Monday, January 25, 2010

A Soundtrack to the Office

This is a project that I am doing for my English class Literature, Film, and New Media. The assignment was to create a soundtrack for more or less whatever you wanted. I chose the Office, one of my favorite shows. I chose to do 10 of the characters from the show and pick a song I felt that represented that person. The class funnels through this website, where we post all our assignments in html format and totally open for anyone to view. As the year progresses you will be able to see more of the work though I feel this will be the only music related assignment. It's great when I can put an assignment on my blog, never really thought that would be possible.

The Office

The Office is an American comedy television series that broadcasts on NBC. An adaptation of the BBC series The Office, the series depicts the everyday lives of office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. To simulate the look of an actual documentary, it is filmed in a single-camera setup, without a studio audience or a laugh track. The presence of the camera is often explicitly acknowledged by the characters. [Wikipedia]

Based on the popular British series of the same name, this faster-paced American version follows the daily interactions of a group of idiosyncratic office employees at paper company Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch via a documentary film crew's cameras.
Regional manager Michael (Steve Carell) thinks he's the coolest, funniest, best boss ever - which, of course, makes him the uncoolest, most obnoxious and annoying boss as far as his staff are concerned. Salesman Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) has always loved receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) and loves sabotaging his cube-mate, the know-it-all Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) started as a young, smart, self-possessed temp, but quickly figured out the real office politics despite Michael's attempts to instill the official point-of-view, and gets himself a job at corporate HQ in New York.
The staff is rounded out by quiet Phyllis Lapin Vance (Phyllis Smith), beaten down by the working life Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker), office alcoholic Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery), up-tight Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey), formerly closeted homosexual Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez), stocky and uncouth Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner), ambivalent kleptomaniac Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton), Sad Sack HR rep Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein), persistently love-struck Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling), icy corporate manager turned Michael's girlfriend Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin), former Stamford branch denizen and Cornell graduate Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), warehouse foreman Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson), and Pam's ex-fiancé Roy Anderson (David Denman) []

Mash-up: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On vs. Outkast – So Fresh, So Clean

One song would not come close to encompassing the personality of the boss, Michael Scott, and you better believe that he would make that known. This mashed-up song combines his sensual side (Let’s Get it On) with his cocky side (So Fresh, So Clean). Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s head honcho is full of himself and from the depths of his heart believes that everyone loves him (especially ladies) and that he can do no wrong.

Don't you think I'm so sexy I'm dressed so fresh so clean
(So fresh and so clean clean)
Ain't nobody dope as me I'm dressed so fresh so clean
(So fresh and so clean clean)

Buying a mug from Spencer’s Gifts at the mall that reads “World’s Best Boss” attests to the fact that Michael is one smug guy. Not only does he disregard social norms, he loves to break the rules and be the cool boss. During a Secret Santa the office hosted one Christmas, Michael buys a new video iPod (about $250 over the limit) for Ryan. But when he gets a knitted scarf from Phyllis he turns it into a Dity Santa (aka White Elephant) so he can get the iPod back. Because of Michael’s let’s get it on mentality he basically hits on all the attractive office workers and dates anything that shows interest. He (44) dates Pam’s 58-year-old mother, his boss Jan, as well as a short-lived Human resource worker, Holly, all who are in the same situation, basically just trying to get it on because they are all realizing that they can’t for much longer. And because Michael is so hip it is fitting that his song is a mash-up (seeing as mash-ups are legit).
"Mash-up - Marvin Gaye "Let's Get it On" vs Outkast "So Fresh, So Clean"

Empire of the Sun - Walking On a Dream

It is very hard to get past the fact that The Office is just a show when it comes to these two because they are so perfect for each other in every way. From friend status and Pam engaged to another man during season one to the two being wed in season five, they have evolved into the couple that everyone dreams of being. With lyrics like these…

…We are always running for the thrill of it thrill of it
Always pushing up the hill searching for the thrill of it
On and on and on we are calling out and out again
Never looking down I’m just in awe of what’s in front of me

Is it real now
When two people become one
I can feel it
When two people become one

Thought I’d never see
The love you found in me
Now it’s changing all the time
Living in a rhythm where the minutes working overtime

Catch me I’m falling down
Catch me I’m falling down….

