This month Game of Thrones returned and like everyone I tuned in to finally see the arrival of Winter. But it didn’t just return to our screens. The new season was accompanied by an album of ‘music inspired by’ the show called For The Throne. This is not music from the show. We’re talking a compilation of original songs from chart topping music makers like The National, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Mumford & Sons, and Rosalía. Not a soundtrack, but a cross-media project with some hefty backing. You can see this in the video for the lead single ‘Power is Power’ in which clips from the show are interwoven with The Weeknd, SZA, and Travis Scott as they take on the personas from the show (as Jon, Daenerys and The Night King respectively).
Musically the album is fine. Unsurprisingly the tone is dark as many of the songs follow the themes of the show with mentions of Royalty, Betrayal, War and, of course, Winter. They all seem to be taking this frankly ridiculous show very seriously and the result is not that interesting.
What is more interesting is that this comes on the back of 2 other similar albums this year. Oscar nominated movies Roma and Black Panther also inspired albums. It has always been the case that art inspires other art, but in the age of the franchise and the monopolisation of visual media by huge multimedia companies like Disney I get worried. Despite all the choice we have, sometimes it all feels a bit homogeneous as most people end up watching the same thing. And now they’re coming for my ears as well as my eyes.
For the moment I think I am just being paranoid. On face value I would assign way more merit to Black Panther and Roma than Game of Thrones. Roma does not represent a big franchise or some epic saga, instead it is a small movie centring on the trials and tribulations of life in Mexico City in the 1970s. The director Alfonso Cuáron brought together a collection of his favourite artists to write music inspired by the movie. The resulting album is an unusual mix of contributors and it is very engaging. One thing for certain is that I didn’t expect to see El-P, Laura Marling, and DJ Shadow on an album together.
Then we have Black Panther The Album, a musical project pioneered by the man that can do no wrong: Kendrick Lamar. He originally was brought on board to help with the music of the movie itself. Instead he came back to Marvel with an album that integrates the motifs of African music from the movie with Black American culture. None of the songs would have worked in Black Panther itself, but they do perfectly compliment it for the same reasons that the movie was heralded as a watershed moment for pop culture; it’s a global celebration of Black cultures.
The Black Panther and Roma albums feel like artistic expressions that feed in to cultural dialogue. Though Game of Thrones itself is a cultural phenomenon, For The Throne comes across as a cross-media promo. I feel like I should be supportive when new original music is being made by artists that I like, especially when they are trying something a bit different. But I’m wary of this merging of pop culture. Maybe this is just the start? There’s a chance I’ve read a few too many conspiracy theories, but maybe Disney will continue to take over the world and make us watch nothing but Star Wars movies, play nothing but Star Wars games and listen to nothing but Star Wars music. Watch this space with caution.
Words by Matt Paul.