another 310,000.
"Some time ago, when the band was playing in Arizona, we invited [Meyer] to a show," says Muse's manager, Q Prime's Cliff Burnstein. " 'Twilight' director Catherine Hardwicke wanted to use 'Supermassive' in a very long scene, with not a lot of dialogue in the foreground. We thought, 'This is fun; this is a nice woman who writes these books, she's a fan of ours, let's get involved in this.' No one was really thinking at the time, 'This is a huge opportunity.' "
The "New Moon" soundtrack features a remix of Muse's "I Belong to You" that was rerecorded to emphasize the track's guitars and takes out the French opera interlude in the original version. "[The band] loved the change they made, Chris [Weitz] was really pleased, Alex was really pleased, and at the last minute we were able to get it into the movie," Burnstein says.
The soundtrack also features a track by score composer and multiple Academy Award nominee Alexandre Desplat. (The score from "Twilight" was by Carter Burwell on Atlantic, and sold 182,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a fantastic sales number for a score; it's the 11th-biggest-selling soundtrack of 2009. A label deal for the "New Moon" score is still pending.) Weitz asked Desplat for a sweeping, romantic score-along the lines of what Maurice Jarre did for "Doctor Zhivago."
"There is a central love theme for Bella and Edward, but Chris felt that we didn't want to put that out front because in the film Bella and Edward are separated through much of it," Desplat says. "You don't hear that theme in its full treatment until the end of the movie. For the soundtrack album it's an arrangement of that melody but just for piano."
Katz is mulling hiring a songwriter and an artist to create and record lyrics to the piece, and then release it as a single-much like the teaming of Bryan Adams, Mutt Lange and composer Michael Kamen on the 1991 film "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
It all speaks to a broader theme of the soundtrack: It's more than just a souvenir of the movie -- it's an album that can be worked to radio along the lines of a traditional artist release. "We see the soundtrack as an entity in its own right, which obviously you can't say about every soundtrack," he says.
You're So Vein
It's hard to overemphasize the impact the "Twilight" series has had on the cultural conversation. In recent days, Ryan Seacrest has been doing dramatic readings of sections of "New Moon" during his morning radio show and posting the videos of his candlelit performances on his Web site.
It makes the soundtrack a safe bet as a slam-dunk-digital sales already launched Anya Marina to No. 22 on Billboard's Heatseekers Songs chart, as her "Satellite Heart" was offered as an immediate download from the soundtrack with a pre-order from iTunes-but it also makes its success hard to replicate. "With 'Twilight' and 'New Moon,' people are buying into the whole experience," Tortella says. "They want to own it."
Of the 2.2 million copies of the "Twilight" soundtrack sold in the United States, 1.7 million were physical CDs and 521,000 were digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (Except for the Paramore track "Decode," the tracks on the album weren't available a la carte on iTunes.) Part of the reason for the popularity of the physical format among young buyers may be the goodies that were packed into each CD-and Atlantic is repeating that strategy for "New Moon."
Each CD will contain a poster of the film's characters, and there will be different editions that contain a variety of bonus tracks of songs in the film that didn't make the album, including Lupe Fiasco's "Solar Midnite," the Magic Numbers and Amadou & Mariam's "All I Believe In" and two classical tracks.
There will be CDs available with merch-look for "New Moon" T-shirts for your gothy teen at fye this holiday season-and, for the first time, the soundtrack will be available for $32.99 as a USB drive sculpted into the family crest of the Cullens, Edward's vampire family.
Besides placing the soundtrack in nontraditional retailers to take advantage of the holiday season, the label is unveiling a Hot Topic tour Nov. 6, with various bands from the soundtrack making appearances during a 15-market trek. Besides performances, the tour includes signings in Hot Topic and Q&A sessions in the mall where the stores are located.
"The first volume really centered a lot around Paramore," Tortella says. "This one is really about showing the depth of it and the mood of it by having a bunch of artists participate in events."
Death Cab will appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and at mtvU's Woodie Awards. In addition, the soundtrack will be promoted in onscreen advertising in movie theaters and a prime-time TV campaign during Thanksgiving weekend.
Online, MySpace is the soundtrack's key partner, debuting the soundtrack listing, Marina's single and then streaming the soundtrack in full. The film's first trailer also premiered on the site-and received 4.2 million views in the first 24 hours.
The "New Moon" soundtrack also will receive a push internationally, with Spain, France, Germany, Australia, Japan and Mexico getting bonus tracks from local artists in their native language on the soundtrack. In Mexico-where "Twilight" is known as "Crepúsculo"-the soundtrack to the first movie went to No. 5 on the Mexican albums chart and went gold, selling at least 40,000 copies, according to the Mexican labels association Amprofon.
"The fun part about having a franchise like this is it's the experience of the music and the experience of the film that really drives a lot of the ideas," Tortella says.
Fangs For The Memories
As for the film itself, there's more music in it than "Twilight"; it features roughly 20 cues, Weitz says. "The movie has a lot of spots for music and a lot of spots for score, and we're trying to ride a very delicate balance and not make it wall-to-wall carpeting," he says. "I think there is a threat to modern film in that there's not enough silence. And so it's very rare you actually get to hear the entire song played out." The one song that does play in full during the film, he says, is Yorke's "Hearing Damage," which underscores a fight scene.
Weitz is well-known for pushing music in his movies; he was a producer on last year's "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist" and he was nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for the 2002 music-intensive film "About a Boy." "He's got good musical taste and he's very into it," Katz says. "He wasn't just like he was the director out there, he was part of the team."
So to address the question fluttering in a million teenage girl hearts: Why does Pattinson not make an appearance on the second soundtrack?
The answer: He didn't want to. (Sorry, girls.) "We asked if Rob wanted to do it, but his music is kind of his private stuff in a way-as opposed to this huge public dazzle on him on the moment," Katz says. "We wanted to respect that. If he comes to us on the third one and he wants to do something, then we would obviously be delighted."
Right now Pattinson is filming "Eclipse" -- the third book in the "Twilight" series -- in Canada in preparation for a release in summer 2010. Katz and Patsavas are back onboard for the soundtrack album, and while a deal with a record label isn't finalized yet, Katz says, "We would like to work with Atlantic again."
The plot of "Eclipse" provides more rich sonic territory, including a vampire versus werewolf battle and lots of chaste "ragged breathing" between Bella and her supernatural boy toys. In other words, it adheres to the same formula that has sold 70 million copies of Meyer's books worldwide, according to the publisher, Hachette Book Group-an alchemy of hormones and horror that spawned films and soundtracks to feed off the stories' success.
"There's no illusion that it wasn't the 'Twilight' phenomenon that helped make it so successful," Katz says. "While the music is great, if it came out by itself, it wouldn't have the same impact at all."
Additional reporting by Jeff Bond and Keith Caulfield.