Wow, did anyone notice that beautiful use of "When A Man Loves A Woman" on today's General Hospital episode? (July 13, 2005) Nothing like a great, classic song to pull together a montage about love. Sometimes an instantly recognizeable song like that can bring you back to a place in your own life when you first heard that song, and the scene has even more meaning for you as you watch and listen.
When there isn't any dialogue in a scene, and the song is "saying it for the characters", a whole different dimension is added to the experience. In the best montages, I feel like the soap is no longer flat on my screen -- and I'm Barbara in Wonderland wandering right through the tv looking glass and totally surrounded by what's going on in the show. I can really identify with what's happening to the characters.
Music by itself is pretty abstract - we don't really know what the notes "mean" in and of themselves, but when a lyric is added to the mix, the music suddenly has a more distinct role. It supports the lyric! Add to that a series of visuals, and the effect is now considerably more potent. That's why those montages with songs are so carefully constructed by the music supervisors and their production team. They want to knock you out!
Which is why sometimes it's NOT a good idea to use a well-known song in a montage. The song may remind you of the last time you danced to it with your soon-to-be-ex! Instead of reacting positively to the scene, you might feel depressed. Many times, I've heard from soap fans it's exciting to hear a song you've NEVER heard before, or one that isn't even yet on a CD -- because you don't have any emotional baggage attached to that song, and you can experience that scene and that song as Madonna nicely put it, "like a virgin". And how fun it can be to discover an unsigned singer or songwriter who's not even on the radio yet. He or she is yours alone - for the time being, anyway. Many other great tv shows like the OC or shows on the WB network like to introduce their audience to fresh songs for that reason.
So keep me posted on what songs you're blown away by on soaps -- and whether you have a preference for hearing songs you've never previously heard...or songs you already know and like. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Okay, I've gotta go now and write some new songs!