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Got a call from a weird lady, calls herself Twyla

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

Simply put, a musical which uses songs from a particular band. 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.

Contrast Rock Opera: although Rock Opera albums may be staged, the music is written specifically to tell the story.


Traditional Examples

  • Across the Universe: a movie musical set before and during the Vietnam War using the music of The Beatles.
  • 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.")
  • American Horror Story's fourth season could be considered this.
  • 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.
    • 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.)
  • We Will Rock You: a post-apocalyptic exercise in The Power of Rock using Queen songs.
  • 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: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
  • The Boy From Oz: The music of Peter Allen
  • Ring of Fire: Music of Johnny Cash
  • Hot Feet: Music of Earth, Wind, and 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 Shakespeare than you can count.
  • Lennon
  • Celia!: Music of Celia Cruz
  • Smokey Joe's Cafe: music of Leiber and Stoller
  • 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 Beggars 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.
  • Putting It Together: Stephen Sondheim
  • 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.
  • Disco Inferno does the same with the previous decade.
  • There are currently plans to create Viva Forever, a musical based around the songs of Spice Girls. Whether or not it gets off the ground, we'll just have to wait and see.

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 and 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. So bad that after the film had been pulled from theaters due to poor ticket sales, director Peter 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.
  • 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.
  • Though also featuring contributions from composer Jon Brion and seventies band Supertramp, and a Harry Nilsson cover, most of the music in P.T. Anderson's 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 and 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.
  • She's the One, the entire soundtrack was done by Tom Petty
  • Glee, once every other episode.
  • 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?

Literary Examples

  • Not sure if it counts, but 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.
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