We Watch It For The Music | Twilight


Claudia Braesch, Writer/Volunteer

Twilight is thought of as just sexy vampires and lethargic acting, but under the surface something magnificent lurks. Bella Swan must choose between the hot pale creep or the buff tan creep, all in the infamous blue filter with thousands of tweens watching. The soundtrack for this movie could’ve been taken in a million different directions, but music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas decided to give the people more than we ever deserved. Pastavas’ score fused with Carter Burwell’s score gave the world the gift we didn’t know we needed: the soundtrack for Twilight (2008).

We open in the woods. In a voiceover, Bella describes her ideal death while Tim Burton-esque instrumentation puts audiences on the edge of their seat for the first of many times. A deer is killed before we turn back to Bella. She says goodbye to her mom in Arizona and begins her journey to Forks, Washington to move in with her dad. The opening credits are backed by The Blacks Ghosts’ “Full Moon,” an acoustic choice with lyrics focusing on moving far away and into the unknown. It’s a rather on the nose choice that starts the movie off with a very quirky coming of age vibe, which I guess Twilight technically has. 

Bella reunites with her dad, Charlie, and meets Jacob Black and his father, Billy. Bella is given her signature orange truck and there’s some lovely exposition. In this portion of the movie, Bella starts school and meets a lunch table full of largely irrelevant friends then has her first brush with Edward Cullen, her standoffish lab partner. After overhearing Edward try to switch out of her science class, Bella decides to confront him. She waits in the parking lot and we see Emmet Cullen, the one with the infamous bag of eggs in the cafeteria scene, standing through the sunroof of the Jeep. We’re treated to “Eyes On Fire” by Blue Foundation. This is one of the songs that I think of as solely a Twilight song, with soft vocals and light, simple guitar. It’s breathy and slow — it sounds like a rainy day in Forks. But despite the compelling music, Edward doesn’t get out of the car. In fact, he’s out of school all week.

We hear from Charlie, Forks’ chief of police, that there’s been a fatal animal attack. Not so coincidentally, Edward is back in class the next day: back and apologetic. Edward and Bella work on cell phases in biology. The writing in this movie is almost too good to be true as when asked about the weather, Bella shares her disdain for “cold, wet things.” Edward runs away after claiming the fluorescent lights turn his eyes red; this is very solid characterization for his behavior throughout the movie. 

In the parking lot after school, a car skids and almost hits Bella. Edward instantaneously moves across the parking lot and shields her, holding the car back with one arm. This sequence is of course set to Collective Souls’ “Tremble for my Beloved” because nothing says “That boy’s not human” quite like a tinny guitar solo. I actually really like this choice. The simple structure lets the energy build as Bella processes that her freak lab partner has superhuman speed and strength. At this point you can hear that the soundtrack of this movie is just so teenager. This could be the playlist of a random 10th grader in 2008 and I wouldn’t bat an eye, which is exactly the vibe this movie needed. 

Bella is cleared of all injury by her doctor, Edward’s adoptive dad Carlisle, who looks more like a cartoon ghost than an ER doctor. Bella confronts Edward about his superhuman abilities and he gaslights her because he’s a 17-year-old vampire. On the school field trip to the greenhouse — because sure, why not? — Edward corners Bella and tells her they shouldn’t be friends.

Bella joins her non-vampiric friends at “La Push,” the saddest, rainiest beach in the world. Despite his invitation, Edward doesn’t show. Though Jacob — the other heartthrob — does. He tells Bella about his wolf heritage and their centuries-long beef with the Cullens. The Cullens have fled anyway, as the next day at school is sunny. Bella and her normal human friends go prom dress shopping to “I Caught Myself” by Paramore. The weird handycam footage in this scene makes it feel like something your friend made on iMovie, but Paramore is a great lighthearted choice for this scene, catchy and sweet. This is one of the few scenes in the movie without a cartoonish monster, and Hayley Williams’ voice is so pleasant and gentle. This track is of course only Paramore’s warm-up with Twilight, but a wonderful addition to the soundtrack nonetheless. 

