From The Album...
Somewhere in the many months it took to produce The Fast and the Furious 8, someone or some team had to work on the soundtrack. Suicide Squad did wonders for bands like Twenty One Pilots, who just needed that one recognizable hit to break through. Films have been doing this for years, and Furious 8 was no exception. When the track list was revealed to feature artists like Pnb rock, Post Malone, Jeremih, and Pitbull, the world collectively asked itself, why. Why did we need a soundtrack stuffed with so many artists, each more immediately repulsive than the last? Unsurprisingly, it was terrible. Is anyone still bopping to "Candy Paint"?
Furious 8 is not the only offender, but it might be the worst. For one, the cost of tapping these artists is insane, and their relevance is constantly in flux. Movie execs are following the least productive trend in recent film history, wasting thousands on pointless compilation albums that serve as musical posters. Take a look at most every blockbuster film soundtrack in recent years, and know that I'm telling the truth. Suicide Squad, the LAST Furious movie, Deadpool, Black Panther, Hunger Games, Justice League; the list goes on and on. In the last decade, blockbuster films have completely forgotten how to handle soundtracks, and the solution lies with independents.
Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name included some of the most memorable original music of the year, and was nominated for a Grammy. Sufjan Stevens's two original tracks and one re-worked song from his 2011 album The Age of Adz bottled the tone of the film daftly. His smooth and airy voice, the fingerpicked guitars/washy synths, it all fit perfectly with the lush Italian setting of the film. The only problem was that the music was so indebted to Stevens's style that it did almost nothing to promote the film. This is one of the essential questions of film soundtracks: How can it sell as much as possible? Another important one is, does it embody everything that people love about the film? Think about some of the most famous songs associated with films: My Heart Will Go On, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Lose Yourself, Mrs. Robinson, Stayin' Alive. These songs live on even as the films they represent are forgotten or unseen by the masses. My Heart Will Go On, for example, accompanies one of the highest grossing films of all time. The song allowed people to take the pain home with them, to relive the emotional trauma of Jack and Rose's forbidden love. If this seems obvious, it should; film studios seem to have forgotten it.
Selecting the right artist is hard enough, but the right piece of music is even harder. When industry titans like The Fast and the Furious assemble albums of complete crap and attempt to pass them off as "relevant" or "inspired by", they do us all a disservice. Treating the audience like a bunch of taste-stripped, generic squares is both idiotic and consequential. Music in film should be treasured, labored over, and purposeful. Just today, Thom Yorke released a song from his upcoming Suspiria soundtrack. It sets the example, and proves that some people still know what they're doing. When will movie executives turn off Post Malone and start listening to Radiohead?