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SYFY WIRE Diablo Cody

Why "Through the Trees" Is Actually the Perfect Song for Jennifer's Body

The power ballad from the misunderstood horror comedy is both inoffensive and extremely annoying.

By James Grebey
Nikolai Wolf (Adam Brody) purses his lips in Jennifer's Body (2009).

The film Jennifer’s Body was unfairly maligned when it came out in 2009, though to be fair, that’s partly because it was advertised as something it isn’t. Titillating trailers for the Diablo Cody-penned comedy horror played up how sexy star Megan Fox was, with a lot of emphasis on a kiss she has with co-star Amanda Seyfried. The exploitative, male-gaze-y movie in the trailers was not what the actual film was, though.

It’s unfortunate the promotion got Jennifer’s Body so wrong when the movie got so much right. It’s a feminist cult classic that deftly handles issues of empowerment and queerness, predicts the #MeToo movement, and is also a pretty cutting indictment of post-9/11 American culture. And, it’s also a great satirization of music in the late-’00s, specifically the fictional band Low Shoulder and their song “Through the Trees,” which sucks just the right amount. 

In Jennifer’s Body, which is now streaming on Peacock, Anita "Needy" Lesnicki (Seyfried), an insecure high school student, and her popular outgoing best friend Jennifer Check (Fox), sneak into a dive bar to see a band perform. The band is called Low Shoulder, and the lead singer Nikolai Wolf (Adam Brody) takes a liking to Jennifer. She goes off with the band after a fire erupts in the bar, killing several patrons. 

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Why the Song "Though the Trees" Makes Sense for Jennifer's Body

It’s not until later in the movie that we learn that the band attempted to sacrifice Jennifer to Satan in exchange for success. The problem is that because Jennifer lied about being a virgin, the sacrifice doesn’t work, and she’s been possessed by a demon. Before this comes to light, though, the small Minnesota town where Needy and Jennifer live has rallied around Low Shoulder’s single “Through the Trees,” a power ballad that brings to mind bands of the era like Switchfoot, Keane, or Hoobastank. 

If you lived through the era, you know that those comparisons are not exactly, uh, flattering. And yet, there was a reason why songs like, well, “The Reason” were popular and you could hear them being played everywhere. They were catchy, largely inoffensive, and even verging on bland — something that became a bug, not a feature when you heard them too often. 

“I think it completely serves its purpose,” Jennifer’s Body director Karyn Kusama said of “Through the Trees” in an interview with Billboard. “Which is that we believe that the characters both remember the song instantaneously, after hearing it one time, and that the town would elevate it to a hit. And we believe that a character like Needy would just feel, like, insane from how frequently they’re playing the song.”

Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) wears a bloody white dress in Jennifer's Body (2009).

In real life, it wasn’t a bunch of Satan-worshiping Indie rockers but the real band Test Your Reflex who created “Through the Trees.” The group doubled for the background members of the band, and frontman Ryan Levine wrote the song and provided the vocals that would be dubbed over Brody’s Nikolai. As a band, Test Your Reflex are a bit peppier than Low Shoulder — compare them to The Kooks rather than Hoobastank — so hopefully this doesn’t come across as an indictment of their skills as musicians. Rather, it’s a testament to their ability to create a song that’s perfect for the movie it's in. 

“Through the Trees” isn’t a bad song. It’s not a good song, either. It just kinda sucks, which is perfect for Jennifer's Body

Jennifer’s Body is now streaming on Peacock