Said she wanted my songs for a modern ballet
Twyla said she'd immortalize me in a style a
Guy who liked rock and roll could enjoy in LA
Movin' Out came about, now it plays in a strange place
And my songs are performed by a rock 'n' roll elf
While a dancer contorts with his crotch in his own face
I don't think it's okay that he plays with himself
I never said you could make Uptown Girl a disco dance
I never wrote The Longest Time for twinkies in tight pants."
Simply put, a musical which uses pre-existing popular songs (often from one band, singer, or composer). Normally the plot isn't the strongest area, because it is written around the songs, but it's generally good fun to listen to all of the hits.
Sometimes the plot will actually be the story of the band/musician whose music is being used.
A subcategory of the Jukebox Musical is a film which has a soundtrack completely composed of music by one band. Whereas the traditional Jukebox Musical uses pre-existing songs, the film may use new songs composed especially for the movie.
- Across the Universe: A movie musical set before and during the Vietnam War using the music of The Beatles.
- Earlier, in the late 1970s, there was the less successful Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (which notably was among the first of its kind). Infamous for starring The Bee Gees.
- Also, Yellow Submarine, if an animated Jukebox Musical counts.
- Also from the late 70's comes the Broadway musical Beatlemania.
- And the film of the same name.
- American Idiot is a Rock Opera composed entirely (with minimal dialogue) of songs by Green Day from the album of the same name. (With a few songs from other albums, as well as the previously unreleased "When It's Time.")
- Though American Idiot (the album) is a Rock Opera in and of itself, so it's less of an example than other entries on this page.
- An American in Paris, with the music of George Gershwin
- Mamma Mia!: the trope popularizer, if not the originator, it tells the story of a woman looking for her real father before her wedding, with the music of ABBA.
- Well, there was "Abbacadbra" back in the early eighties - though probably doesn't count since they had Don Black put new lyrics to the songs to make a panto-type show with revisionist vignettes of stories like "Cinderella" and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They were made up largely from ABBA's less well-known songs like I'm a Marionette.
- Singin' in the Rain, whose old songs were all written by producer Arthur Freed, some of which he collaborated with Nacio Herb Brown.
- Stormy Weather showcases not only black performers of the 30s and 40s, but also their music.
- We Will Rock You: a post-apocalyptic exercise in The Power of Rock using Queen songs.
- Songwriter Irving Berlin made a whole series of these: for each of the movies Alexander's Ragtime Band (which was to have been a Biopic until Berlin said no), Blue Skies, Easter Parade and There's No Business Like Show Business, he provided a score containing a mixture of his old hits and a few newly written songs. Alexander's Ragtime Band and There's No Business Like Show Business had only a couple of new songs each; Blue Skies and Easter Parade had roughly as many new Irving Berlin songs as old ones. (White Christmas, however, had mostly new songs, as did its predecessor Holiday Inn.)
- Movin Out, which uses the songs of Billy Joel sung by one man at the piano, as the characters dance.
- Good Vibrations with music from The Beach Boys.
- All Shook Up, using Elvis Presley's music. Lampshaded when the lead character causes an old, broken jukebox to come back to life in one scene.
- Tomfoolery, a revue of the works of Tom Lehrer.
- Celebration of the Lizard, using the music of The Doors.
- Jersey Boys features the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and tells their story.
- Get On Up tells the story of James Brown, featuring his hits.
- The Boy From Oz: The music of Peter Allen
- Ring of Fire: Music of Johnny Cash
- Hot Feet: Music of Earth, Wind & Fire
- Always, Patsy Cline
- Return to the Forbidden Planet (a musical version of the film Forbidden Planet) filled with rock'n'roll songs from that era with more shout outs to William Shakespeare than you can count. A less-successful sequel, From A Jack To A King, reset Macbeth to the pre-Beatles UK rock 'n' roll scene.
- Celia!: Music of Celia Cruz
- Smokey Joe's Cafe: music of Leiber and Stoller
- The Mambo Kings features newly-recorded performances of vintage Cuban songs from the '50s.
- Crazy for You and My One and Only, music of George and Ira Gershwin. These are actually In-Name-Only adaptations of the old shows Girl Crazy and Funny Face.
