For the RELEVANT Roundtable, we ask our slate of culture writers a question and compile their responses. This week’s question in honor of A Star Is Born:Which movie soundtrack can you not stop playing?
Lesley Crews: Without a doubt, 500 Days of Summer. This is a soundtrack I’ll go back to time and time again. It’s got Hall & Oates, Simon and Garfunkle, Mumm-Ra, the Temper Trap and a heavy influence by the Smiths. This movie is sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes depressing, sometimes endearing. The soundtrack follows suit. It has a hipster vibe without being overbearing, and it makes you want to go on an IKEA date and fall in love for the first time all at once.
Matt Conner: As a lifelong fan of The Frames, Once is an auto-response here. While he’s hardly a household name, Glen Hansard found new levels of popularity after he played the male lead alongside Marketa Irglova in this musical movie that’s equally inspiring in storyline and soundtrack. The Frames have been Hansard’s longtime Irish rock vehicle, and it was great to see some of those tunes translated for a larger audience—beautiful songs like “Say It To Me Now” and “All The Way Down.” Hansard is still turning out great music and this soundtrack provided him a platform worthy of the work.
Joy Netanya Thompson: Every year at Christmas time, I watch The Holiday, that whimsical snowglobe of a Nancy Meyers movie. Kate Winslet and Jack Black’s goofy, sweet romance always charms me, and 12 years later I still swoon over Iris’s dreamy English cottage. But the instrumental soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer is a year-round staple on my Spotify, thanks to the fact that it doesn’t sound Christmas-y at all. The music makes ordinary tasks like washing dishes or working on a laptop in my home—that’s a far cry from a Nancy Meyers set—feel like an uplifting, heartwarming, feel-good time.
Joshua Pease: As someone who has created a thousand-song Spotify writing playlists largely filled with movie soundtracks, this is tough to pin down, but the answer has to be the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Doing any sort of creative work to this soundtrack is the auditory equivalent of cocaine, and it’s pretty fantastic. The only downside is you’ll experience Stephen King-esque levels of hubris in which you’re convinced the 5,000 words you just turned in for your 800-word assignment are literally the best things that have ever been written and no editor can tell you otherwise (yes, I’m listening to the Tron soundtrack while writing this, why?).
Seth Tower Hurd: I realize it’s frustrating to choose an album that’s not on all streaming platforms (Apple Music subscribers, check it via a free Spotify account), but it’s worth your time to track down the Gangs of New York soundtrack. It’s an authentic mix of Irish and American period folk tunes, along with some left-field stuff that includes African and Chinese rhythms and instruments. The movie is as epic as it is tragic, and the soundtrack sticks to the same script. It’s a mix that’s likely a far cry from your normal streaming habits, but that’s exactly what makes the Gangs soundtrack an experience that transports you to another century.
Tyler Daswick: The Disney canon is loaded with classic soundtracks, but the most underappreciated is from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The tunes here are rich blends of tone and theme, but they also reveal character and advance plot in a way that makes listening to the songs a practical retelling of the movie. “Hellfire” is one of the best villain songs Disney has ever done, and the crescendo of “Bells of Notre Dame” has a spine-tingling grandiosity that I’m not sure has been topped by an animated musical. The whole thing makes you imagine great heights and vast cityscapes and souls in deep, rupturing conflict. It’s intense, but like all Disney, pleasurable and gorgeous, too.