When "The Amazing Spider-Man" is released July 3, it will be the first movie in the blockbuster series to arrive without a "songs inspired by" soundtrack. This summer, if you're looking for soundtracks, you'll find them for actual musical properties-the Warner Bros. '80s musical "Rock of Ages" and the Sony Pictures remake of "Sparkle" - rather than films that rely on a soundtrack tie-in for promotional buzz. And with those soundtracks, the stars of the movies are also the stars of the album - Mary J. Blige, Julianne Hough and others (including Tom Cruise) for "Rock for Ages" and Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks for "Sparkle."
As for "Spider-Man," "You can't deliver [soundtrack sales] numbers without a female audience," Sony Pictures president of music Lia Vollack says. "I said to [director] Mark [Webb], 'Do you want a song at the end of the movie?' He wasn't that moved by the idea of creating a new song. The idea of an 'inspired by' album I understand when there's an audience and appetite for anything associated with a property. It can't be a knee-jerk reaction - 'We have a big summer movie so we need an "inspired by" album.'"
There will be other musical offerings from the fringes this summer - Sony Legacy will release the soundtrack to the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man" featuring tracks from its subject, '70s cult rocker Rodriguez. But by and large, the summer has only two films dedicated to an album's worth of new recordings. Both movies have been in the works for years.
"We're nearing the finish line of something we have been working on for four years," says Jason Linn, who runs the Warner Bros. studio's soundtrack arm Water Tower Music. "The key decision was to make it feel authentic and really make the tracks feel of the period and be as powerful as can be."
The soundtrack for "Rock of Ages," the film adaptation of the Broadway and touring jukebox musical, will arrive June 5, 10 days prior to the film hitting theaters. Marketing began May 15 with the release of a music video for Blige, Hough and Constantine Maroulis' version of Journey's "Any Way You Want It."
Janet Billig Rich, a producer of the show from its inception more than six years ago, secured the clearance rights to the songs in the musical should it become a film. Adam Anders did demos in the fall of 2010 for New Line, which gave a green light to the project once Cruise came aboard in 2011.
Chris D'Arienzo, who wrote the book for the musical, collaborated with Justin Theroux and Allan Loeb on the script, which altered not only the action but the song selections as well. Of the 20 tracks on the film's soundtrack, seven aren't in the stage show, some of which owed to licensing costs and others to new inspiration.
Anders explains that a lot of things heard on the soundtrack didn't originally exist in the stage show, such as mashups of "We Built This City" and "We're Not Gonna Take It," as well as the big opening with "Paradise City." Two new songs were written for the film. One, the boy-band tune "Undercover Love," remained in the movie, but the other - an anthemic salute to anthems - was replaced by Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me."
Anders and "Rock of Ages" music supervisor Matt Sullivan didn't take liberties with the songs. "We stayed away from devices that make fun of the '80s," says Sullivan, who worked on the 5.1 mix, arrangements and the production of the music.
Backing tracks were recorded in Los Angeles, with vocals added in Miami during the filming. Back in L.A., Anders brought in such session heavyweights as guitarist Michael Landau (Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs) and drummer Josh Freese (Weezer, Devo), had producer Bob Clearmountain record the drums and Mike Shipley (Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Starship) mix many of the tracks.
Unlike the Broadway show, which has the unifying feel of a concert, Anders and Sullivan had to create different textures throughout - arena scenes had one type of live sound while club scenes had another; fantasy sequences needed to be more record-like.
Anders adds, "The nice thing is that you can do things sonically that you couldn't do back then. You have so much more room to open it up . . . Our intent was, 'Let's make this huge.'"
The opinions of the creators of the music that fills "Rock of Ages"-Guns N' Roses, Journey, Foreigner and Starship, among others - have been crucial since day one. Members of Def Leppard visited the set during filming and were reportedly impressed when they heard Cruise sing "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
When advances of the soundtrack became available, Linn and his team sought to get the music in the hands of the songs' originators. The goal was to generate endorsements from the bands through social media. "The hope is that 'Rock of Ages' can do for this genre what 'Mamma Mia!' did for ABBA," Linn says. "There's an audience who knows Def Leppard and Quiet Riot through 'Guitar Hero' or 'Rock Band.' We hope this is the vehicle that lets them fall in love with this music."
While "Rock of Ages" attempts to revive a genre through an upbeat tale, "Sparkle" steps into a world of drug abuse and death, albeit loaded with performance scenes. The remake of a 1976 project that featured Aretha Franklin singing eight Curtis Mayfield songs, "Sparkle" stars the late Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks. There are 11 new recordings, four of which are Mayfield songs from the original. R. Kelly supplied three new tracks, including the last song Houston ever recorded, "Celebrate," a duet with Sparks that will run over the closing credits.
"We're still working on the marketing plan," Sony's Vollack says, noting that it's likely a solo track from Sparks will be out first. "I watched a full assembly [of the film] and Whitney is really good in it. The subject matter is hard in light of everything and it would still be difficult if nothing [had] transpired."