take my danger zone away

From the Top Gun (1986) soundtrack:

Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone

Berlin - Take My Breath Away

How do we even begin to comprehen
d this?

In High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood, Wyatt notes that high concept films, of which Top Gun is exemplary, depend primarily upon the mode of 'reducibility' in the basic combination of genre, stars, style, music and marketing (with the last factor likely determining). Danger Zone and Take My Breath Away are probably best understood as key epiphenomena in the marketing-textual (the two are thoroughly collapsed in high concept - it advertises itself as it screens) network of T
op Gun. Both songs, and their videos, are part of a promotional strategy for the film that seeks to fuse together the success of these songs with that of the film, not only on a financial level but also one of meaning. Both are highly simplistic, yet 'powerful', tracks, that are reducible musically to certain lines ("hiii-waay to the / dain-gah zone") or sounds (that strange 'wong wong' that persists throughout Take My Breath Away).

This is all fairly self-evident stuff, but I suppose that's exactly what's worth recognising he
re: how obvious the 'synergistic' marketing strategies and highly simplistic thematics of Top Gun (and other high concept films) were in this period. It's interesting, in part, because this was around the time in which postmodern theory was booming, and many other realms of popular culture were busy responding to this via ironic gestures and deconstructive techniques. Top Gun completely ignores, forgets and/or denies these developments, instead choosing to swing through on a level of unabashed blatancy (did I just make that word up?) that's even more spectacular for the fact that it's unchecked by any sense of self-awareness.

So the songs - let's start with Kenny Loggins' epic, in which bendy bass-synths, epic drums signalling themselves into oblivion and crunching guitars come together for one of the rockingest tracks ever. In terms of affect, its hard not to find yourself feeling the need ... THE NEED FOR SPEED, when you hear this number. So
nically (and lyrically, der) it's best described in terms aeronautical: flight, speed, g-force - and watching the clip it's just striking how strong the fit between the music and its imaging, and thus the film, is. Central to the high concept movie is something like a video clip aesthetic - quick cuts, stylised scenery, etc. - it's no wonder Danger Zone is played ad nauseam throughout the movie itself, and that Maverick himself "ride[s] into the danger zone" on his bike in that scene where he trails a jet taking off with fists pumping. Most hilarity from the video, though, is definitely the shots of Loggins interspersing the film material, standing in some no-space bedroom singing to himself in the old Ray Bans (promotion within promotion, astounding!).

These two songs demand to be understood as a pair, as they're intended to replicate the binary themes of love and combat that the film itself plays out ever so modularly and nicely. If Danger Zone is the boys' track, one pumped in F1 (but not MIG!) cockpits everywhere, then Take My Breath Away is its sensitive feminised counterpart. Thus in the Danger Zone clip we mainly get action cuts from the film, whereas in the Take My Breath Away video it's romantic incursions. Of course, these two arenas are thoroughly intertwined, as Top Gun umistakeably ties the phallus to the weapon, and establishes a cle
ar identity between male courting and military combat. This point itself would be fun to dwell on: the way in which the bar scene where Maverick first meets Charlotte (the bar being a "target-rich area") parallels the opening combat scene (the men being 'on patrol' in both); the way in which pilots gives one of the men a 'hard-on'; etc. etc.

But let's move onto Berlin's comparatively 'limp' love song - here, the forceful instrumentation of Danger Zone (and its aggressive lyrics - "on the e
dge", "in overdrive") are slowed down, made passive and receptive ("still anticipating", "take my breath away"). The masculine/feminine binary couldn't be more obvious, or offensive, but here it is in full view! It's no surprise these tracks were both written by Giorgio Moroder; dude even won an Oscar for Take My Breath Away. And if much of Top Gun can be seen (quite plausibly) as men flying (and riding) around in their phallic symbols, and as Maverick's ongoing synthesis with his steel machine, then its also no big surprise that in the film clip for Take My Breath Away we have Terri Nunn offering herself up in a big, gaping, creepy, hollowed-out aeroplane, then abandoning herself atop an F1.

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