Chad White, Musical Conesieur, Terrible Speller
I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s no secret. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first two Hunger Games films. And The Man With The Iron Fists was an okay film with its own problems. But that these movies have in common is very crucial to a potential blockbuster: the soundtrack. When a film excels in a musical direction, it can make the ride a lot more enjoyable.
A well picked out set of songs makes an excellent movie even better. How did you feel once you heard the Commodores’ “Machine Gun” play during Boogie Nights for the first time? It felt amazing, right? Like someone got you. That feeling might be reserved for the older audience. How about this: during the new Great Gatsby when Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” began to play your heart soared along with the scene where Gatsby is showing Nick and Daisy around his land. The music flowed beautifully with what was meant to be a turning point with the film. Gatsby finally spends time with his love and Nick learns more about the mysterious party thrower. That is the type of emotion that filmmakers want to portray in their medium. Sure, you can get that with a good enough script but words can only go so far. Music can too be a culprit behind tension just like its siblings writing and acting.
Back to the titles I mentioned before, these films host prime examples of a perfect soundtrack. Look at Hunger Games as well as Catching Fire. Both feature an eclectic group of artists that span all genres of music. In the first movies pick of artists, we hear from the likes of Taylor Swift and Arcade Fire. These two are playing alongside Kid CuDi and Maroon 5. I love the variation that goes with choosing who will be providing music for the movie. What’s cooler is that the theme of the songs goes along with the theme of the movie. This means that the CD, Songs From District 12, is just as depressing and dark as the film itself. Don’t get me wrong; it gets its highs and lows but it features a more somber approach.
Catching Fire fares a bit more optimistic with its musical presentation. Coldplay’s “Atlas” starts the soundtrack off with a twinge of hope. Then we get pop hits from the likes of Christina Aguilera, Sia and The Weeknd with the latter two on one track. It gets a little less indie unlike like its predecessor however. But there’s something to be said about both of these discs. Consideration can even go to the producers because a vast majority of these songs were made just for the release of the movie. Only people that are into the musical aspect of a film would go out to find these tracks. Sia’s “Elastic Heart” (without The Weeknd) was the only one that was taken and put on the artist’s regular record. These songs were made just for these films and that’s what makes them entirely special.
The music of The Guardians of the Galaxy takes soundtracks into a more common direction. The music featured in the movie is entirely made up of songs from the 60’s and 70’s. That same nostalgic feeling you get from Boogie Nights and Pulp Fiction comes into fruition once again. Essentially, the soundtrack is a mix tape with all of the dirt and grime that comes with it. Hell, the name alone makes me want to buy an old 8-track player and install it in my 70’s muscle car with the chain link steering wheel. It was even sadder when it rolled down a hill as I was washing it after I was distracted by my wife Marge. Awesome Mix Vol. 1 gives me hope for the rest of the series. The track list runs the gamut from soul, to glam rock, pop rock, and all the stuff in between. It all works with the goofy aesthetic of the film. Just looking at the producers of the record – including the film’s director James Gunn as well as President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige – you can see how much care was put into choosing the right songs to go with each scene. It is also strange to note that the CD made up of songs from decades ago is also number one album sold right now. I haven’t sang “Escape” by Rupert Holmes this much since Shrek came out.
With the past three movies I’ve written about being big both with critics and audiences, is it possible for a smaller, less received film to have a redeeming soundtrack? Yes. That’s a dumb question to ask.
The RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists wasn’t by any means a great film. However, it did have one banging set list of songs. Headlined with The Black Keys, RZA starts off the soundtrack with an ode to a man who is self-proclaimed “The Baddest Man Alive” which is also the title of the song. What follows next is a song that I find grossly entertaining. Kanye West raps what I believe to be an ode to Kim Kardashian and it is so good. The song, “White Dress,” follows a traveling man who recounts when he first saw the woman he loved. Given the time frame of when this came out, it fits in with the whole Kimye relationship. Other artists on the record include Danny Brown and Corinne Bailey Rae. You’ve got to hand it to RZA. He sure can coordinate a soundtrack.
With all of these films comes a terrific set list of songs. How “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” works with Guardians of the Galaxy is beyond me. Method Man and kung-fu fit so well together it’s ridiculous. One could argue that Taylor Swift shouldn’t be singing a song over the bleak tones of Hunger Games but they’d be wrong. Each of these films has that niche theme that they are trying to hit with their respective soundtracks. Guardians and Iron Fists choose music based on the situation whereas Hunger Games is going for atmosphere. Hearing a song from yesteryear is a treat for those that yearn for their favorite style of music. But that feeling is matched when a new, made-for-the-film song is played. The emotional impact that one gets from music is astounding. With the right scene, a song can go a long way.