Bella ditches the girls to buy a book on ancient creatures and on her way out is surrounded by a gang of men. Luckily, Edward swerves through the alley in the way a freshly tall enough 10-year-old would maneuver a go-kart. He tells Bella to get in the car before kind of just leaning and breathing heavily at the guys. He then drives toward them and that seems to do the trick. This scene is set to one of Burwell’s original compositions for Twilight, “Humans Are Predators Too,” which sounds like the prolonged introduction of a song from a cartoon parodying Kiss. It is so “teenage vampire fights off gangsters for the love interest he’s spoken 14 words to.” 

Tangentially, Edward swerves across lanes of traffic back onto the main road, and then laughs at Bella when she suggests he put his seatbelt on. He even mocks her, saying she should put her seatbelt on. His laugh in this scene, which is the first we see him laugh by the way, has the exact same energy as Khloé Kardashian laughing at the Calm therapy app while driving. 

Anyway, Bella and Edward make it to dinner and have totally normal conversations about how Edward can read everyone’s minds but hers. Their dinner is set to a Robert Pattinson original, “Never Think,” which is a quiet, folky song with the most intensely foreshadowing lyrics in the world. Pattinson sings:

“Before you’re too far gone /

before nothing can be done /

I’ll try to decide when /

she’ll lie in the end.”

If you’re familiar with the rest of the Twilight series you know that these lyrics are almost too on the nose. But I think Twilight can get away with that.

Finding out that Pattinson wrote this just adds to the chaos that was Pattinson on the Twilight set. Pattinson was living on his agent’s couch at the time of his audition, and according to Insider, auditioned under the strong influence of Valium, which clearly had an effect on Edward’s dazed characterization in this movie as opposed to the rest of the saga. I appreciate Pattinson’s ability to get the role while high and somehow wind up with songs on the soundtrack. In an interview with GQ, Pattinson talked about his habit of sneaking off during the filming of The Batman (2022), in full costume, to make “ambient electronic music.” He’s the love of my life is what I’m trying to get at.

With the weirdest date of her life out of the way, Bella does some reflection and realizes Edward is a vampire. The next day at school, they go into the woods to talk about it. The song aptly named “I Know What You Are” from Burwell plays, accurately capturing the vibe of skipping school in the woods with your 108-year-old, sparkly lab partner. The track is defined by lots of intense and rhythmic orchestral scoring with natural effects that fade into a synth-heavy background. This one could actually be right off an adventure video game. Unfortunately, the only comparable soundtrack I’m familiar with is that of the Spyro: Ripto’s Rage, although that’s a little more upbeat and whimsical. The point is that it’s adventuring music for their adventure in the woods in the middle of a school day.

The next day, Bella and Edward show up together. Edward is wearing sunglasses for the first time and, for some reason, the whole school is staring. They walk into school to “Spotlight” by Mutemath. Again a very on the nose choice for when the spotlight truly is on them. It’s fun and indie rock, and Edward is smiling! I’m starting to think you could actually get the entire plot by just looking through the lyrics of the soundtrack. Mutemath sings:

“Oh, just take the fall, /

you’re one of us, /

the spotlight is on.”

Bella and Edward once again head to the woods, where Edward explains his troubles in 1918 with the Spanish influenza and how Carlisle turned him into a vampire to save his life. Jacob turns up for a second — I forgot about him, too — but we quickly end up at the Cullens’ house. In the Cullen kitchen, Esme (Mrs. Cullen), is listening to “La Traviata” from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a song about a girl who leaves her life behind to follow true love. Nice. 

In Edward’s room they listen to “Clair de Lune,” which, despite its fame, I fully think of as a Twilight song. This is a great accomplishment from a soundtrack. We also hear an extended portion of “Bella’s Lullaby” which is a motif throughout the movie and universally recognizable as the Twilight song. People who have never seen the movie recognize its ebbs and flows and its piano-violin-centric melody. It also used to be the outro to my podcast, furthering its notoriety. 

