Before the 'Huntsman': Snow White's life in pop songs
Kristen Stewart's Snow White re-imagines the character as an unbreakable warrior in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Yet as resilient as Stewart's White may be, chances are she won't ever inspire a song written by a Beatle.
The Brothers Grimm tale remains a durable one, evidenced not just by "Snow White and the Huntsman" but this year's "Mirror Mirror." Snow White has endured cultural shifts. She's been animated, she's been the center of a romantic comedy and she's been romanticized by indie rockers and Snoop Dogg alike.
Snow White's musical history may not be as rich as her lineage in literature or film, but it exists.
"Snow White and the Huntsman" has a signature song of its own, and it's safe to say Florence + the Machine's "Breath of Life" is no "Whistle While You Work," its beat a soldier's march and its backing vocals a monk-like chant. "Breath of Life" puts belter Florence Welch in Stewart's fighting role, with the singer channelling an optimistic heroine looking for reasons to carry on.
There are no seven dwarfs in Florence + the Machine's song, and it definitely is not set in a world named after a male appendage. Wait ... what? As the examples below will show, musicians have had some rather colorful interpretations of the fairy tale.
Snow White as illegal substance
This seems the most obvious Snow White interpretation for the music community, so we'll get the cocaine reference out of the way. Yet at least locals Odd Future coat the violence in mystery, as the murky, nearly beat-less, not-safe-for-work "Snow White" is a blur of corrupt police, emaciated women and unsafe playgrounds.
The British Invasion Snow White
There's lore surrounding nearly every Beatles song, but the fairy tale-inspired beginnings of "Do You Want to Know A Secret" are relatively easy to spot. Just as the beat kicks in, the George Harrison-sung tune quotes "I'm Wishing" from Disney's animated musical with the lines, "Do you want to know a secret? / Do you promise not to tell?"
Snow White the goth rocker
Evanescence's "Snow White Queen" opens in a swamp of electronics but soon does away with any gossamer otherworldliness by laying on the heavy metal guitars. It occupies the space between "Snow White and the Huntsman" and the "Twilight" series. Fans of both will find this one familiar, as this tale focuses squarely on the drama of being haunted by an unknown obsessor.
Snow White's ambient chant-driven nightmare
Leave it to Roger Waters and Pink Floyd collaborator Ron Geesin to reference Snow White with utter creepiness. This two-minute song -- and that word is used loosely -- is titled "More Than Seven Dwarfs in Penis-Land." It's a mix of the spooky and the playful in one little ditty, and was recorded for the '70s science documentary "The Body."
Snow White as holiday serenade
In their "Snow White," Boys II Men sing of "wishing upon a star" in this tale of love gained and then lost. While the song is named "Snow White," the meaning is more literal, as the Boyz here are alone during the holidays. The object of their affection, however, is but a dream.
Snow White the professional
There's plenty left unsaid in the songs of Dan Bejar and that's no different with his "Hey, Snow White," which he recorded as Destroyer and covered with his New Pornographers. The slow-building guitar anthem comes complete with bell-like chimes in the background and its few lyrics reference corporate stress. But instead of happily ever after, Bejar's message is to "learn to love what you own."
Snow White the emo heartbreaker
"You've got what I want," the Cure's Robert Smith sings to open "The Real Snow White," and proceeds to beg and howl as he contradicts himself and makes empty promises over slashing guitars. Evil queens need to be avoided, sure, but hopeless romantics bring plenty of drama themselves. "You're not the real Snow White," Smith snarls, only to follow that up by confessing his infidelities. The battle here is purely emotional, as this kind of obsession is best dealt with by blocked phone numbers and restraining orders.
Snow White as the target of a devil dog
Don't bother trying to make heads or tails of the Snoop Dogg film "Bones" and its accompanying soundtrack. There are corrupt cops and a murderous ghost hound, but the sprightly little "Death of Snow White" comes with a skip-along beat that never matches the menace of the lyrics. This is a celebration of the macabre, with a princess seemingly unaware her life is being threatened.
Snow White, if she were in a Coen brothers film
Few do humor and death as well as the Handsome Family. "I am eating hash browns in the Snow White diner," sings the grave-voiced Brett Sparks, and he then proceeds to tell of watching the cleanup of a woman who drove her car into a lake. This is reality, in all its harshness, as a fairy tale has been reduced to a lonely roadside diner in the aptly titled "Snow White Diner." And people are saying "Snow White and the Huntsman" is dark.
No doubt this is just a surface-level look at Snow White references in pop music. Tell us what we missed.
-- Todd Martens
Images: Kristen Steweart, left, as Snow White in "Snow White and the Huntsman" (Associated Press / Universal Pictures) and local hip-hop collective Odd Future (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times).