Scoring ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

A large part of our lives as viewers, mainly of film, is shaped by music. Births, battles and deaths are marked by the rise and fall of music. For my ETS 320 final, I took on the mantle of music director and selected 10 songs — five for Beatrice and five for Benedick — for a “Much Ado About Nothing” soundtrack.

Here is an abridged version of the final project I’ve been working on and handed in today. 

Beatrice

1. “Kiss With a Fist” by Florence + the Machine
This song is an excellent opener for “Much Ado.” It’s quite punchy — no pun intended. Welch describes a lover’s fight as literal jabs, but it can be taken figuratively. When it comes to Beatrice and Benedick, I’m applying the latter interpretation.

Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship crackles with misplaced passion from the very beginning. Not only do the have some contentious history, but Beatrice has quite the wit. “Kiss With a Fist” would illustrate Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship, and also give the listener a taste of Beatrice’s fiery personality.

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Photo by Jason Wong

2. “First Bad Habit” by Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa Hudgens describes a past lover she just can’t shake.She is not so much melancholy about their broken-off relationship as she is exasperated.

The exchanges between Hudgens and her lover instantly reminded me of Beatrice and Benedick. Going with the reading of “Much Ado” we discussed in class, Beatrice and Benedick have history. She knows him “of old,” to use her words.  

To call Beatrice and Benedick’s heated exchanges a “game” points to the wit that’s involved in their war of words.

The same way Hudgens “falls for it, over and over,” Beatrice finds herself drawn to Benedick. Benedick is Beatrice’s “first bad habit.”

3. “Gorgeous” by Taylor Swift
Lyrically, “Gorgeous” is multi-layered and complex. Taylor Swift sings of being so attracted to someone their presence elicits contempt and disdain. After studying “Much Ado,” that sounds awfully familiar? “Gorgeous” would provide the perfect sonic backdrop to the masque scene.

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Photo by Michael Discenza

The opening lines fit the party scene to a tee. Taking on a Beatrice-like teasing tone, Swift’s words reminded me of the way  Beatrice rambles on drunkenly about Benedick. Swift’s coy words reflect Beatrice’s painfully obvious obsession with Benedick.

4. “Wait a Minute!” by Willow Smith
The softness of this dreamy R+B song, juxtaposed with Taylor Swift’s boisterous, sarcastic “Gorgeous,” is supposed to reflect Beatrice’s moment of vulnerability when she finds out Benedick is in love with her. Especially having studied “Much Ado,” I felt the way Willow Smith handles the physical and the metaphysical is right in line with Beatrice’s character.

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Photo by Becca Tapert

When Beatrice and Benedick finally let themselves fall in love, it’s a matter of embracing the fact they’re intellectual equals. It’s also a matter of stripping away the wit they use as a defense mechanism.

There’s also a certain presentness to Smith’s lyrics that exists also in Beatrice’s lines. Smith is really engaged and truly feeling the moment. Likewise, it’s as if Beatrice has been struck by lightning when she has this moment of clarity.

5. “Everything is Yours” by Kehlani
This last song reflects the desolation hanging over the characters toward the end of “Much Ado.” The mix of bleakness for the future and tenderness for her lover Kehlani expresses mirrors the thoughts and feelings Beatrice has for Hero and Benedick.

Kehlani is up late, mired in murky thoughts. Much weighs on Beatrice at this point, as well It could be her own future or her tortured history with Benedick keeping her up late at night.

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Photo by Becca Tapert

Like Kehlani, Beatrice would give everything up (especially to resolve the mess surrounding her cousin’s honor). While unlike Kehlani, Beatrice thinks her sadness can be cured with bloodshed, she feels the same about her lover. Just like Kehlani’s sentiment “my ring is yours: save it for me,” Beatrice knows that she’s picked the right lover for the end-game

Benedick

1. “She’s a Genius” by JET
Like “Kiss With a Fist,” “She’s a Genius” starts us off with a bang. The old school, rock ‘n’ roll flavour underscores Benedick’s outgoing, frank, devil-may-care attitude. From the beginning, the love interest is established as a strong woman: capable,  staunch in her beliefs and no qualms about going against the grain of society.

Beatrice isn’t the kind of woman who feels shame about her viewpoints. She is unabashed in speaking her mind. This trait is one that both infuriates and excites Benedick — a paradox that is followed up on in “She’s a Genius.”

Like Nic Cester, Benedick is impressed with his lover’s sharp brain and sharp tongue. Still, instead of being intimidated, they drawn to her further. Ultimately, while they are charmed, both Cester and Benedick are in awe in more than anything.

