With all due respect to Lizzo, Calvin Harris, and yes, even Beyoncé, album of the summer has arrived, and it’s courtesy of the Minions.
Of course, the whole internet (this site included) fried Jack Antonoff when he dropped the track listing in May for the soundtrack of Minions: The Rise of Gruthe fifth part of the Minions franchise. But in the face of that mockery – and against all odds or any shred of common sense – the animated movie managed to deliver the funniest and most enjoyable album of the summer so far.
Of course, this should not shock those familiar with the Despicable Me cinematic universe. No matter what you think of the yellow, gibberish-spitting creatures invariably adored by meme-loving Facebook moms, the music in the world of Minions has always been on point. Mike Knobloch, president of global music at Universal Pictures, attributes the achievement to the “slightly left-wing musical identity” he helped build at Illumination, the studio behind the films. It was Illumination, remember, that enlisted creator Tyler to direct the soundtrack for the 2018 CGI version of the grinch— a collaboration that worked surprisingly well, not least because it managed to not totally water down Tyler’s style.
For Minions: The Rise of Gru, the music was somewhat predestined. The film is largely set in San Francisco in 1976, chronicling young Gru (voiced by Steve Carell)’s quest to become the world’s most notorious supervillain. There’s music embedded in the plot – Gru’s evil lair is hidden under a record store called Criminal Records, and the track that unlocks the hatch entrance is, aptly, “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt.
When it came time to arrange the film’s soundtrack, Knobloch brought on pop music’s favorite producer Antonoff, who had worked with the studio a few times before, including recording a Paul Simon cover for The secret life of pets 2 and the production of Taylor Swift and Zayn fifty shades darker collaboration “I don’t want to live forever.”
“We were kind of already in a groove, and always on the lookout for something we could sink our teeth into together,” Knobloch said of his work with the Bleachers frontman. “And then that Minions The film offered a great opportunity to go beyond “Let’s just put 70s songs in the film”. There was an opportunity to say, “Okay, what can we do with these songs, and do they have to be the authentic article or is there an opportunity to do covers, updated interpretations , song refreshments?”
He continued, “And so, it all started with, ‘What do we have to do for the movie? and then it was built, since we play in the sandbox of songs from the 70s, why not do something new? Let’s create this lineup of 70s songs and tracks covered by the coolest artists of all time who show up because they want to work with Jack and they want to be part of this project.
The concept behind the album is quite simple: a collection of songs from the 70s reinvented by contemporary artists. But the execution is anything but predictable, with a roster of collaborators that includes rappers Brockhampton and Tierra Whack, indie it girls Caroline Polachek and Phoebe Bridgers, and more classic rockers like Gary Clark Jr. and the Alabama lead singer. Shakes, Brittany Howard. Among the most stunning cuts are St. Vincent’s fuzzy, vocoder-heavy version of “Funky Town” and Thundercat’s scintillating, goofy rendition of “Fly Like an Eagle,” both of which lend an air of futurism to a also a retro album. And with his bilingual version of “Born to Be Alive”, Jackson Wang, a Hong Kong-based rapper and member of South Korean group GOT7, lends some credibility to the global street to make the album even more modern. Ditto for Kali Uchis, who slips through a cover of João Gilberto’s bossa nova standard “Desafinado”.
Knobloch admits there were a lot of artists they approached for the soundtrack who said no, as well as those who were convinced, but ultimately he thinks the appeal to most musicians was a chance to experiment outside of their own sounds, like St. Vincent, whom he met while visiting Antonoff at a Los Angeles studio while making his album daddy’s houseand which most music fans would probably have deemed “too cool” for a Minions soundtrack.
“We were talking to her about the project and talking about songs, and ‘Funky Town’ came up in the conversation. It was just to have the opportunity to introduce her in person and have her say, ‘I love this song’ I want to do this cover,” Knobloch says, adding, “This soundtrack is a way for them to do something that they’re excited to do, that they might not otherwise have the right platform. or the right outlet to release that genre of a song as part of their artist brand or the music cycles they release.
And then there’s what Knobloch calls the “crown jewel” of the soundtrack: “Turn Up the Sunshine,” an original song by Tame Impala and living icon Diana Ross that plays in the film and in the credits. the end. It’s an unlikely team, but one that ultimately gives the album its brightest, sunniest and friendliest moment for songs of the summer. Think of it as a sort of cousin to Pharrell’s equally effervescent “Happy,” easily the biggest hit to date since the Despicable Me world, and one that is hard not to imagine as a role model for Knobloch and his team.
Already, Minions: The Rise of Gru is a box office hit that shattered Fourth of July holiday records with its $127 million opening this weekend. We’ll see if that translates to the soundtrack, which also released on July 1, becoming equally successful on the charts or spawning a “Happy” level hit, but it certainly has a lot going for it. Along with its all-ages appeal and diverse artist roster, the album also taps into one of the biggest music trends of the past two years: the ’70s and disco-inspired dance tunes. This is something Knobloch considers a happy coincidence, given that the soundtrack was made in 2019 and 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic moved the film’s release to 2022, and before the success of ” Say So” by Doja Cat, by Dua Lipa. nostalgia for the futureor the resurgence of ABBA on TikTok.
“I think what was a bit weird was that if we had released the album and the movie with his music in 2020, with music trends, we felt like we were a little ahead of the game. on the curve,” Knobloch explained. “It felt like we were going to release 70s-inspired music, and some of it was kind of disco and some of it was just 70s pop and R&B. And it felt like the music was going into that direction, but we were ahead of the curve, I think. There was kind of like, ‘Oh, we could have been ahead of that instead of behind.’ I think it’s just that we have a lot of time to live with it and we’re looking too closely.
If anything, that’s a good thing. Maybe the Facebook moms were right and the Minions really do spark some joy. At the very least, Antonoff’s soundtrack certainly does. “We made a record that’s a groovy soundtrack for your summer,” Knobloch says. “It’s the short version that sums it all up.”