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Same Old Song

When it comes to movie trailers, one note often fits all.

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We know: when you sit at your favorite multiplex and watch those coming attractions, you get a little confused. Didn’t the clip for Romantic Comedy A sound exactly like the clip for Romantic Comedy B? Or maybe you just think that because Big Action Flick X sounded exactly like Big Action Flick Y. You’re not imagining things. Trailer houses (companies that create film advertising) tend to use the same handful of songs when it comes to scoring a clip. Want the audience to feel gung ho? Slip in some Fatboy Slim. Need to evoke period moodiness? Time for Buffalo Springfield. Music supervisors stick with what works, so if you think you’ve heard it before, you probably have. Here’s a guide. (Additional reporting by Brian M. Raftery)

Movie [Three to Tango]

Song Fatboy Slim’s ”Going Out of My Head”

Heard in Trailers For Three to Tango (left); 10 Things I Hate About You; The Waterboy

Musical Significance This big-beat riff is perfect for connoting wacky party activity. Says Bruce Gilbert, music supervisor for trailer house Aspect Ratio, ”If you’re targeting the 14-to-25 audience, it’s best to use something driving and hip like [this].”

[MOVIE] [Three Kings]

[SONG] Buffalo Springfield’s ”For What It’s Worth”

[HEARD IN TRAILERS FOR] Three Kings; He Got Game; Forrest Gump

[MUSICAL SIGNIFICANCE] The classic-rock track (as well as Public Enemy’s sample) says Pay attention! This is serious stuff! ”When you hear it, you feel like it’s 1968,” says Nathan Duvall, music director for The Ant Farm. ”It’s relevant to anyone trying to understand the world around them.”

[MOVIE] [Mystery, Alaska]

[SONG] Gary Glitter’s ”Rock and Roll Part 2”

[HEARD IN TRAILERS FOR] Mystery, Alaska; Dick; Sudden Death

[MUSICAL SIGNIFICANCE] A lowbrow anthem usually synonymous with sports-themed fare. ”When you hear it, you’re supposed to want to jump out of your seat like ‘Whoaaaaa, yeah,”’ says Duvall, who notes that overuse of the track is turning it into a cliche. ”I think this is on its way out.”

[MOVIE] [The Matrix]

[SONG] Propellerheads’ ”Spybreak!”

[HEARD IN TRAILERS FOR] The Matrix; Dogma; Go; Playing God; The Jackal; Inspector Gadget

[MUSICAL SIGNIFICANCE] Propulsive dance grooves pound home the message that this clip means action. ”It’s really driving and upbeat, but [also new],” says Gilbert. ”If a studio or producer wants something fun and cool, this is a good cue.”

[MOVIE] [Never Been Kissed]

[SONG] Ozomatli’s ”Como Ves”

[HEARD IN TRAILERS FOR] Never Been Kissed; Happy, Texas; EDtv

[MUSICAL SIGNIFICANCE] Festive multicultural rock suited to feel-good flicks. ”It’s appealing because it works for comedy and has a party atmosphere,” says Duvall. ”It also reaches into the whole Latin market, but it’s not typical Jennifer Lopez or Ricky Martin.”