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Zooey and the Terabithians

Sometimes after seeing a movie with memorable music, I later discover that the best songs are missing from the soundtrack. This recently happened with my six-year old daughter Amelia’s favorite, Bridge to Terabithia, which moves from tween fantasy fare to thorny and honestly portrayed realist drama once the music starts to take hold.

An unlikely trio of covers, missing from the Disney-dominated official soundtrack, gives the movie its real spark. The music teacher, played by the almost-famous chanteuse Zooey Deschanel, leads the kids through “Someday” by Steve Earle, “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War, and “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps. War’s socially conscious low-riding funk and the Stairsteps’ wide-eyed Chicago soul can hold their own on any playlist. But “Someday,” Steve Earle’s early anthem of longing and escape, has acquired a magical power for my daughter and me. I pull out an acoustic guitar, stumble through a few clumsily played licks, and listen to my urban-dwelling, public transportation-loving little girl belt out the lyrics—“I’ve got a ’67 Chevy, it’s low and sleek and black/ someday I’ll put her on the Interstate and never look back”—like she has just discovered the missing link between Haggard and Springsteen. I have no idea how or why they make perfect sense to her, but I know it must be time for a really good road trip.

At this point, Zooey is better known for being ridiculously charming than for her singing and songwriting. But last year’s minor classic She and Him (she wrote most of the songs, with music by M. Ward’s “him”) resonates more than I expected. The music mixes Motown-inspired soul (right down to the Smokey Robinson cover) with the urbane country shuffle of George Jones and his duet partners. Not everything works, but the best of these, like the subtle “Black Hole” and the sparkling “This is Not a Test,” sound timeless rather than simply nostalgic. These songs won’t set the house on fire, but Zooey’s voice has a quiet power that reminds me ever so slightly of—dare I say it?—Karen Carpenter. There, I just said it.

For a video of Steve Earle’s “Someday,” click here.

For a video of War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” click here.

Zooey Deschanel, “Someday” (from Bridge to Terabithia)

She and Him, “Black Hole”

Five Stairsteps, “Ooh Child”

From → Heavy Rotation

One Comment
  1. shacker permalink

    Actually I’m not sure your daughter’s voice doesn’t sound dissimilar to Karen Carpenter’s either!

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