Now that casting is all but complete for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (see the handy chart), attention turns to the all-important soundtrack. Will it be the aural blueprint for the tone of the film or just another grab bag of blog-buzzy indie songs? Who knows!
It has been confirmed that Metric — who are Canadian. Synergy! — are contributing an unreleased track called “Black Sheep” to the film. Now, the speculation. It was reported that über-producer Nigel Goodrich (Radiohead, Beck, U2, basically everyone who’s anyone really) was the one who requested the Metric song be included. So maybe he’s the one curating the soundtrack? The Playlist thinks “probably yes,” given that a) director Edgar Wright and his pals are friends with Goodrich and b) “Radiohead and members of Broken Social Scene were caught hanging out in Toronto last year.” Straws? Clutched. Still, I’ll take Nigel Goodrich “curating” a soundtrack over Zach Braff/“music supervisor” Amanda Scheer Demme’s Garden State work any day (more on that later).
But! Does the soundtrack now even add any value to a film, besides being another marketing hook and revenue stream, now that iTunes killed the album and the single as commodity is worth more than the sum total of the entire collection of songs? Though arguably, has it ever? There was I think a time, let’s say the eighties through the early-mid-nineties, when there may have been some intrinsic value to the collection of songs accompanying a film, because crass marketeering hadn’t quite tainted the enterprise. (See: the soundtracks to Pump Up the Volume and Pretty in Pink.) It seemed to go on so, as Singles begat Reality Bites, then what before was, to reiterate a point, a sort of aural reflection of the themes-slash-emotions of the movies and their characters became a sort of dumping ground for bands with ties to the studios that produced said movie or else they were some focus-tested, marketing tool’s idea of what would appeal to “the kids.”
Of late we’ve seen a resurgence, if it could be called that, in the soundtrack as sibling of sorts to the film. People near creamed their jeans over Zach Braff’s Garden State efforts, but honey, I could hit shuffle on my iPod and put together a more interesting and cohesive effort than that. Then came Juno, with its signature Moldy Peaches song. The Shins: Garden State :: Moldy Peaches: Juno. At least the Shins ares still around, the Peaches had both split and were well into their own solo careers when that song blew up, leading to awkward reunion performances of “Anyone Else But You” on “The View,” of all places. Twee to be you and me! So then, these “curated” soundtrack efforts are really like that annoying music-obsessed friend of yours who gets all shouty with you about listening to this AMAZING BAND. That they can’t believe you HAVEN’T HEARD OF. Sigh.
And let’s not forget the most recent entry, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which like “Scott Pilgrim” stars Michael Cera as an irritatingly lovable musician. Of that movie’s musical palette, let’s hear from Spin:
As it turns out, Where’s Fluffy is the most anthemic act in Nick and Norah’s, and they’re a fictional band who don’t play a single song. But you get the sense that being among the first to know about them — and their secret show and their obscure EP, Black Carnage — defines these characters. And nothing else in their playlist really does.
Unfortunately there is no magic formula to guarantee that a certain song (or songs) paired with the onscreen antics of the film’s leads will produce an iconic moment, as with Lloyd Dobler and his boombox in Say Anything blasting “In Your Eyes.” (Though I’m sure there are bleary-eyed peons shackled to desks in the backlots of Hollywood trying to calculate just such a formula.) It would seem that “Scott Pilgrim” is tailor-made for a dynamic, ecclectic soundtrack that reflects the internal life of the characters, as all of them live in a band-centric universe (in between paying rent and fighting off evil ex-boyfriends). So there’s hope. If not, there’s a pretty good chance you own all the songs they’ll use in the film anyway, in which case they’ll just blend into the background like so much white noise.