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Jukebox Musical

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Simply put, a musical which uses pre-existing popular songs. These songs will often originate from the works of a singular band/singer/composer, but having a variety of artists mix-and-matched together to provide the score isn't uncommon; hence jukebox musical. When it comes to narrative strength, it tends to vary due to many examples being written around the songs, as opposed to traditional musicals that have their songs explicitly created as part of the story. Regardless, 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 are Jukebox Soundtracks: works that aren't categorized as musicals, but have a soundtrack composed of preexisting material. In addition, both Jukebox Musical and Jukebox Soundtrack works may only have the majority of their soundtrack consist of such material; a decent amount of original music may be composed for the score, especially in examples that are more narrative-driven or have the story written first and the music chosen to compliment it.

The greatest strength and greatest weakness of the Jukebox Musical is that members of the audience may have heard these songs before, especially if they are popular ones. As a strength, that means that they can easily work as emotionally shorthand if they're already associated with a certain mood in pop culture, bolstering the narrative of the work. As a weakness, audience members could have strong memories related to these songs that can cause Mood Dissonance. For example, the cool rock song you chose to emphasize the hero's He's Back! moment could end up reminding one audience member of their first college breakup, another of a deceased family member, or another of some old phone ad, diminishing the intended emotional impact of the scene. In the worst case scenario — and why they are frequently met with criticism as a concept — the songs are inserted with no context at all or with completely misunderstood or inappropriate applications, but this can be an advantage in more comedic productions.

Contrast Rock Opera, which are concept albums wherein all the songs are meant from the get-go to form a singular narrative. See also Real Song Theme Tune (the work has an original soundtrack, but the main theme is a preexisting song); Song Fic (when a Fan Fiction incorporates song lyrics throughout); and All Musicals Are Adaptations (for works based on other pre-existing properties and usually use their signature songs). May be prone to making examples of The Cover Changes the Meaning. Biopics about famous musicians inherently can't avoid this.

