For a movie that’s been raved and reviewed as the “female Superbad,” the soundtrack of Booksmart does not disappoint. When I think about the purpose of the music behind a movie, three things come to mind. You want the soundtrack match the energy and emotion of the scene, to compliment the direction, and to mirror the plot arch. Featuring artists such as Lizzo, M.I.A., and Salt-N-Pepa, I’d say that music supervisor Brian Ling hit the nail on the head. Booksmart, both as a film and an album, highlights female artists, captures the allure and chaos of a night of hijinx, and redefines the relationship between film and film score.
Traditionally, film scores are considered to be more of background music than an interactive force. In the case of Booksmart, many of the tracks such as “Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels are interactive to the point that they almost overpower the scene. But in a film full of car chases, yacht parties, and a prison breaks, is overpowering what they were going for?
Perhaps my favorite part of Booksmart’s music was its ability to create an atmosphere. Whether you’re riding in the car with Amy and Molly to Lizzo’s “Boys,” or flirting at the graduation party to SBTRKT and Little Dragon’s “Wildfire,” all of the songs in the film operate as characters. This means that the music has the opportunity to change the dynamic of a scene to keep the audience on their toes.
The star of the soundtrack are the seven songs composed by Dan the Automater which serve as the movies score. The score is very reminiscent of something along the lines of Kraftwerk. The seven tracks are muted, reflective, and electronic. They are sharp in contrast with the overbearing pop which makes up the majority of the soundtrack. This is a decision which allows us to maintain a deeper focus on the character and the dialogue when the score is used since it is so mellow when compared with what the audience is used to.
I would argue that Booksmart is an attempt to capture the habits of a generation on film. Whether it’s what we’re wearing, what drugs we’re taking, or what music we’re listening to, they get it all on camera. This is a movie and a soundtrack which made me consider the music that’s been playing the background of my own adventures and how that music defines the scenes I get myself in.
As music supervisor, Bryan Ling puts sound to place and emotion. He recognizes that the voices of Anderson .Paak and Lykke Li are strong enough to define our generation. This is an album with the peaks of a high speed car chase and the valleys of a slow motion dive through a swimming pool. It’s a record that stands strong on its own, but breaks records for the big screen.