AI & Sync: The magic behind last year’s most impactful Sync Placements in TV & Film
Is there a secret sauce that guarantees sync success? MyPart and LyricFind used cutting-edge AI to analyze the lyrical, musical, and sonic features of some of last year’s most notable sync TV and Film placements to find out.
You know the feeling: as a pivotal scene unfolds in your favorite show or film, a song comes on that just hits you. Perfectly capturing the right emotion at the right time, it leaves you heartbroken, invigorated, or gasping for air. The script moves on, but that emotional resonance continues to reverberate, the moment etched in your mind long after the credits roll. These masterful marriages between song and scene are what industry folks call “sync placements,” and they are undeniable testaments to the power of music in visual storytelling.
From the infectiously empowering Italian resistance anthem, “Bella Ciao,” in Money Heist, to the gut-wrenching emotional punch delivered by Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” in Grey’s Anatomy, these creative matches feel so intrinsically connected to their respective films or TV series that they become synonymous with one another.
An effective sync can lead to a smash film/series hit, as well as enormous success for the featured artists, often launching, propelling, or rejuvenating their careers. This impact has been further accelerated by the widespread use of apps such as Spotify, TikTok, and Shazam.
With the staggering number of potential songs out there, the search process for these placements often takes weeks, if not months, ostensibly adhering to the infamous “I know it when I see it” (or in this case, “hear it”) standard of Jacobellis v. Ohio. Yet given the availability of artificial intelligence (AI) resources, we aimed to define, in more objective terms, what it is that makes for an impactful sync.
Could we uncover some sort of science behind this musical matchmaking?
To do so, we ran MyPart and LyricFind’s cutting-edge AI on some of the most notable sync placements of 2022 in TV/Film through the view of their respective lyrical, musical, and sonic features. Playing music supervisor for the day, we broke down our expectations vs. song reality (measured by the AI) to quantify each sync’s impact.
Our research revealed a clear, objective recipe for creative matches to achieve maximum impact: excelling in all three areas of lyrical, musical, and sound relevance.
Assuming equal importance for each of the aforementioned categories, plus additional consideration for what we term “intangibles/X factor” (e.g. whether there’s a conscious integration of the song into the script to such an extent that it seems impossible to consider a replacement) here are our rankings for the best syncs of 2022 (warning: spoiler alerts abound!):
Season 4 Episode 1
January 21, 2022
Sam Cooke – Bring it on Home to Me
The opening flash-forward scene of the season premiere of Netflix’s hit show sets a sobering, foreboding tone, as the unraveling of the Byrde family feels progressively inevitable. Viewers are baited into a “calm before the storm” moment, as a naive Byrde family jokes around during a seemingly ordinary car ride while Sam Cooke’s iconic 1962 track, “Bring it on Home to Me” plays on the radio, before they’re suddenly forced to swerve to avoid an oncoming truck and calamitously flip off the highway. After a dramatic pause, the song slowly picks back up, along with the hissing of airbags and crunching of glass, as the screen fades to black and the fate of the family hangs in the balance.
Lyrically– we’d expect a song with lyrics about freedom, family, domesticity, tranquility, and calmness, to put the audience at ease.
Musically– we’d place a song in a Major key with a relatively diatonic harmony. Simple melodic lines, not too syncopated or tense.
Sonically– we’d expect an acoustic song- perhaps an old classic. Vocally, it should feature a distinct, warm voice. It might have lush strings, synth, or brass, and the overall feel might be mid-tempo or a slow ballad.
Sync Reality (MyPart & LyricFind)
Lyrically– Aside from Cooke’s smooth, dazzling voice, “Bring it on Home to Me” hits you in various ways. The lyrics are simple but sound tight and well-defined. MyPart’s AI identified a certain amount of echoism with various lyrical repetitions that give it an air of familiarity. LyricIQ identified an extremely positive sentiment, as well as some tones of both enjoyment and sadness.
Musically– The music is in a Major key, highly comfortable, and diatonic. The melodic range is relatively narrow (i.e. average) considering Cooke’s outstanding abilities. It has melodic hooks throughout. It’s simple and relaxing, with no tension.
Sonically– MyPart’s AI identified the production as acoustic, happy, and highly bright. It is classic soul by Cooke. Acoustic and calm, yet excitable.
Overall, this was a great sync that largely hits on all three cylinders, reinforced by LyricFind’s aggregate display data tracking a 50% spike in usage following the sync’s release. However, there weren’t any noticeable jumps in TikToks, Spotify streams, or Shazams for Cooke since the episode aired, which could be attributed to the song’s limited prominence in the show.