Traditional Examples

  • 8 Women: Eight women try to solve the mystery of their patriarch's murder, each singing one character-relevant song along the way. They're all old French hits; the newest song in this 2002-made film was made in the 1980's.
  • The Beatles have had a few of these:
    • Across the Universe (2007): A movie musical set before and during the Vietnam War using Beatles music to tell the story.
    • In the late 1970s, there was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (which notably was among the first of its kind).
    • The 1974 off-Broadway stage musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road, directed by Jesus Christ Superstar's Tom O'Horgan and featuring the movie adaptation's titular star Ted Neeley as Billy Shears, which would later (ever so loosely) inspire the aforementioned film.
    • Yellow Submarine, an animated Jukebox Musical.
    • The Broadway musical Beatlemania, and the film of the same name.
  • An American in Paris, with the music of George Gershwin.
  • Mamma Mia! (and its sequel): 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 that 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.
    • Its Spiritual Successor The Band Wagon used songs by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, several of which had originally appeared in a Broadway revue of the same name. (Other than these songs, Fred Astaire was the only thing in common between the two.)
  • 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.
  • Lennon
  • 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 (Band) 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.
  • Tsukiuta Stage, a series of stage plays about two month personification idol units, Six Gravity and Procellarum, has done this a few times:
    • Act 4: Lunatic Party incorporated one of each pair's duet songs into the story of the play, some performed as performances, some not, with "Sing Together Forever" used as the climax of the story. However, in the Halloween party scene, each year quartet performs an original song.
    • Act 9: Shiawase Awase features two songs originally sung by Gravi and Procella's managers, and one that was originally a solo sung by You Haduki (one member of Procellarum), but is sung by all four middle members here.
    • Act 11: Tsukihana Kagura has one of the original characters singing the Junior quartet's song from Act 6: Kurenai Enishi and several other songs from that play and Act 2: Yumemigusa were featured.
  • Rock of Ages is comprised solely of 80s 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 particularly notorious flop.
  • 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:
  • With Pokémon Live!, the soundtrack was made of songs from the Image Song album Pokémon 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 (I just can’t get up today) 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 only "original" song is "Come What May", which was actually written for (but not used in) Baz Lurhmann's previous film Romeo + Juliet.
  • 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 60s.
  • Last Goodbye, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet based on the songs of Jeff Buckley.
  • At Long Last Love from 1975, starring Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd singing Cole Porter. It was notorious for director Peter Bogdanovich's insistence that the actors sing live with no Non Singing Voices (Reynolds and Shepherd 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.
  • 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. The sequel, Sing 2, follows the same pattern and features another 41 songs.
  • 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.
  • The BBC's live televised musicals The Manchester Passion (2006), The Liverpool Nativity (2007), Frankenstein's Wedding...Live In Leeds (2011), and Bollywood Carmen (2013).
  • Trolls: There are a few original songs but most of the songs are reworked pop songs to fit the Trolls.
    • Trolls Holiday: This special features much less pre-existing songs (original ones being the majority instead), but still has some like Madonna's "Holiday".
    • Trolls World Tour: Again, this time including reworked songs of different genres too.
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Forbidden Zone... sort of.
  • 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 fan-made musical based on the music of the Canadian prog rock band Rush— ironically set in the Oppressive States of America.
  • Jagged Little Pill, a stage musical using songs from the album of the same name by Canadian musician Alanis Morissette, along with other songs throughout her career.
  • All Star is a unique case in that it was promoted as having a score comprised exclusively of the memetic hit by Smash Mouth.
  • Sometime in 2014, Britney Spears developed plans for an adaptation of the death of Jesus using her songs. She didn't go through with it, but there might have been some remnants of that idea within Fox's The Passion Live.
    • Spears would experience this again with Once Upon a One More Time, which uses her music in the context of a Fractured Fairy Tale.
  • I Am from Austria features the music of Rainhard Fendrich.
  • Rocketman is a full-on jukebox musical that doubles as a biopic of Elton John, featuring his own music.
  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is one of these; all of the songs sung on it are pre-existing ones that avert That Reminds Me of a Song by having them directly tie in to the characters' emotions.
  • Both animated films by Nina Paley, Sita Sings the Blues and Seder-Masochism, use pre-existing recordings of songs as musical numbers, re-contextualized to tell the plot of the Ramayana and the Book of Exodus, respectively.
  • Ang Huling El Bimbo, based off the songs of Filipino band Eraserheads.
  • Escape to Margaritaville, featuring Jimmy Buffett. Almost every single element is taken from his lyrics.
  • Ain't Too Proud: the Life and Times of The Temptations is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The Look of Love: based on the songs of Bacharach and David. Originally a TV special for The BBC, a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation had a successful run off-Broadway.
  • Emma: A Pop Musical is a Setting Update of Jane Austen's Emma utilizing pop hits ranging from The '60s to The New '10s.
  • All Out of Love: The Musical takes the hits of Air Supply and weaves them into an overarching narrative that happens in New York City in The '80s. It debuted in the Philippines due to the fact that the band maintains their popularity in Southeast Asia to this day.
  • Daddy Cool, featuring songs by Frank Farian-produced acts such as Boney M., La Bouche, Milli Vanilli and No Mercy.
  • MJ, a biographical musical about Michael Jackson, takes place during the preparation for his Dangerous tour in 1992 and features mostly music of his that had been released up to that point, along with a few that would be released in the following years.
  • Greatest Days (and it's film adaptation) uses the songs of Take That (Band).
  • The Book of Life uses a mixture of different songs but played with acoustic guitar and mariachi music, including stuff from Mumford & Sons, Radiohead, and a few original songs.
  • A variant: the 1989 revue Jerome Robbins' Broadway featured songs by different composers with the same director/choreographer. Jason Alexander hosted the show, as well as playing Tevye and Pseudolus, in a Tony Award-winning role.
  • Likewise, Fosse (1997) was a compilation of Bob Fosse dance numbers.

Soundtrack Examples

  • 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".
  • The anime series FLCL, with music by The Pillows.
  • The original Highlander has a soundtrack written almost entirely by Queen, and nearly all original.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Penguindrum uses covers of ARB songs.
  • 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.
  • Disco Elysium's entire soundtrack was composed by Sea Power, made up of a combination of instrumental versions of songs from their previous albums and new compositions. The theme used in Martinaise is "Red Rock Riviera"; "The Smallest Church in Saint-Saëns", the song you can sing at karaoke, is an only slightly rewritten "The Smallest Church in Sussex"; a version of "Want To Be Free" is used as the "Sad FM" track you can play on your final trip to the island. In addition, song titles and lyrics find their way into the text of the game, such as Revachol's official motto being "A Light Above Descending."
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts incorporates the music of various rock, pop, and rap artists, with some musicians having several of their songs used, such as Atomic Drum Asssembly getting at least one song per season.
  • Experimental 1964 short film Scorpio Rising is a very peculiar example in which pop and Motown songs of the 1950s and early 1960s were used to accompany a film about a biker gang full of homoeroticism and bizarre imagery of skulls and Nazis.

Literary Examples

  • 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.

Web Animation Examples

  • Cyberpunk Lab: The series contains both original songs, pre-existing songs, mashups, remixes and Fan Music of said songs in it's soundtrack. [1]

Western Animation Examples