Musical Hooks and Teaser Trailers: Strategies of Musical Editing in "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014)

Catrin Watts, University of Texas

A musical hook -- a memorable and repeated musical device -- grabs the attention of the listener, whether by design or by chance (Burns 1987, Kronengold 2005). Literature on popular music in film has prioritized lyrics, which often serve as constituent parts of hooks, at the expense of the music (Inglis 2003, Reay 2004, Lannin & Caley 2005, Stillwell & Powrie 2006); however, the music editing in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) uses hooks in a way that suggests existing accounts of the hook are incomplete and that the purely musical aspects of hooks rather than just their lyrical associations need greater consideration.

Hooked on a Feeling (Blue Swede, 1974) is heard in the first teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. The editing used in the trailer relies on the musical, rather than lyrical or intertextual, properties of the hook and anticipates in a striking way a technique that also recurs throughout the film. By examining the form of the song alongside the visual editing, I show that both on-screen actions and movement within the diegesis conform to the musical logic of the hook. The editing of the music means that on-screen action emphasizes the appearance of a prominent musical hook more than a particular set of song lyrics that comments more or less slyly on the action. The striking music editing in the teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy calls attention to the need for a closer examination of the peculiar workings of musical hooks.