'Glee,' 'Fame' giving classic songs a fresh spin

Music confab panels examine value of oldies for new projects

The Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV Music Conference took a stroll down memory lane Fridy on Day 2 with an ASCAP-sponsored panel that explored how the creative team behind the recent remake of the 1980 hit "Fame" updated the project for a new generation.

Director Kevin Tancharoen and composer Mark Isham discussed the pressure they felt to live up to the original Alan Parker film, which focused on the dreams of a diverse group of teens attending the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.

"I hold the original film on such a pedestal," Tancharoen said. "The fact that it wasn't a direct remake helped me. If we literally tried to replicate Parker's film, it would have been a mistake. Alan Parker made that movie perfectly."

Later, the creative team behind Fox's musical primetime phenom "Glee" discussed the pressures of living up to the past, albeit in a totally different context. The show, which features cast members belting out such radio staples as Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling," provides its music supervisors with licensing challenges unlike any other show on television.

"We're clearing some of the biggest songs in recorded history," said music supervisor PJ Bloom, who also moderated the event.

While difficult, the task of securing rights to such classics does come with its own rewards, as panelist Geoff Bywater, head of music at 20th Century Fox Television, pointed out.

"One of the best moments on the show came when I heard the words, 'Steve Perry is on line one,' " he said.

Added panelist Laurel Bernard, senior vp of marketing at Fox Broadcasting: "I think we've discovered that there is an inner geek in everyone."

On the eve of Halloween, the conference took a turn to the dark side during a discussion of the music behind HBO's "True Blood."

The panel, which was coordinated by BMI, featured singer-songwriter Jace Everett, who wrote the show's theme song, "Bad Things," composer Nathan Barr and music supervisor Gary Calamar.

Asked how the show's popularity has affected their work, Everett joked that he now has a whole new fan base.

"I had a small fan base before, but now I get questions on my Web site like 'Who is your favorite vampire?' " he said with a laugh.

Calamar lauded the show's willingness to experiment with different musical textures.
"It's made me spoiled," he said. "It's the perfect show for a music supervisor because of the budget and because they take music seriously."

ASCAP artist Mary J. Blige moved a standing-room-only conference crowd during an afternoon discussion of the original song she co-wrote for the upcoming Lionsgate release "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." The film examines the plight of an African-American teen dealing with abuse and the birth of her second child.

Clearly affected by the connection she felt to the project, Blige teared up momentarily while discussing the emotionally wrenching process of recording the original song, "I Can See in Color," co-written with Raphael Saadiq and LaNeah Menzies.

"(Director) Lee Daniels made me pull everything I had from my guts," Blige said. "I had to keep doing it. You see a movie like that, you understand why you have to keep doing it over and over again."