The original Twilight soundtrack was almost as huge a hit as the movie itself, but what were the songs that made the soundtrack such an outsized success, and how did they relate to the edgy teen romance’s story? Released in 2008, Thirteen director Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight was a mid-budget adaptation of the popular paranormal YA romance novel series of the same name. The movie told the tale of Edward, a brooding vampire, and Bella, the teenage human he fell in love with, and its surprise success led to a reignited interest in the paranormal romance genre that helped popularize True Blood, reinvigorated The Vampire Diaries, and Hardwicke’s later outing, Red Riding Hood
Hardwicke’s sleeper hit was the first of the Twilight saga, a series of blockbusters which, although persistently unpopular with critics, were a huge hit at the box office and proved a genuine pop culture phenomenon around the time of their release. With a target audience of teenagers, it was inevitable that the soundtracks to Twilight and its sequels were almost even bigger hits than the movies themselves, with Twilight’s soundtrack alone selling more copies than any movie soundtrack since the 2002 musical Chicago.
Despite the movies faring poorly with critics and often being criticized for their formulaic and regressive love triangle plot, the Twilight soundtracks were undeniably well-curated collections of rock, indie, and emo music that remain well-loved by viewers of a certain vintage to this day. With some selections made by the filmmakers and some made by series author Stephenie Meyer herself (who popularized the now-ubiquitous trend of creating playlists for specific characters), it’s fair to say that a lot of thought went into pairing songs to the first film in the Twilight series. Many of the soundtrack’s songs were written especially for the movie, others already minor hits that benefitted from the publicity provided by the arrival of the Twilight series in cinemas. Let’s look at the specific songs that made the first soundtrack such an enormous success.
Supermassive Black Hole
Easily the biggest hit to come from the movie, the Muse track not only remains an iconic bit of anthemic alt-rock, but it’s also arguably the only thing that salvages Twilight’s infamously campy “vampire baseball” sequence. The scene is laughable, but upon a rewatch it’s hard to imagine the filmmakers intended for Twilight‘s goofy Cullen family outing to be taken totally seriously. While not originally written for the movie, “Supermassive Black Hole” is a perfect fit for the sequence, with the growling vocals and crunchy instrumentation providing an appropriately dramatic, but also fittingly over-the-top accompaniment for the sight of flying bloodsuckers engaging in America’s favorite pastime.
However, writer Meyer’s connection with the band goes deeper than this brief sequence in the first Twilight movie. The writer dedicated the final novel in the series, Breaking Dawn, to Muse, calling them her favorite band and saying their name was apt as she credited them with inspiring much of the saga’s story. In return, the rock group provided songs for two subsequent Twilight movies after the first film’s success.
A huge hit for emo legends Paramore, “Decode” saw lyricist Hayley Williams delve deep into Twilight for inspiration. The lyrics for her song were inspired by Edward and Bella’s tense difficulty communicating in the early stretches of the movie and source novel, and this radio crossover hit did an admirable job of capturing the outsized anguish of teenage love. While not as huge a breakaway hit as “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Decode” has retained much more of a cultural connection with Twilight since the song was written for the movie, and Paramore’s dramatic but sincere songwriting calls to mind the tone of the first film in the series, with both instantly evoking a late ’00s grunge aesthetic.
Leave Out All the Rest
Playing at the closing credits of Twilight’s surprisingly action-packed ending, this aggressive Linkin Park track perfectly carries the movie’s closing moments where a soon-to-be-recast Victoria swears revenge against the central pair for killing her mate, Cam Gigandet’s villain James. It’s a more hard rock cue than most of the soundtrack, and one that calls to mind Hardwicke’s earlier edgier outings Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen. It’s also a perfectly fitting song for the end of the movie, promising a more dramatic and pacy return in the next outing (although this promise wouldn’t come true in the disappointingly anodyne sequel New Moon, with the action failing to pick up until Victoria returned in 3o Days of Night director David Slade’s third Twilight outing Eclipse).
New Orleans rock outfit Mutemath’s “Spotlight” plays as Bella and Edward arrive at school together, and the song’s lyrics are a fitting encapsulation of where the wallflower protagonist finds herself at this point in the action. It’s one of the more didactic cues in the movie, as the soft-spoken Bella finds that the spotlight is on her around school now that she is dating a member of the infamously aloof and enigmatic Cullen family. The song fits the scene well and became a minor hit for Mutemath after its inclusion on the official movie soundtrack.
Eyes On Fire
A track made famous by its later (brilliant) Zeds Dead dubstep remix, the Danish shoegaze track ‘Eyes On Fire” plays as Bella waits to see whether Edward will return to school after their early awkward interactions. The song’s creepy, grim lyrics are ill-fitted to the hazy dream-pop aesthetic of the instrumental, but the themes of obsession and aggressive pursuit make for a cute pairing given how much both Bella and Edward are stalking one another at this point in the movie’s action. In darker terms, the song’s lyrics take on a creepy secondary significance when considered alongside the human hunting undertaken by Twilight’s unsettling Volturi villains, many of whom harbor desires as dark as the lyrics of “Eyes On Fire” outline.
A Black Ghosts track, “Full Moon” is a more light-hearted and upbeat track than many featured on the Twilight soundtrack. That said, it’s also one of the most explicitly supernatural in theme, and the spacey, atmospheric track from the English electronica duo is a perfect fit for the series.
Tremble for My Beloved
This Collective Soul track was one of the Twilight soundtrack’s more obscure pulls and one that was chosen by Meyer herself. Despite this fact, this gentle song is one that ironically doesn’t fit the soundtrack quite as well, yet it’s a foreshadowing of things to come. The song is about anxiety over parenthood, something that isn’t reflected in the story of Twilight until the fourth and final film in the series, Breaking Dawn.