Grease (1978) contrasts greatly from the neo-romanticism of Williams’ score featured in Star Wars; taking a much more modernised approach to music for film. The film is set in the 1950’s, a time where America (and the rest of the world) was undergoing the rise of Rock & Roll after the completion of World War II. At the time of Grease’s release, the youth demographic that movie makers were trying to hit, were of the generation that spent their early years growing up in the fifties – the baby boomers, meaning naturally, a movie based on the memories of growing up in that era was sure to be a hit at the box office.
The birth of Rock & Roll in the 1950’s is a clear-cut influence and inspiration to the films’ soundtrack, which does certainly contribute a sense of realism and authenticity to the movies’ storyline. The soundtrack contains various well known Rock & Roll numbers, including the likes of Rock N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, Hound Dog and the infamously memorable original Greased Lightnin’, as sung by the male lead, John Travolta.
However, despite the films setting, the soundtrack does not always work in conjunction with what is being shown on screen, as the music never sticks to one particular genre (which we would assume to be Rock & Roll throughout, since it is set in the era that this would be classed as popular). The main/introductory theme song to the film, titled, Grease, is a prime example of this.
The theme Grease, was written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gee’s, a successful musician of the time, specialising in the disco genre. The theme, of the same genre, seems a strange choice especially as an introduction to a movie based within a decade that has no relation to disco music. Disco was a huge part in 70s popular culture, so using a song within the genre to introduce and advertise the movie was a bold move from its producers. However, the risk worked spectacularly as the song reached #3 in the Billboard chart and remained in the charts for fourteen weeks, five of which were within the top ten positions.
When a blockbuster movie couples its box-office success with an equally influential soundtrack, the film’s cultural impact and staying power can amplify exponentially. And the dollars add up, too.
The major difference between Grease and an orchestrally scored film like Star Wars is of course, lyrics. Being classed as a musical, lyrics are absolutely key within Grease, as they are just as important as the script that the actors are performing to help tell the story on screen.