Bella finds out Edward has been watching her sleep for months and decides she’s enamored with him nonetheless. This brings us to 78 minutes in, and to the scene this article is all about. Edward takes Bella to play baseball with his family.

The baseball-during-a-thunderstorm scene is a cinematic masterpiece. “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse plays as the Cullens play the most dramatic inning known to man. Alice’s wind-up, the matching jerseys, the wind sound effects, the slow-mo running, the mid-air collisions and the perfect pop rock song. “Supermassive Black Hole” is perfect for this scene. It’s catchy, it’s strong, it has falsetto — but in a good way. It really feels like vampire baseball. I saw Muse perform it live in 2017 as part of a show opened by Jared Leto’s Thirty Seconds to Mars. It’s easily one of the best “two truths and a lie” days in my life. I fully and unironically believe this is one of the best scenes in cinematic history. Unfortunately, their game is crashed by some rival vampires. The soundtrack during this altercation is, once again, very Ripto’s Rage.

Once the other vampires learn Bella is human, the Cullens immediately have to flee Forks entirely. They split up and Bella goes with Jasper and Alice. We go through a chunk here of Burwell’s dramatic action soundtracks until the vampires bait Bella into her old ballet studio. The Cullens come to save her, but Bella’s been bitten. Edward is forced to do what Carlisle did for him and suck the venom out. This is set to another acoustic Pattinson original, “Let Me Sign.” It’s sweet, if a bit twangy for a man I’m fully aware has a British accent. 

Bella recovers and is reunited with her parents and Edward. Edward takes Bella to prom, trying to restore normalcy to her life after the vampire venom incident. They dance in the gazebo to  Iron and Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.” It’s a nice, light, sugary slow dance song. It’s also just niche enough that it’s a “Twilight song.” The song is so iconic that fans have even gone on to play it at their own weddings. This is maybe the only scene in the movie where you would forget Edward’s a freak vampire, which is a nice note to end on.

Or it would be if the ending credits were not an absolute powerhouse. “15 Step” by Radiohead, followed by Linkin Park’s “Leave out all the Rest,” followed by the Paramore original “Decode,” which was written for Twilight and went on to chart all over the world. It also received a Grammy nomination. The official music video for “Decode” is actually just an answer to the question “What if Paramore was in the Twilight woods?” It’s a masterpiece in its own right. These three songs being shoved into the end credits feels a little like wasting these songs, but it gives people around the world the chance to go “Is that Paramore?” after watching a cinematic masterpiece.

Now at this point I know you may be thinking “Didn’t My Chemical Romance have a song on the soundtrack?” Twilight and My Chem are pretty consistently linked together but not for the reason you may think. They were approached multiple times to write a song for the movie, but they continuously refused. While Stephanie Meyer claims to have used some of My Chem’s vibe as inspiration for the series’ aesthetic, the band was adamantly against being involved with Twilight. This didn’t stop them from releasing their own take on vampire romance. In 2010, My Chemical Romance released their fourth studio album, Danger Days, which features the track “Vampire Money,” a very pop punk-y track with lyrics consistently poking fun at Twilight and Hollywood’s vampire craze. Lines like “Sparkle like Bowie in the morning sun” are an obvious nod to the Cullens’ glittery skin. Similarly, the after chorus sarcastically highlights their disdain for commodifying their aesthetic. While the film studio may have offered them a pretty penny, they really don’t care about the band’s artistic integrity:

“The kids don’t care if you’re alright, honey /

Pills don’t help, but it sure is funny /

Gimme, gimme some of that vampire money, come on!”

The Twilight soundtrack is a 2008 teenage dream. It captures the campy, trying-a-little-too-hard teen smash hit that Twilight was. There were hits, maybe a few odd choices, a Pattinson original here and there, but this soundtrack is clearly beloved for a reason, and that reason is that it’s truly one of a kind.