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Trailer Tunes: 'Fruitvale Station' and The Roots' 'Now or Never'

At the intersection of movie trailers and music, what does The Roots' "Now or Never" tell us about the Sundance prize-winner 'Fruitvale Station'?

There's always so much to unpack about a movie trailer: the stars, the plot, how much of the plot is being totally given away. But in many cases, the part of the trailer that sticks with you the longest is the music. Be it a pop song or a piece or orchestral score, it's the music that most often makes a trailer.

This Week's Trailer: Fruitvale Station, writer/director Ryan Coogler’s take on the true story of a Bay Area police shooting on New Year’s Day, 2009.

This Week's Tune: "Now or Never," a track from The Roots’ 2010 album How I Got Over.

How Literal Is It? The song is deployed in the early part of the trailer, when we're being introduced to the environment of the movie. Michael B. Jordan's main character is dealing with the violence and anxieties of inner-city life, and the outward sentiments of "Now or Never" capture that pretty well, without being too thuddingly obvious about it.

How Emotional Is It? The Roots are so, so effective when it comes to setting a mood of chill thoughtfulness, and their song is put to great use as Jordan's home life is laid out, including girlfriend Melonie Diaz and mother Octavia Spencer. There's a hopefulness to The Roots but also melancholy, and there's no way to watch the first half of this trailer and not think things are going to get bad. Which they do, at which point the music switched to something darker, more sinister, so that when "Now or Never" kicks back in at the very end, it's almost as an elegy. It's a very smart deployment.

How Definitive Is It? While I won't go out on a limb and say this is the only movie trailer making use of The Roots, their music is unique enough to the usual trailer offerings to set Fruitvale Station apart.

Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: A+. You're not going to do much better than The Roots, and "Now or Never" in particular conveys a wide spectrum of emotions and promises something affecting and resonant in the movie it's advertising for.

Previously: Michael Shannon: 10 Roles Ranked in Order of Bug-Eyed Intensity


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