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Weekend Earworms: Unexpected Musical Movie Moments

Weekend Earworms: Unexpected Musical Movie Moments

An estimated 92% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things, ever. We here at Nerdist are dead set on bringing you those types of songs—even if only for the weekend. So shove this into your grey matter!

A very merry, err… spooky? second week of Nerdoween here at Nerdist.com. Much like in last week’s installment, I figured I’d try to incorporate something Halloween/horror related in some form. Thankfully, October is chock full of inspiration. While today’s examples are technically all from comedies, the first one absolutely served as horror for me for quite some time. I give you: Evil Shrimp Hands… uhh.. I mean…

 “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” from Beetlejuice

While that’s not the full version of the song, this scene is likely the only reason a large swath of people are aware of the legendary Harry Belafonte. And even though 1988’s Beetlejuice was technically a comedy, it ran the risk of scaring the ever-living crap out of you if you saw it too early (read: me). There are certainly creepier visuals in the film but thanks, in part, to the earworm aspects of Belefonte’s 1956 hit, this scene sticks with me. There’s something deeply unnerving about those demon shrimp arms that grab the dinner guests’ faces, but even more disturbing is how they absolutely loved the experience of being possessed and controlled against their will almost immediately afterwards.

Seeing this scene again got me thinking about how filmmakers occasionally throw in a musical number that really shouldn’t fit in the otherwise non-musical film and how they end up being memorable moments that no one seems to mind. While all come out of left field, there are some played for their absurdity like “Afternoon Delight” from Anchorman or the the flash mob dance number in Clerks 2. There are some that help to define plot points or character traits like Tom’s outlook of a good day in 500 Days of Summer and Caleb’s realization there’s something sinister about his role in Nathan’s Turing Tests in Ex Machina. Then there’s the mother of all out-of-place musical numbers proving a character’s ability to do anything he pleases in the parade scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While all of these could serve as examples for entire articles themselves, it’s Nerdoween, so I gotta stick with the more fanciful examples.

“Cuban Pete” from The Mask

To be fair, I know there are other musical numbers in The Mask all of which go to define the character, including one that helped swing dancing be a thing again, but the film isn’t really a musical. The scenes are fairly unexpected and happen to share some level of Beetlejuice-esque possession. What’s weird is that, again, no one really seems to bat an eye about the fact they got mind controlled and eventually seem to actually enjoy it. A real showing of the character’s cartoon-ish super powers is on full display in this scene accompanied by a cover of the Desi Arnaz version of the tune. Man, now that I think about it, I probably owe my family an apology for playing this soundtrack non-stop when I was younger.

If The Mask was a bit too off the Nerdoween mark for you, let’s bring it home with one I doubt anyone could argue with…

“Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Young Frankenstein

You can always expect some sort of musical number in almost every Mel Brooks film. However, the way “Puttin’ on the Ritz” was executed in 1974’s Young Frankenstein is pure comedic genius. Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle performing this scene comes out of nowhere and yet feels right at home with the spirit of the film. It’s a very silly scene but there’s some next-level comedy going on. Performing the 1927 song that’s about dressing up and looking your best, both characters are earnest in their motivations. Frankenstein wants to impress the crowd, and the monster wants to be accepted and even opens up as the crowd becomes more entertained. In the end, Wilder’s line “for God’s sake, come on. are you trying to make me look like a fool?” when the scene falls apart speaks not only to the character’s feelings but also to the film’s audience that seems to be an admission that the scene is purposely silly and out of place.

When it comes to out-of-the-blue musical numbers in film, this isn’t nearly all of them. I’m sure I missed some of your favorites so let’s discuss them in the comments below!

Image: Warner Bros.


Blake Rodgers writes for Nerdist from Chicago, IL where he lives happily with his Guinness World Record for High Fives. You can be his pal by following him on Twitter (@TheBlakeRodgers)

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