Music

Twilight’s Soundtrack Is Its Most Enduring Legacy

For people of a certain age, the angsty tunes were life-changing.

A girl with brown hair and wearing white earbuds looks up at a man with brown hair, who stands very close to her face.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is probs blasting the Twilight soundtrack, just like the rest of us. Summit Entertainment

There are few compilations of music that have had as great an impact on angsty young people as the Twilight movie soundtrack. Sure, there are dozens of other film soundtracks which may be more “classic” or “technically good,” but Twilight’s, curated by music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, is iconic, and has been since the film’s release in November 2008. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. With last week’s addition of all five films in the Twilight saga to Netflix, it’s time we talk about it.

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13 years ago, listening to the 12-song soundtrack for the first Twilight film at the crisp age of 7 years old, I had my emo awakening. As ridiculous as it sounds to say this about a collection of songs that range from an original lullaby by Robert Pattinson to high-energy alt-rock songs from the likes of Mutemath and Collective Soul, the Twilight soundtrack made me feel likeI was listening to music for the first time ever. I was invincible, so long as I was allowed to listen to Paramore’s “Track 8” on repeat. (I played the soundtrack routinely on a CD in the family minivan, which only listed the song numbers. I didn’t know that one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack was actually called “I Caught Myself” until much later than I’d like to admit.) For years afterwards, I played the album at every opportunity, a welcome complement to a steady rotation of other angst-saturated 2008 bangers (Miley Cyrus’s Breakout being one notable example).

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I was so obsessed with the soundtrack for a movie I wasn’t even allowed to watch yet that, on a family trip to Ecuador a few years later, I begged my parents to buy a bootlegged CD from a street vendor outside my grandmother’s house. This time, it was the soundtrack for New Moon, released in 2009. I was ecstatic to play it— and immediately heartbroken when, upon pressing play, we discovered that it wasn’t my coveted soundtrack but a collection of folk songs to play at quinceañeras. You can imagine my disappointment. In a world without Spotify (and without an allowance to buy an entire album of songs for my iPod Shuffle), I was forced to forget about New Moon and its ilk until middle school, when I finally was allowed to read all the Twilight books and watch all the movies. There, the soundtracks came to life.

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The uninitiated might ask: What makes the soundtracks to a film series best defined as a campy cult classic (sorry, Twihards) worthy of such devotion?

For one, it would be wrong to ignore the total chokehold that Twilight’s soundtracks and the genre of music they trafficked in had on the late 2000s. At a time when the popularity of pop rock-tinged emo music and the Hot Topic goth aesthetic were at an all-time high, these albums compiled a solid stream of well fitting hits, like Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” (from that iconic baseball scene) and Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” Before the first film even premiered, its soundtrack debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, paving the way for the four subsequent soundtracks to also peak in the top five of the charts. Just before the 10th anniversary of the original film, Billboard called Twilight “one of the most successful film franchises on Billboard’s charts,” thanks to its music.

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It also helped catapult Paramore to superstardom with their two additions to the soundtrack: “Decode” and “I Caught Myself.” While the latter has been criminally underrated, “Decode” peaked at number five on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. Since it first premiered on Stephenie Meyer’s website on Oct. 1, 2008 (where she was also known to post emo-heavy playlists to correspond with each book installment of the saga), the track has gone double platinum. In 2010, it was also nominated for a Grammy and won a Teen Choice Award. Off the charts, Paramore still loomed large, in large part due to its Twilight connection: At Hot Topic stores across the U.S., for example, you could buy a replica of the hat lead singer Hailey Williams wore in the “Decode” music video. “That song, that movie – all of that just catapulted them,” Livia Tortella, a former executive at Atlantic Records, told Billboard in 2018, in a retrospective piece.

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But beyond all that pop-punk goodness and commercial relevance, the soundtracks have the range. Over the course of five albums, the music selections span from pure emo to pop punk to country to folk to classical music. Every single track is beloved by Twihards and alt-rock fans alike, and also just incredibly good.

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Bon Iver and St. Vincent’s “Roslyn” from New Moon, for example, is achingly beautiful, featuring the pair’s ethereal vocals over a soft folk track. It’s maybe the saddest song ever, and the perfect backdrop for either contemplating your relationship with a sparkly vampire or long car rides spent mourning the opportunity to listen to the track on CD. (Though, maybe that’s just me.) Iron & Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” is similarly notable; it’s first heard in the series when Edward takes Bella to prom in Twilight, And in Breaking Dawn, Part 1, the song plays again at their wedding, connecting the whole franchise with its melancholic ruminations on love lost. More than any other song, “Flightless Bird” and its soaring weepiness defines the Twilight saga: romantic, dark, and just cheesy enough that you can’t help but to love it—and you do.

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With the entirety of Twilight saga ranking among Netflix’s top 10 most-watched pieces of content right now, and Paramore’s contributions to the soundtracks finally on Spotify after years of fandom pleas, it’s no surprise that people like me have the movies’ music on the brain right now. On iTunes, the Twilight: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack currently charts in the top 50 of U.S. albums as of this writing, and it’s still rising in the ranks. Maybe the nostalgia is the power of streaming, or maybe, Robert Pattinson told USA Today back in 2019, it’s because “the soundtracks were quite ahead of their time.” In any case, it looks like the Twilight soundtracks are here to stay. My seven year-old self and I are all for it.

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