Michael Giacchino is not a name that is typically in the minds of science fiction fans, and this is despite his almost career-long partnership with JJ Abrams. Still, I don’t bring him up today because of his record of writing music for both Disney and Pixar (including The Incredibles), the fact that he composed the soundtrack for five Medal of Honor series, or because he just recently agreed to compose the music for Star Trek Into Darkness.
No. This article is not about fangasming over his amazing compositions, but rather his brilliant song titles, which sort of run like a MST3K commentary to the movies and TV series he sets music to.
For example, for the scene in Lost (some first series spoilers ahead) where there is a plane crash, and everyone is running around desperately trying to save one another, one would think there would a suitably dramatic name for the music, like “Survival” or something. For Giacchino, it’s simply the “World’s Worst Beach Party”, and let’s face it, he’s pretty much spot on right there.
Though, this tends to be a running gag for most of his songs throughout his career. He picks an odd element to the scene, and then declares it “World’s Worst”. In Mission Impossible III, it’s “World’s Worst Valet”, and “World’s Worst Field Trip” in Super 8.
An even snarkier song is just a few tracks down, entitled “Just Die Already”, which is a slow and emotionally moving piece that is played when the marshal dies. For those who haven’t seen the show, it’s important to note it takes about three episodes for him to kick it. The song title is probably echoing a comment Shannon made during this about how she wished he would just “die already”, but it’s still so deliciously ironic I had to bring it up. The song, by the way, is only two minutes long. How impatient is that?
Honestly, I could write forty pages about song titles in all six seasons of Lost, so I’m going to try and keep this short. “Hollywood and Vines” is the famous hiking song that is used anytime people are journeying through the jungle and aren’t being molested. For those molested times, “Run like, um… hell?” is typically used (I assume this is a Pink Floyd reference, seeing as Giacchino has referenced other Pink Floyd songs in his works). The song “Booneral” is played during Boone’s funeral, and when Shanon gets into some shenanigans, the song is aptly titled “Shannonigans”. His word play, and comments on what’s happening in the show via his song titles is almost meta, and I love it.
But let’s move on to some of his other works, and focus on the Star Trek reboot for a second. That emotional scene from the first fifteen minutes that made the entire audience cry when the Kelvin exploded? In a fit of decorum, I imagine, he entitled that song “Nailin’ the Kelvin”.
His other ingeniously titled tracks from the film are “Nero Fiddles, Narada Burns” and “Does It Still Mcfly?”, an obvious reference to another time traveling movie, Back to the Future.
Even John Carter (which I originally mistakenly thought was going to be a movie about John Carter from ER traveling to Mars to help orphans or something), has fantastic word play. “A Thern For the Worst” and “The Thark Side of Barsoom” are among my favorites, though I think I like “The Second Biggest Apes I’ve Seen This Month” the most.
However, not all of his song titles reflect this sense of humor. His video game OSTs, such as Medal of Honor, have fairly banal names for their tracks. It seems that the pattern emerged when he starting working JJ Abrams on Alias, where after his song titles got increasingly snarkier, and coincidentally when I started to appreciate him more as a composer (though that was a high bar to go over).
So treat Mr. Giacchino’s works as sort of special Easter Egg for the movies and shows you like, but also, enjoy his music because I guarantee you he’s going to surpass the likes of Hans Zimmer very soon, and have you smiling while he does it.