….it is hard to imagine anyone but the Halperts. I can picture it now, Jim and Pam floating on a cloud in all white with these wistful lyrics and harmonies in the background. The eclectic sound of Empire of the Sun recollects the craziness, heartbreak, and bizarre twists and turns that their relationship his endured over the years. Just as the lyrics say “when two people become one” it is hard to think of Jim without Pam, just how it’s hard to not associate a library with books or American Idol with Simon Cowell. They are the perfect young couple that everyone has to love and this song is so catchy it’s hard to not want to put it on repeat.
Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream

Ratatat - Seventeen Years

This temp turned executive is a twenty-something hot shot who likes to party excessively. This party anthem by electronic duo Ratatat summarizes Ryan’s 24/7 attitude. While at work he is always searching for the short route to complete a task or pawning his work off on someone else. For the first two seasons Ryan was known as the temp around the office, then, like a balloon, his head inflates to an overwhelmingly large size full of a plethora of drugs, booze, and newfound wealth until it suddenly pops when he is arrested for fraudulent activities to Dunder Mifflin with his new power.
He really lets loose once he reaches corporate, dressing in black, growing a beard (more like a 9 or 10 PM shadow) and acting like Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs) or Tony Montana (Scarface) but you can’t be on top forever. He then comes back to the company a few months later to fill in for Pam who goes to art school and gains his temp status back after leaving the slammer. As show in a few episodes he loves to let loose, go out and get drunk and this song is suggestive of someone who is partying or is just an original gangster.

Explosions in the Sky - Your Hand in Mine

This eight minute instrumental ballad could replace the elevator music in the building where Dunder Mifflin is located.  Its somber mood at the beginning seems on par with Toby’s sullen and downtrodden temperament while at work.  Then by the end of the song, (almost 5 o’clock...) Toby is shot out of the elevator with a little sense of a better world outside of his cubicle, with a more uplifting and inspirational tone. The hastily strummed guitars and clanging cymbals project an “I Can” attitude that Toby hopefully has or otherwise needs outside of the office.  The lack of vocals parallels his reserved personality.  He is very much pushed over and controlled by everyone else in the office when he is the one with the authority to report anyone to corporate.  His ‘speak only when spoken to’ attitude is the reason why he is given trouble throughout the office. Only when it comes to the secretary turned saleswoman, Pam, whom he has had a crush on for numerous seasons, is Toby a conversation starter. Though there is some build up during the meat of the song (day in the office) where Toby gains confidence to talk to and flirt with Pam, always to avail.
Explosions in the Sky - Your Hand in Mine

Discovery - I Want You Back

Kelly is the bubbly personality of Dunder Mifflin who loves to gossip but is even more infatuated with Ryan Howard. Before Ryan’s promotion to corporate they were deeply in love, at least in Kelly’s eyes. I’m sure Kelly is jealous of Jim & Pam because of their successful workplace relationship. Currently in season 6 the two are together and I do believe that Ryan is in it because he wants to be and not guilt-tripped into dating her, because he fought for her while she was with Darrell, a warehouse worker. Not only does this rendition of the Jackson 5 classic do it justice, it brings it into the 21st Century with a new-wave twist. This has been the theme song for Kelly because she has wanted Ryan back for some time and it looks like she fished her wish.
Discovery - I Want You Back

Citizen Cope - Pablo Picasso

Creed is the most bizarre character on the Office. He is always being interviewed when something crazy happens in the office. For example, everyone was complaining that the office reeked of death and it turns out to be Creed who has some exotic peas in his desk which he claims are healthy but had the aroma of death.

