By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator and Erin Norton, Membership Assistant
Artists: Various; Produced by Jack Antonoff
Album: Minions: The Rise of Gru Soundtrack
Favorite Songs: “Turn Up the Sunshine,” “Shining Star,” "Goodbye to Love," and “Dance To The Music”
For Fans Of: Bleachers, Tame Impala, Diana Ross and Phoebe Bridgers
It’s easy to see why many claim that Minions: The Rise of Gru is their most anticipated album of 2022. It’s hard not to be excited for an album that is filled to the brim with so many of our favorite artists such as Phoebe Bridgers, BROCKHAMPTON, Kali Uchis, and Tame Impala. And let us not forget that it’s also produced by Jack Antonoff.
Well, the time has finally come to sit down and listen to this all-star soundtrack.
A GROOVY, ’70s TIME CAPSULE
While the fourth full-length movie to be released in the Minions and Despicable Me Franchise, Minions: The Rise of Gru takes a step back in time. It serves as a prequel to the collection of films and the opening scene labels the year it is set in directly: 1976.
Gru, the character audiences have come to see as more of a protagonist than the actual supervillain he is (voiced by Steve Carrel), is just 11 years old. Viewers are given a never-before-seen look into some of Gru’s earliest heists over the course of the movie. But perhaps even more of a focus is the relationship he fosters with the minions— the always-unified community of yellow, overall-wearing creatures that appeared at his door one day to respond to a “help wanted” sign he posted.
The dynamic between Gru and the minions is one that wavers up and down, but ultimately, Minions: The Rise of Gru shows how their deep, almost-familial bond depicted in later movies came to be.
With all of these themes swirling around — from teamwork to friendship — and a timeline during one of the most culturally, and especially musically, rich decades in American history, minions’ soundtrack producer Jack Antanoff had a big task at hand.
From covers of staple songs of the ’70s to original works, the soundtrack not only does the themes of Minions: The Rise of Gru justice, it also helps the movie become something that both children and adults can enjoy.
MOMENT-MAKING SONGS FEATURED IN THE MOVIE
“BANG BANG” BY NANCY SINATRA (1976)
Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang,” originally released in 1976, sets the tone of the movie off right. The aged sound immediately tips the audience off of a timeline set apart from the franchise’s other movies. It plays in time with artistic visuals that flash across the screen — the silhouettes of the minions against backdrops of varied colors and patterns. The brass instrumental backing adds to the mysterious tone and bursts, or “bangs” rather, of vocals and instruments bring added excitement.
Two different versions of Sinatra’s track are featured on the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack. One comes from Caroline Polachek, her vocals smooth and slicing. The other comes from G.E.M., a singer-songwriter from Hong Kong. G.E.M.’s version incorporates more of a vibrant energy rather than a quiet cool, and includes lyrics sung in Chinese.
“SHINING STAR” BY EARTH, WIND & FIRE (1975)
The Earth, Wind & Fire song “Shining Star” sung by Brittany Howard and featuring Verdine White brings the grooviness of the ’70s out full-force.
Its the perfect backdrop as viewers get the first glimpses of the time and place. The track plays as Gru rides through the city on his motorbike, passing by Volkswagens and people in flared jeans and other classic ’70s styles, and also as the audience meets the “Vicious 6” supervillain young Gru idolized.
“YOU’RE NO GOOD” BY LINDA RONSTADT (1975)
With its on-the-nose title lyric “You’re No Good,” this song simply makes sense for a movie about supervillains. Originally by Linda Ronstadt and released in 1975, the song is what Gru requests at the vinyl store “Criminal Records” in order to unlock the first of many secret passageways to the set apart universe built by the city’s villains. Sung by Weyes Blood for the soundtrack, it has a relaxed tone, but keeps with the original’s slight tinge of evil. It also pairs nicely with the other tracks by incorporating a low bass and a light touch of deep-sounding brass instruments.
