'Divergent' Soundtrack: Ellie Goulding Adds Three Songs as Young-Adult Music Shifts

Photo: Jaap Buitendijk © 2013 Summit Entertainment
Theo James and Shailene Woodley star in Divergent

"Divergent" isn't just the third young-adult franchise to be adapted for the big screen by Summit/Lionsgate, following "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games." It's also the recently merged studio's latest bid to create an equally lucrative soundtrack series, after five "Twilight" soundtracks for Atlantic/Chop Shop and two (and counting) "Hunger Games" albums for Republic.

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Where those al­bums often skewed toward indie-rock and alt-folk, respectively, "Divergent" (released March 11 on Interscope, debuting at No. 29 on the March 29 Billboard 200) is a blend of EDM and pop befitting the film's setting in a dystopian future. Zedd's lead single, "Find You" (featuring Miriam Bryant and Matthew Koma), has started slow, peaking at No. 11 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. But it's Ellie Goulding's "Beating Heart" that has been featured in the film's TV ads, and is the end-credits song of the film itself. Goulding does double duty in Divergent as the singing voice of lead character Tris (Shailene Woodley), contributing vocals to the original score from Junkie XL (executive-produced by Hans Zimmer).

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"We had always hoped to work with Ellie on this release," says Tony Seyler, vp film marketing and soundtracks for Interscope Geffen A&M. "Very early on there was a specific scene that I had set over some of her music from [2012 album] Halcyon. The vocal textures on Halcyon are so cinematic that it was easy to imagine her voice against our picture." Divergent music supervisor Randall Poster, owner-founder of Search Party Music, latched onto Halcyon's "Dead in the Water" and a remix of "Hanging On" for key scenes and recommended Goulding for additional sessions with Junkie XL in London as he finished the score to the film's final cut in January. "They were finishing the score in London and I got to jam," says Goulding. "It was just playing guitar and jamming with my voice."

After reaching a seeming nadir in 2011, a year when the little-seen "Sucker Punch" was the biggest-selling film album, soundtracks have been on an upswing thanks to "Pitch Perfect" and the unstoppable "Frozen," which stands as 2014's strongest-selling album to date. But Summit's big-budget approach to original soundtracks (which often pay artists $15,000 to $100,000 for approved tracks, depending on use cases in the film and in marketing) has seen diminishing returns ever since the first "Twilight" soundtrack sold 2.8 million copies for Atlantic in 2008 and 2009, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The first "Hunger Games" compilation sold just 488,000 copies (with the Taylor Swift cut "Safe and Sound" selling 1.7 million tracks), while last November's "Catching Fire" sequel has moved 181,000. The only true breakout hits from the young-adult soundtrack market have been Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" and Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years," both from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Pt. 1," with sales of 3.5 million downloads apiece.