The Queen Of The World strongly believes that there is great classical music in modern film. I've posted on this a number of times, but she challenged me to think more broadly about "classical" music. It was the popular music for the theater, and so why shouldn't today's popular music for the theater fit that same category? She (rightly) says that I've been discriminating against perfectly fine music just because it's recent. And so today will be a step further out than I've done before in these Sunday classical music posts, with a choice that literally everyone reading this will have heard (and may even be able to hum along to).
This is a song that was almost never made. James Cameron is a filmmaker with a reputation for swinging for the fence, In 1997 his film Titanic worried pretty much everyone in Hollywood, because it was fabulously expensive and in fact was the most expensive film made to that date. Cameron obsessed over each detail, including the music. He and composer James Horner had collaborated on the film Aliens but had hated working with each other. Cameron convinced Horner to write what would be the Academy Award winning score. Horner sensed that with the financial risks facing the film, it needed a signature song. He wrote this, and Will Jennings wrote the lyrics. Cameron didn't want a song with lyrics, but Horner convinced a reluctant Celine Dion to record it which she did in a single take.
Horner waited until Cameron was in a good mood to play the song to him. Cameron listened to it several times and then gave the go ahead. It may be that he thought that having what seemed like a potential hit song would help him calm the Studio executives who at this point were convinced that the film was going to lose $100M.
Of course, it didn't. It became the first film ever to gross over a billion dollars, and spent 12 years on the top of the all-time earning list (only being surpassed by Cameron's Avatar; he always swings for the fence). This song has been massively popular, and in fact is the second best selling single by a female artist of all time. It also won the Academy Award for best original song.
But Borepatch, I hear you ask: sure it's pretty and everything, but why is this classical music? well, it's music of the theater. It uses the same instrumentation that Beethoven used. It's really as classical as Wagner. I think that this compares nicely with the Liebestod from his opera Tristan und Isolde. There are a surprising number of similarities: nautical theme, doomed love, hauntingly beautiful melody, emotionally gripping.
The Queen Of The World* suggested this particular song to show that classical music is alive and well at the box office. She's right about that. Boy, howdy.
She's way more than just a pretty face, although I sure like that. I'm a lucky man.