Season 1 Episode 2
April 22, 2022
beabadoobee – Dance with Me
The second episode of Heartstopper, the groundbreaking feel-good Netflix series adapted from Alice Oseman’s famous webcomics, features a beloved scene portraying high schoolers Charlie and Nick teetering the line between friendship and budding young love. The pair is seen innocently playing together in the snow while the sweet sounds of beabadoobee’s “Dance with Me” fill the background.
Lyrically– we’d predict themes of young romance, first love, falling for someone but not being sure your feelings will be reciprocated, etc.
Musically– we’d expect a song in major key, with a vertical melody, wide melodic range, and mostly diatonic.
Sonically– we’d anticipate a cheerful, relaxed, gentle, warm tune.
Sync Reality (MyPart & LyricFind)
Lyrically– MyPart defined the main feature of beabadoobee’s track as yearning for social company and protest, while LyricIQ detected an extremely positive sentiment. As expected of a teen romance series, the language is simplistic, filled with common words, a bit of slang, and no profanities.
Musically– Predictably, the song is very simple- it’s in major key, is diatonic and has moderate repetition. The melody is mixed-vertical and has few melodic themes.
– “Dance with Me” is chill, melancholic, bittersweet, bright, and acoustic.
Attitude reported that “of the 34 songs on Heartstopper’s Official Mixtape playlist on Spotify, roughly half are by queer artists, including beabadoobee, which [the show’s executive producer, Patrick] Walters explained was intentional.” Overall, this placement was a very fitting pick according to all three of our parameters, and it’s no surprise it won beabadoobee the MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Musical Moment. According to Songstats, during the week around the sync, the song jumped from 17k to 70k shazams, and Beabadoobee attained her peak Spotify playlist reach at 4.7 million streams (compared to around 2 million the month before the sync). Furthermore, LyricFind’s aggregate display data indicated a spike of more than 600% of lyric views after the sync was placed.
Season 2 Episode 7
February 20, 2022
Bonnie Tyler – Holding Out for a Hero
Intoxicating HBO phenomenon, euphoria, is a brutally honest and visually stunning depiction of the lives of a group of high schoolers as they navigate issues ranging from relationships and sexuality to drug addiction and toxic masculinity. In a shocking turn of events during season two, Lexi and Ethan- two of the show’s typically peripheral characters- take center stage in the show’s penultimate episode, when Lexi’s chaotic autobiographical student-play sees Ethan and his fellow golden spandex-clad dancers put on an explosively provocative, homoerotic performance to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s classic “Holding Out for a Hero.”
Lyrically– you’d expect sexually explicit, homoerotic, provocative lyrics.
Musically– we’d go with a song with a wide melodic range and big chorus. Simple, but not overly so.
Sonically– upbeat, fun, danceable, queer, and electronic.
Sync Reality (MyPart & LyricFind)
Lyrically– While the overt themes in Tyler’s track deal with a cry for help/ messiah/hero, MyPart identified hints for themes of breakup and materialized dreams, as well as drugs/alcohol abuse, while LyricIQ picked up references to physical abuse and violence. LyricIQ also discerned a somewhat positive sentiment, which aligns with the song’s themes of hopes and dreams. Linguistically, the song contains high lyrical repetition, relatively high usage of non-common words, no profanities, but frequent slang. It also features a high level of rhyme density and frequent usage of perfect rhymes.
Musically– The song is in minor key and is mostly diatonic. It contains moderate repetition and a frequent triad chords.
Sonically- The production is primarily electronic, yet with a noticeable rock feel. The mood was defined as happy, as well as bombastic and overly dramatic. “Holding Out for a Hero” received a relatively high danceability score, making it a great fit for the chaotic play’s explosive number.
Music Supervisor Jen Malone said that “this was another song that was scripted in from day one, but at first, I had no idea how big it would become.” This was certainly a successful sync, as indicated by a surge of over 300% in the number of lyrical views for “Holding Out for a Hero” post-placement, according to LyricFind’s aggregate display data. Widely recognized as the most iconic moment of the second season, the scene went instantly viral, garnering millions of shares on Instagram, TikTok (13.6M views) and Twitter.
#3. Stranger Things
Season 4 Episode 9
July 1st, 2022
Metallica – Master of Puppets
In a pivotal scene during season four of Stranger Things, Eddie and Dustin stage an alternate dimension metal concert in the Upside-Down realm to distract Vecna’s protective fleet of bat-like creatures while the others attack the unsuspecting villain. Eddie rocks out on his electric guitar as Dustin head-bangs in delight as Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” blares. It’s unclear whether the attack is successful, leaving the audience in suspense for the show’s final season.
Lyrically– we’d expect dystopian lyrics- the metal ‘bread and butter!’
