‘Suicide Squad’ Trailer Music Hits High Note

Comic-Con teaser music for the DC film blows-up online.

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Wild in the streets: DC Entertainment’s Suicide Squad. (Photo by Roman Vasyanov)

Will the 2016 Warner Bros. release Suicide Squad become the first film to incorporate a song custom cut for a trailer into the actual feature film? If the studio has been paying any attention to the fans’ Internet response to the music created for the Comic-Con trailer, it just might! The cover version of the Bee Gees 1968 hit “I Started a Joke” has blown-up online, generating a cult following of its own.

No one from Warners, Trailer Park or Confidential Music was willing to discuss the matter. And why would they? With a year to go before the movie hits theaters on August 6, there is absolutely nothing to gain from publicly discussing this while sensitive negotiations are, well, at least under consideration, if not actively taking place. Inquiry among others who do similar work at different companies drew a consensus: if Warners were to include in its film and soundtrack a pop cover created by virtual unknowns specifically for the trailer, it would be unprecedented in a major release.

“That would be odd,” one studio source said. “Never happen,”the founder of another Hollywood trailer house chimed in, adding, “If they decided to use the song, they’d get a known artist to cover it.”  “I can’t think of an example,” said another knowledgeable observer after citing several instances of artists whose popular recordings made it into the film and/or soundtrack after being used to temp a trailer. Insofar as a trailer house tune making the cut, it just isn’t done. But given the interest this song has generated, Warners would be foolish not to consider it, and the company certainly is not that.

The “I Started a Joke” cover was recorded by Santa Monica-based Confidential, a partnership of John Samuel Hanson and Kyle Biane.  But what really puts the “Joke” over the top are the vocals by Becky Hanson, John’s sister. John Hanson is identified on the company’s website as “composer,” but prior to launching Confidential circa 2012 he made his living as a synth and percussion programmer for film. He got his big break as a composer in 2008, scoring 21 episodes of the TV series “American Gladiators.” Biane, whose title is “producer/mixer,” likewise has pre-2012 credits as a mixer and engineer. Let’s assume, for purposes of this article, those are the functions they fulfilled in realizing this extraordinary song.

The music begins, albeit subtly, within 10 seconds of the start of the 3:07 trailer, as light keyboard sounds emerge beneath the dialogue, building to Becky’s vocal intro at a minute in. Her glassy mezzo soprano is angelic, but edgy enough to suggest menace; nothing this pure can possibly last in the universe that is visually playing out before your eyes. Her voice drips over the ambient synth sounds like black honey, and the overall effect is a sort of lurid delight. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine music that could more perfectly encapsulate the film’s world of deeply-saturated comic book characters run amuck: It’s sensual! It’s evil! It’s fun!

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Comments on the page with Sidney Chase’s remix of the Confidential track.

Warners was reportedly upset that the Suicide Squad Comic-Con trailer made its way onto the Internet. On Sunday, July 12, the day after the studio’s presentation at the San Diego geek-fest, Warner Bros. President of Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution Sue Kroll issued a statement that said, in part: “Warner Bros. Pictures and our anti-piracy team have worked tirelessly over the last 48 hours to contain the Suicide Squad footage that was pirated from Hall H on Saturday. We have been unable to achieve that goal. Today we will release the same footage …in the form it was created and high quality with which it was intended to be enjoyed. We regret this decision…”

Wipe away those tears, Warner Bros. After the initial sting subsides, doesn’t it feel kind of… good to have a trailer that’s racked up north of 65 million views in six weeks? Competing studios are Joker-hued with envy. An extended remix of the Confidential track by transgender recording artist Sidney Chase racked-up nearly 450,000 plays, and 392 comments.  “I created it in two-hours, and overnight got 50,000 views,” Chase said from her home in the Midwest. Fanboys, fangirls, the transgender community, me (a middle-aged woman with a cat), it’s an admirable cross-section of quadrants. All that and a great song, too! To quote the Joker, putting an unknown’s cover into your film — it’s “not mad at all, just differently sane.”

Remaining to be worked out are the business details. Music rights are negotiated separately for advertising (which includes trailers) and in-program use. The advertising rights are generally more expensive. Use of the Bee Gees song in the trailer undoubtedly cost Warners well into the six figures. Getting a “name” artist to record it would be another couple of hundred thousand (and up). Team Hanson would be a fraction of that, but the decision would be at the service of the film,  not the budget. “It’s not like anyone’s ever trying to cut corners. The studios spend what it takes, making movies, trailers and whatever,” the trailer house source said.

Confidential Music, too, likely had a buy-out for the marketing campaign but would be negotiating separately for the film. A source that has worked with the company on non-Warner projects described them as “not cheap.” But comparatively speaking, even $50,000 or $60,000 is a bargain. The quality of Becky Hanson’s voice — kind of Enya-like — is such that it’s unclear what value a “name” would actually bring if the goal was to recreate the trailer’s tone. By the sound of it, the 30-year-old Hanson received formal voice training, though she appears to be working in an administrative capacity at Confidential. Her online footprint is light-to-the-point-of-non-existent (even more obscure than that of her 32-year-old brother, who chose the name “Confidential” for what are now obvious reasons). Becky Hanson does pop up in a tweet from January for the Run All Night trailer, which features her singing “Danny Boy.”

John Hanson also seems to have fans. A compilation of his advertising/film compositions that looks to have been assembled by a third-party, Journey to the Deep, is described as an “epic choral drama.”  According to Confidential’s website, the company has created original marketing music for Interstellar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, The Wolverine and the upcoming The Martian, Pan and Bridge of Spies, to name a few.

That about covers it for the trailer music — aside from the million dollar question of whose idea it was to use the Bee Gees song (which information we couldn’t find, pry or bribe out of anyone).  In closing, we should mention this film has a plot: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

It also has a cast: Will Smith (DeadShot), Jared Leto (Joker), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Ben Affleck (Batman), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Common (Common?! Identified only as “actor,” the Internet is rife with chatter as to his possible role. Call him the “Easter Egg.”)  It is directed by David Ayer, a screenwriter (The Fast and the Furious, U-571) who made his directorial debut with 2005’s Harsh Times (Christian Bale, Eva Longoria) and more recently directed Brad Pitt in Fury (2014). The wrap party was Monday night. We hope the cast and crew  enjoyed it as much as we did the trailer.

 

 

2 Responses to "‘Suicide Squad’ Trailer Music Hits High Note"

  1. Pingback: ‘Suicide’ Soundtrack Strikes Gold | MaxTheTrax

  2. Pingback: Movie Trailer Music Company Confidential Music Partakes in Grammy Magic with Suicide Squad Soundtrack

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