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MUSIC ARTICLE

THE 'DALLAS BUYERS CLUB' TRAILER HAS THE ALABAMA SHAKES

At the intersection of movie trailers and music, what does Alabama Shakes' 'You Ain't Alone' (and also The Heavy's "What Makes a Good Man") tell us about the upcoming Matthew McConaughey film?

There's always so much to unpack about a movie trailer: the stars, the plot, how much of the plot is being totally given away. But in many cases, the part of the trailer that sticks with you the longest is the music. Be it a pop song or a piece or orchestral score, it's the music that most often makes a trailer.

This Week's Trailer: Dallas Buyers Club, which takes us back to the 1980s for the story of shit-kicking rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose AIDS diagnosis spurred him on to a crusade to save his own life, primarily by smuggling non-approved drugs in from Mexico and then starting a sale operation. This is the movie McConaughey lost all that weight for, and consequently it's the one everybody expects him to make a seriously Oscar play for. He's joined by, among others, Jennifer Garner as his doctor (and love interest?) and Jared Leto as a trangender (or possibly a drag queen) associate of McConaughey's.

This Week's Tune(s): "You Ain't Alone," by the Grammy-nominated roots rockers Alabama Shakes. With special assist by The Heavy's "What Makes a Good Man."

How Literal Is It? Pretty literal, in bth cases. "What Makes a Good Man" comes in the middle of the trailer, as McConaughey is swaggering his way to and fro across the Texas/Mexico border and setting up this drug operation, and the certainly appears to be telling us exactly how we should be feeling about the protagonist. Then, when it's time to downshift into high emotion, the Alabama Shakes song kicks in, right at the part where McConaughey, Garner, and Leto take turns being there for each other in their hours of need.

How Emotional Is It? Incredibly. The difference between a movie where McConaughey smirks his way through one of America's darkest periods and a movie that resonates and has the potential to be one of the year's best is what's implied by that final third of the trailer. The trailer borrows gravitas from the song, which acts as a promise that we will end up connected to these characters and probably devastated by film's end.

How Definitive Is It? It should be mentioned that The Heavy should probably have a bust in the Trailer Tunes Hall of Fame for how often "How You Like Me Now?" has been used in movie trailers. "What Makes a Good Man" isn't quite at that level of ubiquity, but it's made the rounds. Alabama Shakes haven't been as utilized by the trailer industry, but they should because the song works like gangbusters here. It's a tough line to walk between heartstring-tugging and well-earned emotion, and Brittany Howard's voice pulls that off.

Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: The beats are expected, yes. You can't get out of a Matthew McConaughey trailer without some swagger. But my gosh, will that Alabama Shakes song make the many repetitions of this trailer that we'll be seeing over the next few months go down much smoother.

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