“FLY LIKE AN EAGLE” BY STEVE MILLER BAND (1976)
Thundercat’s reimagining of “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller Band has an even more ethereal, futuristic feel than the original. It ushers in a sense of cool, and that’s exactly what it’s used to add in the scene it comes in for.
The song plays in a moment at the airport, when the minions watch airline staff — pilots and attendants — walking past them. And when the screen cuts to the minions themselves having dressed themselves in staff outfits and taken over a plane, it carries on playing, adding a tinge of irony as the minions are not so cool and collected when attempting to fly the aircraft.
“FUNKYTOWN” BY LIPPS INC (1979)
The 1979 track “Funkytown” from Lipps Inc will forever remain one of the most iconic tracks to come out of the ’70s. It radiates pure fun and is incredibly dancey, its electronic backing melodic and lively.
The minions’ soundtrack version by St. Vincent ups the ante on the electronic, robotic quality of the original. Plus, the incorporation of brass instruments, mainly the saxophone, adds an interesting twist, a contrast to the electronics yet a seamless way to blend with the rest of the album. Used for a scene with some of the funniest moments of the entire film, it’s a memorable moment-maker.
“GOODBYE TO LOVE” BY THE CARPENTERS (1972)
The scenes of the Minions movie are split fairly evenly between moments of comic-relief and moments of suspense. But if there is one scene that has the ability to move viewers to tears, it’s the one that this song backdrops. And “Goodbye to Love” by the Carpenters is definitely partially to blame.
The soundtrack’s version, sung by Phoebe Bridgers, adds even more melancholy and delicate beauty to the song. It isn’t the Phoebe Bridgers version that makes the film — perhaps because the emotional weight would have simply been too much to bear.
Sonically, it has a similar feel to Bridgers’ recent track “Sidelines” for the soundtrack of Hulu series Conversations with Friends, from the lulling keyboard backing to the brighter synth-infusions later on. But the two songs serve as a perfect juxtaposition lyrically. “Sidelines” is an ode to having someone who “gave [her] something to lose” as opposed to the solemn declaration of forever-solitude in “Goodbye to Love”
“TURN UP THE SUNSHINE” BY DIANA ROSS AND TAME IMPALA (2022; SOUNDTRACK ORIGINAL)
For an in depth read into the genius of this song, be sure to check out our pick of the week on it, but speaking on it within the context of the film, “Turn Up the Sunshine” feels made for the movie. And, well, that’s because it was.
This original track sung by Diana Ross and Tame Impala comes in for two different parts. The first use is when the minions arrive in San Francisco and are experiencing the vibrant nightlife on the evening of the Chinese New Year. The elongated, catchy refrain “all around the world” is emphasized. It’s paired with visuals of bright lights and colors and the active imagery of a dragon dance costume and fireworks. The song appears a second time, this time in full, for the end credits. It has a captivating blend of a nostalgic ’70s sound and the freshness of modern psychedelic-funk. And, ultimately, it leaves viewers off on a feel-good note.
MEDLEY OF “YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT” BY THE ROLLING STONES (1969) AND “CECILIA” BY SIMON & GARFUNKEL (1970)
In what first appears to be a sad moment but turns rather lighthearted quickly, a medley of two hits of the ’70s helps mark the transition boldly.
Singing in their not-quite identifiable language, the minions produce a melody that is recognizable as the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” It’s intentionally and successfully used to set a bittersweet tone. But when a certain happening in the plot drastically changes the tone of the circumstances, the minions break into a much more lively tune.
Bringing out congos, the tambourine and cowbells and whistling, they sing in large volume “Cecelia” by Simon and Garfunkel. As they come together to sing it, the track perfectly represents two of the film’s main themes: teamwork and friendship.
OTHER GEMS FROM THE SOUNDTRACK
While some songs are featured more prominently, many of the others from the soundtrack that come in with a lighter touch are equally as important and worthy of a full listen-through.