The woman that I love
Is forty feet tall
She's a movie star
She's all in the papers
And everywhere i go
People hand me quarters
And they pat me on the back
They treat me like im famous
I'll never leave her side
'Cause today can be dangerous
And when the night arrives
The light hit her features
And the cars drive by
Just so they could see her
And she never bats an eye
When someone takes her picture

Mr.Officer if you've come to take her
Then that means one of us
Gonna end up in a stretcher
Gonna end up in the papers, going end up in the papers, yeah

If i had a pistol
I'd brandish it and wave it
She's the only one alive that knows that I'm not crazy
She's gonna testify on my behalf
Down at the Navy
So I can get some peace
And provide for my babies
I got a stick and a bottle
I'll pretend I got a razor
Helicopters and cameras all shottin' for the station
They say that a wild man defending his lady
But for some odd reason they keep calling you a painting

The crazed man described in this song could very well be Creed Bratton. The song is not clear about the identity of this “baby” and leaves it to the interpretation of the listener to formulate a hypothesis as to who the singer is in love with. The mysteriousness of the woman in the song is congruent to the hookah-smoking character of Creed who makes fake ID’s, is apparently the leader of a religious cult, and sells fake tapeworms to Kelly. The semi-dark melodies made with rather tribal sounds really help tell the story of this obsessed man. This song happens to be about a billboard and his movie star is just a huge “painting.” A strange story is told in this song and just about any story that we hear from or about Creed is equally peculiar.
Citizen Cope - Pablo Picasso

Vampire Weekend - Giving Up the Gun

Andy Bernard is the biggest Cornell University Big Red fanatic in the greater Scranton area, maybe all of Pennsylvania. Fellow Ivy Leaguers Vampire Weekend, a group of Columbia grads, produces pleasing and catchy pop tunes that remind me of the sweater-clad “Nard-Dog.” Andy has a rather high musical IQ, with the ability to sing (from being in an a cappella group in college) and play the guitar. The usually chipper and high-energy Nard Dog reminds me of this song because it is happy and rather appealing. Andy loves to sing and his unusually high-pitched voice reminds me of the soft voice of Ezra Koeing, the lead singer of Vampire Weekend. Not only does he sound like him, they have very similar preppy looks.
Vampire Weekend - Giving Up the Gun

Bill Callahan - Faith/Void

The music industry’s deep voice in Bill Callahan mirrors Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s Stanley Hudson.  These two voices make Johnny Cash’s voice sound comparable to that of a pre-puberty adolescent male with a side part. Stanley is the office’s wise old man who is stays out of others conflict and is just there to make an honest living for his family.

"This is the end of faith, no more must I strive
To find my peace, to find my peace in a lie"

This docile character threw us on a roller coaster ride of jaunting revelations when it was revealed that he was cheating on his wife. Out of left field this totally changed how the audience saw Stanley and perceived his usually Eeyore-like comments and actions.  This very slow, dull song goes perfect with Stanley because he does have a side in which he disregarding inhibition and finds his peace in a lie while putting God away. This dynamic yet boring song, really captures the essence of what it is to be Stanley Hudson.

O-Zone -  Dragostea Din Tei

It’s only fitting to match this outlandish character with an outrageous song. This ridiculous man, Dwight Schrute, a beet farmer/volunteer fire sheriff/assistant to the regional manager, always provides for a good laugh, as does the “Numa Numa song.” Besides looking like a goober, he acts like one too, always testing the durability of things, starting fires, and whining to Michael. I don’t know why, but I can envision Dwight blasting this song at his house, from an old school 50’s radio, dressed up in a star wars costume, trying to break dance but miserably failing. Or he could easily be the guy in the infamous fist-pumping video that swept across the internet back in the day. He is a very hot topic though, researchers at Brigham Young University, Stanford and Northwestern University demonstrated that social outsiders, similar to Dwight's character, lead to better group decision making. Media accounts of their published study reported that having a Dwight Schrute around is good for business. The group makes better decisions for their own benefit due to his unpredictable reactions and the group having to feel the repercussions of his usually idiotic ideas &/or hypothetical situations. Dwight is the guy that nobody really likes and gets on peoples nerves all the time but it’s still hard to not laugh whenever he says anything.

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