There was a story last week that caught us up on a new trend in movies: The increased usage of John Denver’s music. Denver tunes have appeared in a half-dozen recent films – Free Fire; Alien: Covenant; Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul; Okja; Logan Lucky and Kingsman: The Golden Circle thanks to a new rights management agreement that’s opened up his catalog for more people to select when looking for the perfect accompaniment for key scenes.
I decided to do some digging myself and see if that usage extended to inclusion in the marketing of the movie in question.
Nope. While “Annie’s Song” features prominently in a key action sequence, it wasn’t enough to make it into the red-band or any of the international TV spots for the shootout comedy.
Yep. It wasn’t in the longer trailers but a TV spot uses “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” the gentle sounds contrasting with the increased terror that’s shown on screen. There’s also, I’m sure, a secondary message that has to do with the story of the search for humanity’s origins.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
Nope. The soundtrack features a cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by Me First And The Gimme Gimmes but as near as I can tell that’s not used in the trailer or TV spots.
Nope. “Annie’s Song” is once more the song of choice, but nowhere in the trailer can those chords be heard. Again, the song is played during a key action scene as a contrast to the mayhem on-screen.
Nope. This time it’s “Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)” that reportedly features prominently into the movie but it didn’t make the cut as being interesting enough for inclusion in the marketing.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Nope. Again, it’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” that is pulled from Denver’s catalog and is apparently used to underline an emotional and quintessentially American moment in the story.
So what does all this mean? While Denver’s popularly may be resurging thanks to filmmakers who grew up with his music in their homes now calling on it in new ways, it’s still not mainstream enough to become part of the sales pitch for those movies in all but one case. And based on reports of the kinds of scenes the music is moved in, it’s often used ironically, which is interesting given Denver’s baked-in sincerity.
Whether or not filmmakers will continue this trend – and if they learn there are more than two songs in the songwriter’s catalog – remains to be seen. For the time being this is strictly for filmgoers with quick and attuned ears.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.