One of the first articles I wrote when I joined ScreenCrush some (gulp) eight years ago was a list of recent trailers with sad cover versions 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 sounds of a women’s choir singing Radiohead’s “Creep” to brilliant effect — the concept of inserting bleak and/or haunting renditions of popular songs into trailers had exploded. It seemed worth documenting, so that’s what I did.
A year and a half later, I had enough examples for a second list. Two years after that, I did another. A fourth followed in the fall of 2020. And now here we sit, two years later, and there are still so many trailers like this — not just for movies, but for television shows and video games as well.
Will I ever stop writing these lists? Yes, if Hollywood trailer editors stop making them. Almost eight years later, they keep churning them out. Here are 10 more recent examples.
1. The 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 twist that song in a new direction as if to subliminally suggest the film delivers a novel approach to something the viewer already knows and loves. Slowing down that Mario Bros. theme, and playing it on a twinkly piano, suggests this movie is a grand, mind-blowing adventure.
2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Featuring “No Woman, No Cry”
This is definitely 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 that gives way to Kendrick Lamar’s more upbeat “Alright.” I haven’t seen Wakanda Forever yet, but the combination of songs seems to acknowledge the grief fans collectively feel about the death of Chadwick Boseman, while implying that the franchise will somehow find a way to move on in his absence.
3. Red Rocket
Featuring “Bye Bye Bye”
Here is another meaningful use of this idea. Red Rocket is about a down-on-his-luck porn star who returns home after years in Los Angeles. The original “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC came out during the character’s glory days; playing a sad version in the trailer underscores just how far he’s fallen all those years later.
4. Last Night in Soho
The song “Downtown” by Petula Clark takes on major significance in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, so using it in the trailer is not simply 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, that’s an instrumental (and somewhat somber) version of Coldplay’s “Clocks” that plays during the trailer to Netflix’s Slumberland. As you’re about to see, Netflix is a fan of sad covers of pop songs in trailers.
6. Wendell & Wild
Featuring “How You Like Me Now?”
Jordan Peele is another fan of sad covers — or at least cleverly downbeat remixes — in his trailers. A version of “I Got 5 On It” was used in the trailer for Us; Nope messed with the tempo of Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips.” Peele’s animated movie with director Henry Selick, Wendell & Wild, uses a sinister cover version of The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?”
Featuring “It’s Nice to Have a Friend”
It is 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 is not nice at all. That is the ironic point of that song choice. Just want to make sure we’re all on the same page here.
Featuring “Baby Mine”
The original “Baby Mine” isn’t exactly a toe-tapper; it’s a lullaby sung by Mrs. Jumbo to Dumbo. So the version here isn’t quite a sad cover of a popular song. More an even-more-sad-and-operatic version of a popular song, and its use indicates the epic emotions of this live-action remake. (At least that was the intent.)
9. Midnight Suns
Featuring “Enter Sandman”
Although this trend is best known from movie trailers, ads for other things have gotten into the act too. This Marvel video game, for example, has a sad cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” I imagine the words “Exit light / Enter night” were the primary reason the song was selected for a game about the superhero team Midnight Suns.
10. The Magicians
Featuring “This Magic Moment”
Do you get it? Because they’re magicians? And the song is “This Magic Moment”? You get it.
The Best Fake Movie Trailers From Actual Films
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