A biographical film can go one of two ways: viewers will love it or absolutely hate it. There have been many music biopics, each with their ups and downs. Sometimes, it can be hard for studios to create a film that encompasses all that an artist has experienced and achieved in their life. Other times, movies don’t cover the music to its fullest capacity.
That was not the case for the new movie ELVIS, starring Austin Butler. I was in awe over how unbelievable the performances and music were in this film. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Elvis Presley before seeing this movie – I knew he was an icon and pioneer in the music industry, but I didn’t realize where he got his sound from. In the biopic, his legacy and image is best portrayed through the music, with the creators placing each song perfectly in every scene and montage. The following songs stood out to me in ELVIS, especially how the classic sounds intertwined with modern day influences.
“’68 Comeback Special (Medley)” by Elvis Presley
It feels necessary to start with a song from the one and only Elvis Presley himself. The 1968 comeback special is a moment that even I knew about before watching ELVIS. This was the moment Elvis Presley was able to return to stage better than ever before. This medley contains his most popular and beloved songs throughout his career. From “Heartbreak Hotel” to “Jailhouse Rock”, it embodies the Elvis we all know and love.
The deep ranges that Elvis accomplishes through “Heartbreak Hotel” shows how he was able to switch his tones while singing. This is not something many artists can do, which is probably why we all know the name Elvis Presley! I love this medley because it shows the excitement the crowd felt while watching him onstage. He was an entertainer and phenomenal vocalist, and it shows when you hear the crowd roaring in this performance.
“Vegas” by Doja Cat
You might ask yourself, “why is Doja Cat singing in ELVIS?” I thought the exact same thing while watching the film, then I realized that she sampled Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”. Fans might think that Elvis Presley originally wrote this song, but it was actually Big Mama Thornton who wrote and performed the original. She was the first to record the track too, one of the biggest achievements of her music career.
I love that Doja Cat was able to take snippets from the original classic, sang by a blues singer in the 50s, and turn it into a pop hit. She successfully created a bridge for both classic Elvis fans and rap listeners – I witnessed many older audience members bobbing their heads when this song came on. It’s amazing to see that Doja Cat has the skillset and talent to reach such a wide range of listeners. I am definitely a huge fan of this song and the scene that featured it!
“Don’t Fly Away” by Elvis Presley (PNAU remix)
I was surprised to learn that PNAU worked on this track for the ELVIS film. This Australian trio is widely known for their dance and techno songs, so I wasn’t expecting to hear them. “Don’t Fly Away” incorporates relaxed electronic beats with Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds”. PNAU’s modern flare allows younger generations to appreciate Elvis Presley in a way different than before. I love this because it sounds like a track you would have playing during sunset with the sunroof open. PNAU evolved Elvis’ sound to be heard in one of the most popular genres of the new generation, which is admirable. They took a risk to put their spin on this classic song, but I’d say it paid off well.
“Trouble” by Austin Butler
I had to include a song performed by Austin Butler because he portrayed an incredible Elvis Presley in this film. “Trouble” was released in 1958, but it wasn’t until Elvis’ comeback special in 1968 where people finally realized the grit and anger the song contained. The tempo and flow of sounds in this track embodies a more punk rock style.
Austin Butler was 100% committed to his role as Elvis Presley. He took voice lessons for an entire year before they even started filming. He was very adamant to get this character right for the fans and the family of Elvis. Butler knew that he had to indulge himself in this role in order for his emotions to be conveyed through the screen. He mastered Elvis’ voice and tones, which allowed him to create amazing reimagined tracks. “Trouble” was one of the best songs that Butler did during this film due to his mastery of embodying the rock legend.
Though there have been many biopics, ELVIS really stood out to me because of its modernity. The creators were smart to share classic hits along with modern music elements that today’s audience could enjoy. No artist could easily attain the same sound and image as Elvis Presley. Younger generations should learn where today’s artists take influence from, as many idols take samples from classic artists like Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry. We should always be excited to learn more about the genealogy of the music we listen to today!