Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Miley, Mike. “‘I Put a Spell on You’: Affiliating (Mis)Identifications and Toxic Masculinity in David Lynch’s Lost Highway.” Music and the Moving Image 13 (Fall 2020): 36-48.

The compilation soundtrack of David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, particularly its use of cover songs, works together with the film’s narrative and imagery to destabilize the viewer’s experience in support of the film’s depiction of toxic masculinity. Three cover songs appear at crucial points in Lost Highway: Lou Reed’s cover of This Magic Moment, made popular by The Drifters; Marilyn Manson’s cover of I Put a Spell on You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; and This Mortal Coil’s cover of Song to the Siren by Tim Buckley and Larry Beckett. Each cover is a generic reset, transforming a familiar song into an aggressive alt-rock genre. The generic resets mirror the narrative transformation of the main characters into film-noir, masculine-wish-fulfillment doppelgängers as well as the visual indulgence in macho rock iconography. The disruptive effect of the audience misidentifying the cover songs highlights the menace and violence in this masculine fantasy. The scene featuring I Put a Spell on You exemplifies this effect; Marilyn Manson’s industrial rock cover scores a scene of a noir-fantasy striptease at gunpoint, with the discomforting music emphasizing the scene’s coercive violence. Lou Reed’s distortion-heavy cover of This Magic Moment accompanies another fantasy sequence, subverting its borderline-cliché love-at-first-sight imagery. This Mortal Coil’s goth version of Song to the Siren appears three times during the film: it first plays faintly during an awkward, failed sex scene in reality; next it appears as the film’s perspective turns to the noir fantasy; and finally, it plays loudly during the triumphant fantasy sex scene, which ends in an abrupt transformation back into reality. The three appearances of the song mark the psychosexual narrative throughline of a sexually frustrated man driven to a fantasy of being a young, virile stud, only to have the fantasy come crashing down in the end. The fact that it is a cover song literalizes the idea of destabilized masculine identity. Thus, the film’s abrasive alternative soundtrack is not merely a nod to the youth market, but integral to the film’s deconstruction of toxic masculinity.

Works: David Lynch (director): Compilation score to Lost Highway (37-45); Lou Reed (performer): This Magic Moment (37-39); Marilyn Manson (performer): I Put a Spell on You (38-39); This Mortal Coil (performer): Song to the Siren (38-39)

Sources: Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman: This Magic Moment (37-39); Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: I Put a Spell on You (38-39); Tim Buckley and Larry Beckett: Song to the Siren (38-39); Lou Reed (performer): This Magic Moment (42-44); Marilyn Manson (performer): I Put a Spell on You (41-42); This Mortal Coil (performer): Song to the Siren (44-45)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular, Film

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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