- Happy New Year is an adaptation of the play Holiday based around Cole Porter songs.
- Cirque du Soleil crossbreeds this genre with circus entertainment in four shows designed as tributes to the artists in question, using their original recordings in new ways:
- Probably the earliest example is the 1728 "ballad opera" The Beggar's Opera, which took the tunes of popular ballads and added new lyrics by poet John Gay.
- Never Forget: Based on the music of Take That before their breakup in 1996, back when they were a cheesy boy band.
- The astonishing satirical film (based on a stage production by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop) Oh What A Lovely War is based around songs sung by soldiers during World War I.
- Stephen Sondheim has a few of these, largely built around Cut Songs from his other shows:
- Side by Side by Sondheim
- You're Gonna Love Tomorrow (originally billed as A Stephen Sondheim Evening)
- Putting It Together (some lyrics were rewritten by Sondheim especially for this one)
- Miyuki Nakajima's Yakai concerts, which developed gradually more complex plots and stage design over time, as well as her writing songs specifically for the concerts.
- Our House: Uses the songs of Madness to tell the story of a young man growing up in London (which is what most Madness songs are about anyway). Featured Suggs as the main character's father for a while.
- Rock of Ages is comprised solely of 80's hair band songs by the likes of Poison, Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, etc.
- Buddy, about the birth of rock. No prizes for guessing the surname of the title character.
- Sunshine on Leith uses songs by the Proclaimers.
- Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
- Blackpool is an interesting example in that the songs are actually being played as the soundtrack and the characters just sing and dance along. It actually works pretty well.
- Back to the Eighties is an odd variation where it uses songs that are not all from the same band, but were all written in the same decade.
- Walking On Sunshine does the same with the same decade.
- Disco Inferno does the same with the previous decade.
- Viva Forever, a musical based around the songs of the Spice Girls, was a notorious flop that may turn out to be a Genre-Killer.
- Hank Williams: Lost Highway, a musical biography of . . . well, guess.
- The Stockholm City Theatre in did the Three Musketeers as a rock opera using both classic rock songs and more modern pop hits to illustrate the difference between the rock'n'roll lifestyle of the musketeers and the effeminate French court. A trailer can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GQTvqIxoec
- Xanadu: The stage version is essentially one for the Electric Light Orchestra.
- With Pokémon Live!, the soundtrack was made of songs from the Image Song album 2.B.A. Master, as well as a few songs from the later album Totally Pokémon and some exclusive musical numbers not heard anywhere else.
- Sophisticated Ladies with many of the jazz songs that were composed by Duke Ellington or his orchestra's associate composers.
- Mentiras or "Lies" is a Mexican musical based on 80s Mexican songs.
- Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar has songs from the Spanish band "Mecano"
- Mas de 100 Mentiras (More than 100 lies) is a Spanish musical with songs from Joaquin Sabina.
- Rock Around The Clock, a pioneering rock and roll musical from early 1956, features acts like Bill Haley & His Comets and The Platters lip-synching to previously released recordings, with the exception of a live-to-camera performance of the Comets instrumental "Rudy's Rock" and a couple of minor numbers. Its sequel, Dont Knock The Rock was even more so, with virtually all musical numbers featuring lip-synching.
- Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
- Motown the Musical.
- Moulin Rouge!. Twentieth century hits in the 19th century!
- The Swedish musical Sol, vind och vatten uses songs by Ted Gärdestad.
- Glee, once every other episode.
- The 2014 animated film Strange Magic is filled to the brim with covers of pop songs from pretty much every decade.
- Baby It's You for girl groups of the 60's.
- Last Goodbye, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet based on the songs of Jeff Buckley.
- Sometime in 2014, Britney Spears developed plans for an adaptation of the death of Jesus using her songs. Make of that what you will. She didn't go through with it, but there might have been some remnants of that idea within Fox's The Passion Live.
- Sing, a 2016 animated film from Illumination Entertainment manages to sneak at least small snippets of at least 80 different songs from the 1940s to the 2010s.
- Fox's The Passion live musical from 2016 sets the death and resurrection of Jesus to contemporary pop songs. Word of God (no pun intended) states that this was done to make the story more accessible to audiences who otherwise would not be that interested in religion.
- Trolls: There are a few original songs but most of the songs are reworked pop songs to fit the Trolls.
