A few days ago, I started a discussion about the shows and their opening credits, particularly the music themes that we’ve come to associate with them.
This is by no means a new topic, since the great and unfortunately late website World of Soap Themes (WoST) comprehensively collected and featured themes from radio and TV soaps.
But I specifically wanted to think about them in terms of how the shows use the openings to set the mood – and to define the identity of a show. In some cases, as a soap has gone through an identity crisis, so has its opening.
I know I’ve posted a great deal about Guiding Light lately (and I promise the next few posts won’t focus so much on GL). But it’s perhaps the most ideal show to profile here, since it’s changed its theme perhaps more frequently in the last 25 years or so than any other program.
Since 1996 alone, GL has changed opening theme music no fewer than five times. GL has BEEN in an almost-perpetual identity crisis during that time, so it’s not surprising that the theme music would reflect that.
Here was the sophisticated, adult theme in the late 1970s:
There was the FUN! disco theme. An obvious attempt, as all shows made at that time, to capitalize on the action/adventure elements General Hospital injected into daytime:
There was several more recent nondescript openings. None of these were BAD, per se, but none of them especially seemed to be a reflection of the show or capture its spirit:
There was the 70th anniversary one. I thought the sentiment was lovely, but it was so at odds with what the show is about now it seemed ludicrous.
And the current theme. Which to me just seems like it’s a jingle for some feminine hygiene product. Or a Up With People song….I’m not sure which.
It seems so odd to me that GL has gone through so MANY themes, because it actually had a theme that, like the DAYS and Y&R theme, it should have never let go. In fact, it struck gold twice.
The first time was the theme that was unveiled after the disco theme. It was simply perfect: majestic, hopeful, sad, with happy notes, sad notes, drama, and a beautiful ending.
Ah, Nola and Vanessa.
It was fantastic as it was, and ran that way for several years. But then someone got bored with it and started tinkering with it. The theme was synthesized and a new opening with a sky-blue background was unveiled. That version wasn’t as good. (It sounded like music from an aerobics class.)
And THEN, somehow, they found another theme that was just as great.
Again: majestic, dramatic, hopeful, and a fantastic attention grabbing opening and closing. You KNEW what show you were in for when you heard that.
Perhaps themes are as anachronistic as many of the other elements I love about soaps and about all shows. After all, many nighttime shows I watch (Brothers & Sisters and Grey’s Anatomy among them) either ditched their themes or never had one.
But I still think music can help shape our reactions to what we see. They pull at our emotions and make us feel so many other levels of what we’ve just seen. I think when shows toss out the baby with the bathwater to get a “sparkling” new theme, they do so at their own peril.