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How To Use Royalty-Free Romantic Songs Without Making Your Project Corny

Who doesn’t love love? And who doesn’t enjoy a good romantic movie? Maybe you’re a rom-com addict, or maybe it’s just an occasional indulgence, but who among us hasn’t shed a tear when lovers embrace and the soundtrack swells? 

Maybe it depends, at least in part, on the soundtrack. The line between moving and cheesy can be a fine one. Here are some examples that, in our opinion, fall on both sides of the line. 

To help you create some beautiful moments in your own videos, here are some inspirational moments — and less inspirational moments — from movies whose filmmakers paired romantic music with film. 

The Worst Uses of Romantic Music In Film

Watchmen

Zack Snyder’s Watchmen scores a particular sex scene with a beautiful song, which is completely overused. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a heartfelt ballad inspired by the love affair between King David and Bathsheba. It’s been used for weddings, funerals, and, as this handy New York Times article explains, way too many movies. Even the most beautiful song can become irritating when overused. 

In the case of this love scene in Watchmen (available here with a slightly different version of the song, discarded in the film for the original Leonard Cohen version), it feels less than specific and more than a little corny. 

Paste Magazine goes into rhapsodic detail about the terrible song choice, describing it as “the aphrodisiac equivalent to being surprise-doused with a bucket of ice water.” Not good!

When you put music to use in your video, remember that context matters, as well as how many times you’ve heard it played over the last five or ten years (or weeks). And try not to use a song that the same writer for Paste Magazine describes as, in this context: “deeply unsettling.”

Mamma Mia

Speaking of deeply unsettling. 

ABBA’s great! Everyone loves ABBA! 

Pierce Brosnan is great! Everyone loves Pierce Brosnan! 

The only problem is Pierce Brosnan can’t sing. And no one thought to teach him. Here he is, trying to get through the ABBA hit “SOS.” 

Is it a beautiful song? Does it express all the confusion of this moment in the story and the character? Maybe. But now, I can’t listen to it without hearing Pierce’s voice in my head. 

And, wow, it’s quite the voice. What Pierce is doing isn’t singing, exactly. It’s somewhere between bellowing and braying. The terror in his eyes seems authentic enough, however. 

The moral for any creator is if you feature vocalists in the musical accompaniment to your video, make sure those vocalists have a pleasant voice.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

What comes to mind when you think of Robin Hood? Is it the British period charm? High adventure? Romance and derring-do in Sherwood Forest? Those all seem like fair associations. 

Probably what you weren’t expecting was Canadian hair rocker Bryan Adams, crooning. This scene has a sweeping melodic expression of the song, so it’s not quite as jarring as it could have been. It feels roughly as authentic as Kevin Costner’s accent, at least? 

The takeaway is, if you’re going to use a song for a historical presentation, glaring anachronism is something to avoid. (Of course, Bryan Adams is really popular, and his theme song was only displaced from the UK pop charts by Wet Wet Wet’s version of “Love is All Around.” Make of that what you will).

The Best Uses of Romantic Music In Film

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar Wai’s lush, beautiful scores complement the luxuriousness of his images and the yearning of his characters. Wong uses a mix of classic pop songs and swooning classical compositions in his films. This clip is set to an original composition by Shigeru Umebayashi. 

The driving strings, which come at a fairly rapid tempo, give the music a feeling of suspense and forward momentum. 

The lushly romantic violin solo that plays over them makes us feel the characters’ high passion and repressed desire. The whole sequence culminates in a moment when the music drops out, and the two main characters pass each other on a stairwell. 

The use of music — and the meaningful, well-timed silence it builds to — combine to give us an incredibly palpable sense of romance, desire, and rooting interest in the characters.  It is rich and beautiful music that could stand on its own, but paired with the cinematography and its clever use of color and shadow, it becomes something truly unforgettable.

Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece starring James Stewart and Kim Novak is scored almost wall to wall by Bernard Herrmann’s intense, operatic, romantic composition. Herrmann’s brooding, Germanic score lends majesty and profound mystery to scenes of James Stewart trailing Kim Novak’s character around San Francisco, which is how the lovers initially meet. 

When Stewart and Novak’s characters try to solve the mystery of her past, they finally kiss and confess their love for one another. The music builds to a crescendo, hinting at the depth of their passion and that there are further mysteries to come. 

Hitchcock’s use of highly-intense music the whole way through could seem over the top. But it puts the viewer in a state of near-hypnosis and keeps us wholly invested in the characters and their fate. The lesson is to trust the emotion of your project and, when it comes to romance, don’t shy away from deep feeling.

Four Weddings and A Funeral

Wet Wet Wet did a beautiful cover of the classic Troggs song “Love is All Around for this British romantic comedy. Four Weddings and a Funeral introduced the world to Hugh Grant and made us all fall in love with the idea of having a group of wacky, self-deprecating British friends to drag around the countryside to weddings (and, yes, one funeral). The film may strike many familiar notes. It even has a long conversation in the rain. But try not to be moved when the chords kick in. Sometimes, when it comes to romantic backing music, simple and heartfelt wins, not to mention a new spin on an old pop classic.

Best or Worst: Who Can Really Say?

Titanic

This one is in a category all of its own. Celine Dion has her admirers and her detractors. There are arguments about this song that could place it either on the best or worst lists. 

On the one hand, Titanic remains one of the highest-grossing films of all time, so some people were surely moved by the sight of Kate and Leo on the bow of the Titanic to the strains of “My Heart Will Go On.”  On the other, you might be among the millions of listeners who experience a near-allergic reaction whenever they hear the pan pipes kick in. Sometimes, music is subjective, and you can only follow your own internal meter of what is corny and what’s effective. In other words, your heart will go on.

Conclusion: Royalty-Free Romantic Music That Isn’t Corny

If you need high-quality royalty-free romantic songs or music for your project, look no further than Stock Music. It has classical selections, swoony strings a la Hitchcock and Wong Kar Wai, and upbeat pop and guitar music mp3s reminiscent of classic Britpop soundtracks. 

Stock Music is your home for royalty-free romantic music and royalty-free love songs with vocals and without. It has all the romantic royalty-free music you need to give your project pace, emotion, and a sense of excitement, as well as tracks in more eclectic genres like world and hip hop

Whatever you’re looking for (as long as it’s not corny), rest assured you can find great royalty-free music for your project at Stock Music.

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