Musically– we’d go with hard rock and metal riffs, dissonance, chromatism, and a wide melodic range.
Sonically– roaring vocals, aggressive production, and a whole lot of distorted guitars.
Sync Reality (MyPart & LyricFind)
Lyrically-The most performed song in Metallica’s catalog portrays drugs/addiction (personified as the “Master”) as a controlling force that destroys its victims and takes pleasure in doing so (“laughing at [their] cries”). The complexity of this figure and its actions is identified by LyricIQ, through consistent scores in both enjoyment and sadness. LyricIQ also identified coarse language and themes of abuse and violence throughout the lyrics, while MyPart discerned that the song employs a rhyme scheme with very common words (lower register verbiage).
Musically– this is a pure metal song (loud, horrifying, screaming). It’s in E minor, yet it is highly chromatic and harmonically ambiguous with heavy usage of power chords. With no Major or Minor thirds, the tonality becomes somewhat blurred and different parts present a chaotic and organized track. The power and horror of the music derives from the chromatic riffs, roaring vocals, fuzzy bass, and metal drums.
Sonically– MyPart identified the track’s aggressive moods (with a high grade for this feature), but its energy also makes it feel like a party track, perfect for the head-banging gig staged by Eddie and Dustin.
“Master of Puppets” was a brilliant choice from all three prisms and was reportedly woven into the script during pre-production. Beyond it amplifying the episode’s most thrilling scene, the song and band “in some ways, align with Eddie’s seemingly arrogant and edgy in-your-face public persona,” according to the show’s music supervisor, Nora Felder.
This translated into big success for Metallica who, despite being hitmakers for decades, had a 432% rise in discoveries in the week after its appearance in Stranger Things (compared with the week before it aired), and gained more than 6 million new Spotify listeners. Spotify also reported that “Masters of Puppets” was downloaded 17.5 million times in the week after the episode was released, and it quickly hit No. 1 in the US iTunes rock chart.
On Shazam, it spiked by 40% in the first week after the sync to nearly 2 million total Shazams.
#2. The Batman
Trailer and Film
Oct 16, 2021 (trailer), March 4, 2022 (film)
Nirvana – Something in The Way
The latest live-action Batman adaptation by Matt Reeves starring a brilliantly lugubrious Robert Pattinson was the darkest, rawest depiction of the caped crusader to date. Throughout the film, Nirvana’s hauntingly slowed down ‘Something in the Way,’ which was also featured in the film’s initial trailer, takes center stage.
Lyrically– with superhero films, we typically expect a song about heroes, action, revenge, saving the world, and killing bad guys.
Musically– you generally think about grand cinematic scores, shrill whirls and horns- something between Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Sonically– they tend to use grand, bombastic, aggressive, energetic production (think “dun dun dunnnnnn”).
However, considering the revengefulness of Pattinson’s dark knight and the film’s deconstruction of the conventional superhero genre, we’d expect much gloomier themes, subtler music, and harrowing production.
Sync Reality (MyPart / LyricFind):
Lyrically- MyPart defined the track’s lyrical mood as dealing with detachment, while LyricIQ identified an extremely negative sentiment, along with notable levels of fear. The song is more abstract than literal. The rhyme density is high, and its power stems from its frequent use of assonance rhymes.
Musically– the track is in a minor key (or mode) and is mostly diatonic with a high level of repetitiveness. It is based on triads.
Sonically– it is primarily acoustic, with a chill, melancholic mood. Cello and acoustic guitars fill the track, giving it a kind of whisper. The trailer version only used the refrain and fused it with lash-big synth sounds. It’s slow, depressive, and melancholic.
The sync was a perfect lyrical, musical, and sonic match for Pattinson’s Batman. Akin to the connection between Eddie and Metallica, Reeves explained that the Nirvana deep cut “became part of the voice of that character. The truth is that [Robert Pattinson’s as Batman] is some kind of drug addict. His addiction is this drive for revenge. He’s like Batman Kurt Cobain.” This symmetry, combined with the song’s prevalence in the trailer and film- it’s played twice in its entirety, most notably during the opening montage- make it a truly unforgettable placement.
After appearing in the initial trailer, “Something in the Way” saw a surge in popularity, despite Nirvana never having released it as a single or including it in their live sets. The song garnered over 3 million streams in the U.S. during the first four days of the film’s release and saw a 734% increase in streams in the week before the movie premiered. This increase in popularity led to the song reaching unprecedentedly high on several Billboard charts.
