Tuesday, April 3, 2018

'Love, Simon' Original Motion Picture Soundtrack | Various Artists

The success of teen romcom Love, Simon, the first gay film of its genre to be produced by a major studio, is quite promising for members of the LGBT+ community: It hints toward the grander notion that the Millennial society is more accepting to homosexuality. The film’s soundtrack, though, is an epitaph of more carefree, less intentional films: '80s teen cult classics. It’s soaked in bittersweet nostalgia for those who grew up with exclusively heteronormative cinema, but oppositely, it will induce a similar nostalgia rush decades from now for those are too young to know a world without any form of gay representation in media.

To applaud a straight man for the creation of a blockbuster gay movie soundtrack seems a bit weird... until that straight man is clarified to be Jack Antonoff, who has been somewhat of a silent pioneer for a new age of masculinity in the industry. Whereas someone like Max Martin has been lauded as a career-controlling puppeteer who looms behind the female pop stars for whom he built careers, Antonoff’s narrative has been reliant on his role as a levelheaded collaborator and passionate fan of female artists – one who isn't afraid to admit that he writes much of his solo material with females' voice in mind and that he admires female artists most.

The soundtrack is largely Antonoff’s passion project, whether via one-man band Bleachers (his pre-existing songs “Rollercoaster” and “Wild Heart” seem custom-fit for the movie’s indie-pandering aesthetic) or through production on tracks for the likes of Troye Sivan and MØ. Sivan’s awestruck earworm is a leftover from the Blue Neighbourhood sessions, though its dreamy, expansive chorus is far from second-rate, while MØ’s track is a cutesy, bratty approach to a break-up song. She's a bit off-kilter in its verses as she tinkers through her vocal line, but she recovers when she reaches the bubbly chorus. 

“Love Lies,” from Khalid and new Fifth Harmony spin-off Normani, is the only track that timestamps this soundtrack in 2018. A sexy (and very much current) rhythm and blues song, it begs to be played amid a house party sex scene. (And it's probably important to note that Amy Shark’s standout contribution, the Julia Michaels-penned “Sink In,” is perfect for the melodramatic drive home the morning after.) The Khalid and Normani cut does feel somewhat out of place, however, on the same soundtrack as a Jackson 5 Christmas song, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” and a slurry of Antonoff’s alternative pop-rock soundscapes. 

Given the film's endearing story line and subtle documentation of a turning point in American views on homosexuality, it's hard not to believe that Love, Simon could one day be seen in a similar light that The Breakfast Club is seen in today – and surely, its soundtrack will live on beside it. The album is about as nonchalant as its movie companion in many ways, not trying too hard to be the ultimate soundtrack for the homosexual man. (That seems reasonable, of course, because Lady Gaga already provided us with one long ago with Born This Way.) But it carries itself with just the right amounts of rainbow and bombast expected from the soundtrack of the first-ever gay teen flick.

The original motion picture soundtrack to Love, Simon is available now under RCA Records.

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