I’m back! Oh, you thought you’d seen the last of me? Well, no such luck. And I’ve come with new pictures too, because I graduated! So behold:
But enough vanity for now, the real reason I’m here is to talk about music; and not just any music, but some of my favourite kind – soundtracks! I’m about to give you a run down of some of my favourite movie soundtracks. I’ve included both composed scores and soundtracks with curated music because really, I couldn’t pick just one or the other. I love both equally the same way a good parent loves the left and right side of their headphones equally. And I’ve put them in alternating order.
How I made my picks:
Before we begin, let me give you a quick breakdown: There was a certain criteria when coming up with this list that I should break down before we get into it:
- To be included here the music has to not only be good on it’s own but also enhance whatever movie it’s in, because we like somebody that can do both.
- You won’t see any noted classics like the soundtracks for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jaws and such. I’ve also tried to exclude composers like John Williams, Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer. I did this because putting the more iconic scores feels kind of like cheating and I’m a proud member of the faithful black men association.
- No musicals or biopics about musical acts. (See point above)
[Lovelies, it’s me Angasa interrupting Nyengo’s guest post to plug 4 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for just £0.99 to enjoy unlimited access to 50 million+ songs, ad-free listening, offline listening and hands-free listening with Alexa] [Please proceed]
Without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:
Sucker Punch (Various Artists)
This is the first one that came to mind when I was asked to do this list, because it is literally perfection. Sucker Punch is a pretty dark movie so to accompany that, they got the actors to make very dark covers of some classics. The results are nothing short of enchanting. The moment you hear their version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” you know it’s gonna be a ride. It just sucks you in and you never come back. The movie had it’s faults for me but the soundtrack was so good I just couldn’t hate it. There was literally a point in it where I thought “this is kinda weird but that ‘Where Is My Mind?’ track is fire!” So it’s fair to say sweet dreams are made of this, who am… Yeah you know how the rest of the song goes. And if you don’t, I’m disgusted.
Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)
Okay, I promised no Hans Zimmer but I had to make this one exception. If you thought I was perfect and would never break a rule now you know I’m a flawed human being with different shades of grey and that nuance should make you appreciate me more, not less. But speaking of nuance and making terrible segues, this soundtrack almost single-handedly made the movie for me. The pounding drum circles, the haunting choruses, the victoriously hopeful Superman theme, everything, it’s all so uniquely crafted, nuanced (see what I did there) and all beautiful. I literally picture the different scenes as I listen to the soundtrack, because they’re that tied together for me, and that to me is the mark of a good soundtrack.
Creed (Various Artists)
I may be a bit biased here because my Woman Crush All Day Everyday Tessa Thompson put her divine vocals on this, but I’m pretty sure I’d like it regardless. The tag says Various Artists but the mastermind behind this is really Ludwig Göransson. He’s done work with both scores and studio albums (with artists like Childish Gambino) which explains why he’s able to get the two different parts of it to work so well individually and mesh so well together. Not to perpetuate the stereotype around violence in hip-hop but it goes perfectly with the boxing. It even had me listening to borderline mumble rap! Me, mumble rap! It embarrasses me just thinking about it but it works. Plus the hints of psychedelic R&B gives it all the perfect lift to inspire you into feeling like you can do anything. If that anything is boxing though just remember you’re not Michael B. Jordan and people don’t give enough of a damn about your looks not to ruin your face.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Daniel Pemberton)
It’s easy for composers to get complacent and just phone it in with their scores because they know the general public won’t really mind (looking at you Marvel Cinematic Universe). But thankfully we have heroes like Daniel Pemberton, who won’t rest until they give you sounds that make you both question why they’re there and wonder why no one did it before. Take this for example, some of the best parts of it are built around the sound of a man panting while he’s seemingly running for his life. Sound ridiculous? Yes it is. But it’s also freaking awesome! It makes the whole thing feel frantic and could even leave you feeling breathless, if you aren’t in peak physical condition like me of course.
Spider-Man: Into The SPIDER-VERSE (Various Artists)
This is the most recent entry on the list, so I might be suffering from recency bias. And I’m a huge Spider-Man fan, so I might be suffering from Spider-Man bias. And the movie was just plain awesome, so I might be suffering from awesomeness bias. But this was some really good music. It went with the young urban personality Miles Morales had and felt like it was really just his own personal playlist, playing in the background of the universe (or Spider-Verse). The only thing I could fault it on is that all the older songs, like the Biggie Smalls track, aren’t on the official soundtrack album. So we’re left with a bunch of skrrr skrrr artists, which normally wouldn’t be my cup of tea. But they seem to have chosen the best of all that garbage and I actually like the music here, even if I’d never actually get any of their albums. And that ability to bring together something out of my usual and still get me to like it deserves a lot of credit.
Star Trek Into Darkness (Michael Giacchino)
What can I say about this one? It has pianos. I love pianos. It has horns. I love horns. It has Benedict Cumberbatch. I love Benedict Cumberbatch. Well, the soundtrack doesn’t have him but it compliments his performance so well that the two go hand in hand in my mind. There’s even one track called Ode to Harrison that has you feeling the villainy oozing right out of it, a totally not weird way. Okay I guess it’s too late to retract the weirdness but weird be damned, it is lit! If being a genetically modified super human responsible for a lot of heinous acts but is really loving at his core and would do anything for his crew needed a theme, this right here is it. And everything else fits around it beautifully, like the theme at the end that sounds so elegant I’m certain you could ballroom dance to it.
