Young Hollywood takes on punk legends
Last weekend, subjects of teen worship Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning starred as the girl-power punk rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie of the Runaways. Not only did the duo take on new personalities and wardrobes for the roles, they bravely accepted the responsibility of covering well-known Runaways songs for the soundtrack.
The soundtrack perfectly encompasses the â70s feel of the band, featuring not only covers by Stewart and Fanning but also original Runaways tracks and cameos from artists such as the Sex Pistols and Suzi Quatro. The soundtrack successfully relates The Runawaysâ story, ranging from other well-known artists to Joan Jettâs solo career.
The journey began with âCherry Bomb,â a track written spontaneously for Cherie Currieâs lead singer audition. The lyrics scream rebellion and carelessness as Currie proclaims, Hello world / Iâm your wild girl / Iâm your cherry bomb.
Fanningâs take on the tune infuses the lyrics with a sweeter quality than Currieâs original recording. At first, Fanningâs schoolgirl affectation feels overwrought, but after the first two or three lines, Fanning plunges in and assumes a perfect vocal persona, melding a bit of her own spunky personality with the rebellious timbre of the tune.
Soon enough, the listener can let go of the common representation of Fanning as a rising starlet and see instead the persona of powerhouse teenager she adopted for the film. Though no perfect imitation, she offers a new take on the song and stays true to the feeling of it, unlike covers such as Britney Spearsâ rendition of Jettâs âI Love Rock and Roll.â
When it comes to Stewartâs singing, the shift is less dramatic. The duo pair up for another track from The Runawaysâ 1970s debut album.
On âDead End Justice,â Stewartâs characteristically low voice works perfectly for the imitation of rough-sounding Joan Jett. On this track, however, Fanning somewhat overshadows Stewart and shows off her range. Although the lines sometimes sound forced, the actresses both sound as if they made a full effort to adopt the attitude of the era and the girls. On this track, they must speak almost sneeringly, as they state, No more school / Or mommy for me / Stealing cars / And breaking hearts.
Stewartâs tomboy attitude nicely pairs with Dakotaâs sweeter tone, and at one point the song includes a scene in which the girls converse in what sounds like a jail cell with sexual, rebellious words and tones.
Of course, today the idea of an all-girl band sounds far from scandalous, but back in the 1970s the rock music scene was mostly, if not entirely, male-dominated. Along with other cover tracks, the album includes some original Runaways tracks to expose new listeners to the persona of the band and allow decade-long fans to relive memories.
âI Wanna Be Where The Boys Areâ from The Runawaysâ live album, Live in Japan, displays the attitude of the often lingerie-clad Currie. She yells out to the boys in the audience and goes on to sing, I wanna love how the boys love / I wanna be where the boys are.
The song recalls the bandâs uniqueness in its attempt to thrive within a predominantly male genre. The live track displays Currieâs voice in all its raw authenticity and honestly showcases the powerful playing of the bandâs instrumentalists.
Before forming the band, Jett was fascinated by glam rock artists. To pay due tribute to this formative influence, David Bowie is rightfully represented with a track on the soundtrack.
Albeit a different sound from The Runawaysâ hard rock tracks, Bowieâs âRebel, Rebelâ touches on common themes, including parental disapproval. The lyrics tell a story as Bowie speaks to an unknown subject with the words, Youâve got your mother in a whirl / Sheâs not sure if youâre a boy of a girl. But far from being an admonishment, the track, with its light beat and repeating guitar chords, actually offers some support for the character. Bowie ends the chorus with Hot tramp / I love you so.
Another glam rock artist keeps Bowie company in the album. Nick Gilderâs effeminate and oftentimes sensual voice also tells a story in the tune âRoxy Roller.â The guitar chords sound deeper and more sexual, but no less carefree than âRebel, Rebel.â Though not as specific, the song also delves into the personality of the character, as Gilder sings of a Flashlight dream / Peaches and cream delight, sometimes giving a high-pitched scream and sometimes a suggestive whisper.
In 1975, 16-year-old Joan Jett decided to pursue her passion and start an all-girl band. The movie attempts to get to the heart of the story, and the soundtrack similarly tries to recreate the mood of the era and the spitfire, all-girl musical movement. The soundtrack definitely will not gain the approval of listeners who are faint of heart when it comes to punk and glam rock but is perfect for The Runawaysâ fans â both back in the 1970s and today.
Vastly different from any of the popular tunes currently on iTunesâ top charts, the songs offer unapologetic punk-rock chords and anti-authority lyrics that all seem to summarize the quest for finding a new and true identity. Unlike other soundtracks with artists that write songs to complement the movie, the album goes straight to the essence of The Runaways and similar artists of the time. The album encompasses a genuine love for rock and the artists who transformed and influenced todayâs rock music.