“INSTANT KARMA!” — BLEACHERS (ORIGINAL BY JOHN LENNON, 1970)
This cover of the iconic John Lennon song “Instant Karma!” very clearly has the Bleachers signature sound all over it. Including a little saxophone into the song just adds to the feel-good nature of the entirety of the soundtrack. Even just the added strings elevate the song towards perfection. Bleachers’ cover of “Instant Karma!” not only pays homage to a classic song that is incredibly recognizable for most people, it is a fresh take that is enjoyable to a younger audience.
“VEHICLE” — GARY CLARK JR. (ORIGINAL BY THE IDES OF MARCH, 1970)
Gary Clark Jr. emulates the original sound of “Vehicle”, a one hit wonder and staple of the 1970’s from the Ides of March. While he doesn’t stray far from the core of the song, he adds elements of his own background in modern electric blues. Possibly one of the most funky songs on the album, it’s easy to keep this cover on repeat!
“DANCE TO THE MUSIC” – H.E.R. (ORIGINAL BY SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE, 1967)
From the beginning, which features some layered vocals from H.E.R., it’s evident that this is one of the more catchy songs on the album. While most people are familiar with H.E.R’s more mellow sound, it is so exciting to hear her incredible vocals highlighted by a very upbeat and percussive sound. This cover generates so much joy and is extremely memorable.
“BLACK MAGIC WOMAN” – TIERRA WHACK (ORIGINAL BY SANTANA, 1970)
This cover is rich with smooth percussion and low horns which juxtaposes so well with Tierra Whack’s ever so slightly choppy vocals and tingling harmonies. This version is completely different from the original “Black Magic Woman” by Santana, but in an incredibly fresh way. Known for its iconic guitar riffs and recognizable piano melody, Tierra Whack reinvented the song while keeping the percussion element strong.
“BORN TO BE ALIVE” – JACKSON WANG (ORIGINAL BY PATRICK HERNANDEZ, 1979)
Jackson Wang’s take on “Born To Be Alive” stays very true to the song at the beginning, but then quickly features the wonderful addition of Mandarin to the song. As if this song couldn’t be any more upbeat and dance worthy than the original, Wang’s version adds a bit more synth to the song. Not to mention, his bright vocals compliment this especially cheerful rendition of “Born To Be Alive.”
“HOLLYWOOD SWINGING” – BROCKHAMPTON (ORIGINAL BY KOOL & THE GANG, 1974)
One of pop culture’s largest musical staples, “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & The Gang, was recreated by BROCKHAMPTON for this soundtrack! While BROCKHAMPTON did shorten the song by half of its original length, the majority of the song’s sound is retained by the sound of the horns and iconic percussive sound. Not only is the BROCKHAMPTON cover a very fresh take, but it’s a great introduction to the original song for younger audiences.
“DESAFINADO” – KALI UCHIS (ORIGINAL BY STAN GETZ & JOAO GILBERTO, 1959)
Kali Uchis was the absolute perfect person for this incredible cover of Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s Bossa Nova classic song “Desafinado.” The original is slightly more laid back than Kali Uchis’ version. This take on “Desafinado” comes across as more upbeat which might be from the remastered melody that takes on an almost lofi sound. Similar to the original, this version has such a calming yet joyful tenderness behind the song. It fits in so well with the other songs this incredible soundtrack has to offer!
THE SOUND OF COMING TOGETHER
On the topic of the soundtrack for Minions: The Rise of Gru, Jack Antonoff said in an interview with Billboard that his idea was “to take modern artists that are really in some way in the tradition of the great music of that time and then record them with this half modern technique, half super analog technique.”
The outcome of this idea is more than just the soundtrack to a children's movie, but an interesting take on what it means to pay homage to artists from decades before.
The album also reiterates the idea that music is more of a community than most people think. Bringing together artists that were decades apart through covers — or through the original song which was crafted by the unlikely pairing of Diana Ross and Tame Impala — is an incredible concept. While featuring a wide range of artists and genres from track to track, it boasts vibrancy and cohesion. Ultimately, the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack is one that fosters togetherness.