Song of the Day: “A Real Hero”

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Happy hump-day internet. This week, we’re looking at tracks that have been featured on the big screen. Ones that aren’t just tracks recorded for the movie (I’m looking at you, “Men in Black”).

So far this week, we’ve looked at two different tracks. “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee was featured on the soundtrack for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, and introduced the character of Miles Morales. And, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, set the tone for the frantic chase scene in “Baby Driver”.

We’ll pick up the driving theme from yesterday for today’s discussion, which centers around the 2011 film starring Ryan Gosling, “Drive”.

Drive

In  Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive”, Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals. His character is silent for most of the movie, projecting an icy exterior that is only cooled by a relationship with his neighbor (Carey Mulligan). 

Throughout the film, both Gosling and Mulligan convey most of their emotion through subtle expressions and body language. Their performances are defined in part by how they use silence.

It should come as no surprise then, that the soundtrack’s single is just as understated. While many movie themes are used to inject emotions, “A Real Hero” instead leaves enough room for viewers to fill the space with their own. The slowed-down beat and vocals of the track can be either cold and tense, or warm, and somewhat romantic. Try listening to it when you’re in different moods, and you’ll see what I mean.

A Real Hero

“A Real Hero” is a song by electronica artist College, in collaboration with Electric Youth. The song itself touches on what it means to be “a real hero”, a central theme seen in the film. It was also on the forefront of the ’80s throwback culture-wave we’ve been experiencing the past few years.

As a movie stunt driver, Gosling’s character maintains the illusion of the hero for the movies. Later, he is thrust into circumstances where he can choose to be a hero, a choice with significant consequences for the rest of the film. He must then decide whether to continue to pursue heroism, despite the costs and risks. The fact that he does the right thing allows him to become a real hero, instead of the illusion of one that we typically see o screen.

Even though Gosling’s character can be seen as a silent psychopath with repressed anger, it’s still a more realistic portrayal of actions that ‘heroes’ take in movies all the time. But maybe that’s part of the point. Gosling’s character seems cold and indifferent to the violent acts he commits. So maybe part of his motivation was not only proving that he could be a hero, but a real human being as well.

Final Thoughts

One of the reasons why “A Real Hero” makes for such a good theme, is that it perfectly captures the mood of the entire film, as well as the essence of the main character. It’s contemplative, distant, driving, slow, and bittersweet. Rather than being a particularly good choice for one scene, it proves to be the perfect choice for the film as a whole.

Tomorrow we’ll finish up our week with one more track straight from the big screen.

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