Day 6

Awesome Mix Vol. 2: The music that drives Guardians of The Galaxy

Guardians of The Galaxy 2 hit theatres on Friday. Like the first one, the soundtrack is delivered through a dusty mixtape played through an ancient Walkman owned by Chris Pratt's character, Peter Quill. Film critic Norm Wilner says it's not just a smart conceit, it's an essential ingredient to the movie's success.
(Marvel/Disney )

The last time we met Peter Quill, he had just boarded his newly reconstructed spaceship. Wistful, he dug into a tucked-away crate filled with personal items and retrieved a ragged gift he'd been toting since the '80s.

Seeing as he had just saved the Galaxy, Quill ripped into the balloon-themed paper and revealed a homemade mixtape. But was more than just a cassette, it was a series of lessons, hints, messages and rules bequeathed to him by his dying mother. It was also a soundtrack that made Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 possible.

But what was she trying to say to say to her son? What is director James Gunn saying to us through these mixes?

According Norm Wilner, senior film writer for Now Magazine and the host of the Someone Else's Movie Podcast, everything you need to know is right there in the track list.

Here, he walks Day 6 through  a few key songs in the film.

'Awesome Mix Vol. 2'     

NW: First of all, it's important to remember the entire soundtrack for the film — within the world of the film — is curated by Peter Quill's dying mother who gave him the tape as her last gift.

While the songs in the first film were part of a cassette that she had given him to introduce him to the best music of the seventies, this one has more meaning and more thought behind it.

From that angle, this soundtrack is more important than the first. Volume One was a lot of fun and it was zippy and weird and vaguely obscure, but these songs make their own argument.

The sailors say "Brandy, you're a fine girl"   

NW: "Brandy" by Looking Glass is one of the first songs we hear in the film and it's more thematically relevant than you might think for a weird, forgettable song with a lot of guitar.

It's like a lot of the creative decisions James Gunn has made in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. There's a lot of thought put into this and in a really interesting way, in a really subtle way, it tells you things are going to be a little deeper this time.


There might be some melancholy and there might be some regret but there will definitely be a talking raccoon.   

It's a beautiful new day, hey hey

NW: The opening sequence with "Mr. Blue Sky" tells you that, first of all, everything is going to be OK and second, it's going to be crazy.

If you were worried that the pressure to make another gargantuan blockbuster success might boil away some of the idiosyncratic strangeness that made the first Guardians of the Galaxy so much fun, this song — and where it's used and how it's used — is there to tell you everything is going to be just fine.

James Gunn doesn't care about any of that. He's going to make the movie he wants to make. And he has. And it's crazy and fun and insanely complicated. Much like the song, "Mr. Blue Sky".
It's a show of confidence. It's a show of specific weirdness and what it's telling you is that even though there's going to be a lot of gigantic space action going on, it's still got childlike glee and pleasure and you're going to have a blast.


I really want to know you

NW: George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" features heavily into both the plot and the concept of the film. It's a song about meeting God, or at least hoping that God is out there. When you remember that the mixtape was created by Peter's dying mother, it has an extra level of gravity.

It's one of the moments in the film that bristles with potential because Peter is going to his father's home planet.
(Marvel/Disney )

George Harrison unconsciously stole the melody for "My Sweet Lord" from "He's So fine" by The Chiffons, which adds a lovely layer of meta-reference. 

If you take a second to think about it, there's all kinds of layering that makes all kinds of sense. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the sequel to a pre-existing thing. It is taking a pop culture property and expanding upon it. It's riffing on what you can expect and while you can probably make the argument that all of that is unconscious and James Gunn just thought it was a nice song, I'm pretty sure he knows what he's doing.

Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies

NW: Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" reminds us that Guardians of the Galaxy is all about family. No matter what happens in life, no matter who we are or aren't with, the bonds of love, emotion and family can never be broken.

Just like the bonds between the Guardians themselves, even though one is a little tree guy and one is a talking raccoon.


This song playing where it does is a reminder from Peter's mother to Peter that they will always be together and will always be part of each other's lives.

When you think about it, this is sort of a sad movie. Just as the first one was about trying to outrun the pain you experience when you are a kid, this movie is about having to confront that pain as an adult and having to grow up and figure out what to do.

That movie is not Batman v. Superman: Death of Joy (ed note: not a real film title). Guardians of the Galaxy is a blast and a half. It is ever so much fun.

Part of that is because it's smart. It finds levels that other super hero/monster/action/space movies don't. When you listen to the soundtrack again, you think 'oh yeah, that was pretty moving actually'. But when you're in the theatre, you're just grinning. At least I certainly was. Guardians of the Galaxy is a hell of a lot of fun.
(Marvel/Disney )

To hear Norm Wilner riff on a few key tracks from the soundtrack, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.