#1. Stranger Things
Season 4 (multiple episodes)
May 27th, 2022
Kate Bush- Running Up That Hill
During the extremely climactic episode 4 titled “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” a pivotal turning point in the hit Netflix show, (central character) Max becomes increasingly enamored with Kate Bush’s ‘85 classic, ‘Running Up that Hill.” It ultimately serves as a catalyst for her to break free from Vecna’s curse and escape from the Mind Lair and back into the real world. The song plays a huge part as both a production and storyline tool, reminiscent of the brilliant narrative-driven utilization of chvrches’ “Forever” in the Spanish teen drama, Elite.
Lyrically– we’d expect a song about redemption, tracking your memories, or repressing your pain.
Musically– we’d anticipate a quintessential pop tune, with a weird, sci-fi twist. Perhaps a wide melodic range, with some chromatic surprises.
Sonically– a sci-fi/electro-pop- not too weird but not too mainstream.
Sync Reality (MyPart / LyricFind):
Lyrically– The song’s symbolism of the “deal with God” lyric was an ingenious fit for Max’s theme and the show in general. MyPart identified Bush’s track as a song about Infatuation, Love, Hedonism, and Success. It traces the song’s sadness, passion, and enigmatic features (the feature Enigmatic received 5/5 grade). It’s not easy for an AI or human being to discern the irony in Bush’s positive writing, expressing the dark side of relationships between man and woman. However, it traces that irony by hinting that the song deals with self-esteem and hedonism on the one hand, as well as pleasure, longing, and yearning on the other. LyricIQ picked up on that inherent contradiction as well, identifying equal amounts of sadness and enjoyment, but an overall positive sentiment. The lyrics are not excessively verbose, but are rather minimalistic, with Bush using very few words to generate a whole spectrum of emotions. The end-of-line perfect rhymes are not unique, and the level of word familiarity is not exceptionally high. Yet, it is original, displays no clichés, and works effectively with the mystery of the music.
Musically– the song’s key in C minor and features six melodic hooks. If we add it to the synth/Fairlight CMI melodic hook, one might have a sense that it is pretty catchy. But there is much more than that: the haunting melody is unique with musical intervals and leaps, creating that sense of mystery.
Sonically– MyPart identified the song as a rock song, and despite its excessive uses of the Linn Drum machine and Fairlight CMI sequencer (1980s state-of-the-art tech) the production lacks the ‘80s heavy trade sound signatures. It has no heavy gated-reverb snare or high pop frequencies/Hi-Hat sound, but rather a tribal tom-toms drum groove. The sci-fi hooks are timeless, reminiscent of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” making it feel current.
Following the Stranger Things sync, Spotify revealed streams for the song increased by a staggering 9,900% in the US, while streams of the rest of Bush’s discography increased an amazing 439%. According to the company, this is one of the biggest trends happening in the industry. “When listeners arrive to check out that track they’ve just heard in a TV show, commercial, or movie,” explains Bryan Johnson, Spotify’s international head of artist and industry partnerships, “it’s easy for them to then go even deeper into an artist’s catalog on Spotify, save their new favorite songs to playlists, and share them with friends.”
Its appearance led to the song’s resurgence on charts around the world, topping the charts in eight countries, including the UK for three consecutive weeks and Australia for nine non-consecutive weeks. The song also reached a new peak of number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Its Shazam numbers exploded following the sync, from a total of 1 million Shazams before its first Stranger Things airing on May 27 to more than 4 million to date. It even broke a couple of records: Bush is now the oldest female to top the chart, and 37 years is the longest time it’s taken for a song after release to reach the top spot in the charts. Many would claim this was the single most culturally significant sync of the year. “We’ll be hearing about it for the next 10 years at least, in terms of a reference point in marketing meetings,” says Jonathan Palmer of record label and music publisher BMG.
MyPart is considered the standard for song search and analysis. It has developed AI technology able to find songs that match creative and commercial needs by deeply analyzing lyrics, music, and sound.
MyPart recently launched the first-ever AI-powered song marketplace to meet the needs of sync teams, music supervisors/coordinators, A&Rs and other creative executives in music, TV/Film, and advertising. The marketplace offers an extensive selection of music ranging from major labels and publishers to independent artists. MyPart enables users to accurately and efficiently find songs for their creative projects through a variety of advanced search features including various keywords and reference songs.
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LyricIQ by LyricFind is a set of innovative data analysis and filtering tools that uses a mix of AI and manual analysis. Designed to dive deeper into the lyrical content of songs, LyricIQ gives businesses more control over their product offering.
Unlike other mood and sentiment analysis products, LyricIQ’s technology bases the organization and analysis of songs solely on their lyrics. By identifying exactly what is being said in a song, it can better categorize song themes and topics – even if the sound of the song is contrary to its lyrical content.
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