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How the Twilight soundtracks defined a generation’s music taste

On Christmas Day 2009, I no longer believed in Santa Claus, though for my parents’ sake I did feign belief that it was indeed he who came down from his workshop all the way in the North Pole to deposit The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack underneath our tree. The final gift of the morning had hardly been fully unwrapped before I was ripping the CD to my parents’ desktop computer. On a road trip the next day, my childhood friend Michelle and I sat shoulder to shoulder, a headphone splitter (the only luxury greater than a pink Motorola Razr) dividing the space between us. With the warbled bass of Thom Yorke’s “Hearing Damage” buzzing through our brains, the dreary lifelessness of rural Georgia took on a blue-filtered immortal magic. Although I did not know who the hell Radiohead were, I was certain a portal had opened.

There are few music compilations, let alone multiple within the same franchise, that conjure as cohesive and as formative a feeling as the sonic stylings of The Twilight Saga. Birthed on the cusp of broadband’s widespread enjoyment, but still a year shy of the smartphone takeover, these soundtracks served as a formidable gold rush of alternative sounds for their impressionable target audience of young millennials and zoomers, even foretelling the next generation of musical mainstays in the process. With direction from music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas (somewhat of a portal-opening diviner in the world of music curation), the musical legacy of Twilight’s ambitious soundscape reached beyond the Hot Topic-clad appeal of YA interest, and challenged the high-low divide of its teenybopper damnations. 15 years later, its impact remains.

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Before Best Buy announced that it would no longer be stocking CDs, and before Thom Yorke referred to quickly growing streaming platform Spotify as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”, the purchase of a soundtrack practically guaranteed its buyer discovery of an impressive new roster of up-and-coming acts. While the MP3 was positioned to obliterate the physical sale, those for whom the family computer could not be risked to Limewire found that the album purchase – whether in-store or on iTunes – was still a safe bet, and a well-curated soundtrack was the most revelatory trove of them all. With its inaugural album opening at number one on the Billboard chart two and a half weeks ahead of the first film’s release, Twilight was no exception, and neither were any of its subsequent four soundtracks which all charted within the top five slots. Google search queries for each of the 17 artists featured on The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack increased by 5,000 per cent in the months following the movie’s release, and bands like Muse enjoyed what music and theatre critic Jed Gottlieb described as the “Twilight bump” with its newfound fanbase of eager tweens.

For the generation whose relationship to musical exposure had rapidly shifted from rewinding cassettes with pencils to syncing an iTunes account – all in the span of prepubescence – such compilations offered a wide-eyed opportunity for exciting new sounds, and The Twilight Saga franchise would savour this rapport to the very last drop. Certainly, a middle schooler’s YouTube search history was just as likely to include the Annoying Orange as it was a broodingly folk Iron & Wine music video. And let’s be real: what young person didn’t attempt to play Bella’s Lullaby on a piano at least once?

Though Twilight’s musical instalments have seen the lasting appeal of everything from Paramore’s anthemic “Decode” and Muse’s lovingly memeable “Supermassive Black Hole”, to the radio successes of Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain” and Christina Perri’s now Diamond-certified wedding crasher, “A Thousand Years”, it’s the noncommercial sleepers that carry the franchise’s musical atmosphere most enduringly. Consider for instance, the spectral fuzz-jam of The Joy Formidable’s “Endtapes” and the slinky tantrum of The Belle Brigade’s “I Didn’t Mean It” (Breaking Dawn Part 1), or Eclipse’s goth-twinged Beck x Bat For Lashes collaboration “Let’s Get Lost” – such gems have held their own through all these years, ageing gracefully (even immortally) beyond indie pop’s mid-2000s reign. It is, however, The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack that seems to have garnered the most persistent cult following for the experience of the compilation as a whole.

“I was too young to really have a music taste of my own,” reflects Ivy, a poet. “I listened to the radio, what my parents played in the car, what my friends played on YouTube when I was at their houses. But somehow, the stars aligned in such a way that I kickstarted a hipster phase at ten years old with the help of the New Moon soundtrack.”


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