- Sunny Afternoon tells the story of, and features the music of, The Kinks.
- The Black Crook shows that this is Older Than Radio. It's cited as the first theatrical musical and dates back to 1866. Only a few of the songs were written for the play.
- Head Over Heels is based on the music of The Go-Go's, set in Elizabethan times.
- Freewill in 2112, a fanmade musical based on the music of the Canadian prog rock band Rush— ironically set in the Oppressive States of America.
- Harold and Maude uses only songs by Cat Stevens. He wrote two new ones for the movie.
- The Graduate uses music by Simon & Garfunkel.
- Purple Rain, with music by Prince.
- White City, with music by Pete Townshend, was released as a companion film to the LP of the same name.
- I Am Sam uses all Beatles songs, but since they couldn't get the rights to the original recordings, the producers commissioned new covers by current artists.
- A bizarre example is the obscure seventies film All This and World War II, which combined stock footage from World War II with new versions of Beatles songs. Noteworthy only for Elton John's hit rendition of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".
- At Long Last Love from 1975, starring Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepard singing Cole Porter. It was notorious for director Peter Bogdanovich's insistence that the actors sing live with no Non Singing Voices (Reynolds and Shepard are not renowned for their singing abilities). The reviews were so terrible that Bogdanovich wrote an open letter, printed in newspapers throughout the country, apologizing for the quality of the film.
- The anime series FLCL, with music by The Pillows.
- The original Highlander has a soundtrack written almost entirely by Queen, and nearly all original.
- As does Flash Gordon (1980).
- The soundtrack to the 1989 Batman movie was entirely produced and recorded by Prince.
- Danny Elfman actually composed the orchestral score used in the film. Prince produced a soundtrack album released concurrently.
- This is true of many of the other examples too, however. Michael Kamen for Highlander, Howard Blake for Flash Gordon, John Powell for I Am Sam, etc. etc
- Danny Elfman actually composed the orchestral score used in the film. Prince produced a soundtrack album released concurrently.
- Though also featuring contributions from composer Jon Brion and seventies band Supertramp, and a Harry Nilsson cover, most of the music in Magnolia was written and performed by Aimee Mann, and the movie itself was largely inspired by her songs. It's a bit of an odd example - some of the songs were written for the movie, others written before for her album Bachelor No. 2 (which was only released after the movie soundtrack), and at one point in the movie, every character starts singing along the song "Wise Up" in unison, as if really were a full musical.
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller uses only songs by Leonard Cohen
- While several other artists' songs were licensed for the film itself, the soundtrack album to Yes-Man is almost entirely Eels songs - the exceptions are four songs by the Fake Band Munchhausen By Proxy.
- Maximum Overdrive had only songs by AC/DC: The soundtrack album (released as Who Made Who) is probably a little more well-known than the movie is, since it's still the closest the band has to a Greatest Hits Album.
- Shes The One, the entire soundtrack was done by Tom Petty
- The Freaks and Geeks episode "Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers" mainly uses music by The Who.
- The surreal OVA Radio City Fantasy uses 17 songs from the same J-POP artists and the plot is minimal.
- Mawaru-Penguindrum uses covers of ARB songs.
- The Blues Brothers
- Forbidden Zone
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
- KaBlam! uses instrumental versions of songs by The Toasters as background music (For the Henry and June shorts)
- Interstella 5555 is an interesting variation. The movie was made as a "visual realization" of Daft Punk's Discovery album, and each song loosely corresponds to what's happening in the story at the time. The characters never speak and few sound effects are used.
- An interesting example is the TV series based around British pop band S Club 7. Each of the show's four seasons was accompanied by a new album, with each episode featuring (usually) a single song from said album, in the vein of The Monkees.
- Some Cold Case episodes.
- Baby Driver, kind of
- The graphic novel Comic Book Tattoo is a collection of short stories based on songs by Tori Amos. As one can imagine, some of the stories are...stranger than others.
- Similarly, Put The Book Back On The Shelf is a graphic anthology inspired by the work of Belle and Sebastian.
Western Animation Examples
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Meet the Beat-Alls" features a story in which everyone speaks The Beatles lyrics.
- The animated special Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is this, using songs by Elmo And Patsy.