2. “Only Angel” by Harry Styles
A bit like Kehlani’s song and that of Taylor Swift, Harry Styles’ song expresses a complex range of emotions. The frustration Styles feels, the desire Styles feels and the tug-of-war between the two make this song a prime pick for my “Much Ado” soundtrack.  

In regard to “Much Ado,” the “broke a finger knocking on your bedroom door” line ultimately reminded me of Benedick. While there are a few obstacles to being together, Benedick is still eager to let go and embark on a relationship with Beatrice.

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Photo by Tyler Nix

Styles sings of his almost foolish desire for his love interest. And just like him, Benedick juggles his romantic feelings with the “warning signs” posted when it comes to falling in love.

And finally, in the same way Styles meets his lover in the hallway every single time, Beatrice and Benedick keep crossing paths and there’s nothing they can do about it.

3. “Losin’ Control” by Russ
As a contrast to the storm of emotions that is “Only Angel,” I picked a soft, slow song to go next. Russ’ track has a more romantic and serious tone, but still manages to evoke sympathy for its protagonist. This song stood out to me because it’s a masculine perspective on a woman’s love life. It sounds like what Benedick would be turning over in his mind concerning Beatrice.

Russ highlights the woman’s reluctance to fall in love. Given that Beatrice and Benedick have history, it would make sense that Beatrice should hold Benedick at arm’s length.

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Photo by Austin Chan

The phrase “tryna flip it back on her like a victim” sounds just like  Benedick. I wouldn’t put it past someone like him to use his wit for verbal violence, especially if his back is against the wall.

Yet, despite whatever transpired between Beatrice and Benedick, Beatrice finds herself still drawn to his wit. She’s losing control.

4. “Die for You” by the Weeknd
This Weeknd song stuck out to me as the most fitting for Benedick. It closely follows Beatrice and Benedick’s conversation when they are left alone in Act IV, Scene 1.

The Weeknd’s admission “I just can’t say I don’t love you, ’cause I love you” reminds me of when Benedick says, “I do love nothing in the world so well as you; is not that strange?”

It’s a circuitous way of expressing your feelings. They both could have just said, “I love you.” When the Weeknd confesses it’s hard to communicate but he’ll be honest anyway, it’s right in line with where Benedick is in the scene. Benedick is seldom at a loss for words, unless he has to be emotionally vulnerable.

The chorus is just like the climax of Act IV, Scene 1. “Even though we’re going through it / And it makes you feel alone, / Just know that I would die for you. / Baby, I would die for you.” This is a modern expression of the thoughts and emotions coursing through Benedick at this crucial moment with Beatrice.

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Photo by Jon Tyson

At this point, the two are “going through it:” what was supposed to be a joyful union between Hero and Claudio has been twisted treacherously beyond recognition. Beatrice definitely feels alone, which is why she seeks out  Benedick for solace. And Benedick is willing to put his life on the line for Beatrice.

We know this from his reaction after what is (arguably) the most iconic exchange in all of Shakespeare: “Come, bid me do anything for thee.” “Kill Claudio.”

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Photo by Matthew MacQuarrie

5. “Fool for You” by Zayn
While Zayn’s “Fool for You” is not particularly mysterious, I think its a sufficient overview of Beatrice’s and Benedick’s journey to “Peace! I will stop your mouth.”

Given how Benedick hasn’t heeded “warning signs,” and how both Beatrice and Benedick have scoffed at the idea of getting married, their love can be considered “tainted.” Tainted by history, but also by the struggle to make amends on Hero’s behalf.

Contextually, Zayn singing “When the dark turns to mist, / I just can’t resist it. / ‘Cause I’m a fool for you and the things you do.” makes sense. When the darkness has dissipated and Hero’s honor has been restored , there is nothing left to hold Benedick back from pursuing and realizing his relationship with Beatrice.

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Photo by Becca Tapert

“I know sometimes I hide it, / But I can’t this time ’cause it’s gonna defeat me. / But you won’t believe me.” Zayn expresses some of the same self-awareness Benedick does after he decides to requite Beatrice’s love To use Zayn’s phrasing, you wouldn’t believe Benedick if he declared his love for Beatrice after he swore he’d die a bachelor.

The soulful piano and Zayn’s yearning voice are a ripe combination for closing out “Much Ado.” The pared-down R+B sound of “Fool for You” gives off  a wedding band vibe. Given that Beatrice and Benedick prevailed despite fractured pasts, personal hang-ups and great tragedy, I think Zayn’s song is the perfect note to end my “Much Ado” on.

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