Drive (Various Artists)
Ryan Gosling is a real human being, and a real hero. When Carrie Mulligan met him he kept her under his spell. What am I saying right now? Am I just rambling? Nope, I’m making references to the movie even though I know most of you won’t catch them because it isn’t that popular. But I did it anyway to create a little FOMO so you watch the movie and it gets the recognition it deserves. And if that doesn’t work it still makes me feel a little bit more clever, so hey. But back to the point, this movie has minimal dialogue and it only works because the visuals work together with the soundtrack to get everything across. All the things I said about real heroes and spells weren’t conveyed in dialogue, they are done in music, because the background sounds aren’t just here to enhance the storytelling, they are the storytelling. And it’s a story that’s told beautifully.
Mad Max: Fury Road (Junkie XL)
Tom Holkenborg is going to ride into Valhalla for this, shiny and chrome. And we are all witnesses. The whole thing embodies the organized chaos that makes the movie amazing. It’s distinct enough that you can hear it elsewhere and recognise it but never so overpowering that it starts to make itself the star of the show. It’s always just right. I can’t imagine all the crazy action scenes in the movie would be nearly as cool without it. And it instantly makes you picture the movie when you hear it, which probably means it’s not the best thing to use in the background of a study session, speaking from experience. But my study failings aside (which aren’t really failings because I’m still one degree hotter) this is a great soundtrack.
Baby Driver (Various Artists)
Bell-bottoms! Bell-bottoms! Bell-bottoms! Bell-bottoms! Bell-bottoms! Bell-bot… Okay I’m not just going to keep on saying that, even though I’d like to. But what else can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said. It’s a music-in-movie lover’s wet dream. It’s the embodiment of music enhancing the movie experience. It’s the gold standard. And it’s not just the song selection, it’s how they work, especially with the little things. During a chase scene, the songs are timed so that the tempo changes with the change in tempo of the action scenes. During a firefight the gunshots go off with the sharp kicks in the music. The music is literally edited to fit with the scenes, or maybe the other way around. Either way, it works. It’s enough to make a grown man like me shed tears of joy as I watch Jon Hamm go on a rampage.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Various Artists)
Ever wondered what it would look like if you could package George Clooney’s charm as music? Well look no further! This has got all the Wes Anderson feel good vibes that you’d expect. And fits in perfectly with the beautiful stop-motion animation. It’s distinct, fun and honestly just makes you smile, just like the rest of the movie. In fact it’s really part of the reason the rest of the movie makes you smile. And at the end of the day isn’t that all that really matters? A little positivity. Some air in this world that sometimes feels like it’s suffocating you. A relief from the pressure when you feel like the walls are closing in and you slowly give up as you wonder what you really do it fo… Oh wait, this isn’t going to a therapist? It’s going up on a blog? Right, my bad, forget all that. Just remember this soundtrack will make it smile and carry on.
Honourable Mention 1: The Fault in Our Stars/Me Before You/The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Various Artists)
This is to represent all these young adult targeted romantic movies out there because they always seem to have good music. I can’t include it in the list because I’m not sure whether the music fits and enhances the movie experience or I just think it does because this is music I’d probably like regardless. But I can tell you it’s damn good music. You don’t even need to like the movies to like them. I mean I haven’t even seen Twilight but I listen to that soundtrack all the time. For these the music is mostly pop/rock-ish, with some of it up-tempo and happy so you can listen to it while you’re running on the high of love, and some of it down tempo so you can listen to it when your lover breaks your heart and you want to cry yourself to sleep (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Honourable Mention 2: Digimon: The Movie (Various Artists)
This is probably the first case I can remember where I realised how much soundtracks really matter to me. There’s not much to say other than the music just fits man, it just fits. I first watched this when I was around 6 years old and ever since then the music here has been very close to my heart. Even as a kid, years after watching the movie, hearing the songs brought a bunch of fond memories. It didn’t get in because it’s a nostalgia pick but I love it. Plus as a bonus, one of my fondest friendships was built on the back of this music, really (that and computer games).
Basically it went like this: my 8 year old self was dragged to a mum’s friend’s house after school. Me being the antisocial child I was, went straight to their computer to play games while I passed the time instead of chatting with their daughter. This was despite the fact that she was my age, because I didn’t have time for all that “sitting down and getting to know people” nonsense. I actually really liked the games so another random day after school I asked to go back and play games, and my mum dropped me off there while she ran errands. While there I started singing along to Smash Mouth’s All-Star when it came on TV and the daughter asked me if I’d seen the movie Rat Race, because she assumed everyone who knew the song had seen it. I told her I hadn’t, I heard it in Digimon instead. We got into a little argument about it because our little minds couldn’t comprehend that a song could appear in more than one movie. Fast forward through all that and we both agreed to watch the other’s movie and then became really good friends. I asked to go to her house to “play games on their computer” a lot of times after that, which of course wasn’t the reason I actually went (we just watched Transformers together instead). And thus a beautiful friendship was formed. Just goes to show the power of good music in movies.
And you might ask what happened after. Did we have an awkward “will they/won’t they” phase in our teens? Was there ever any sitting in a tree that led to love, marriage and a baby carriage? Or you know, just a normal, long term platonic friendship? Nope. There might have been, if she were around, but her family moved to Namibia around a year later. So we’ll never know what could have been. But hey, at least we still have All-Star.