Readers Write In #37: The Awesome Mixtape Musical

Posted on March 24, 2018


​Guardians of The Galaxy (2014) has inadvertently spawned a new genre in Hollywood – The ‘Awesome Mixtape Musical’. What ‘Guardians..’ had created, ‘Baby Driver’ ended up perfecting earlier this year. It is a bit counter-intuitive to call a movie with no real singing a musical, but maybe it’s time to expand the definition of ‘musical’ to accommodate for millennials.

Millennials like letting the world know what they’re listening to. We share playlists with each other and are responsible for making music more social; or maybe just less personal. It’s possible that this attitude is what led us to become wearied of the traditional Hollywood musical. Why sing songs to further a plot, when you can simply arrange a playlist to do the same? Why stop with a single song when Youtube (creepily) understands your mood and suggests you a dozen more? This is exactly what an ‘Awesome Mixtape Musical’ (hereby referred to as AMM) does through its headphone-wearing, alienated protagonists. They are not gung-ho about letting you enter their lives, but you are allowed a fleeting look whenever they feel like connecting to their speakers. We are markedly fascinated by such people, especially when we like the songs they’re listening to.

Another reason why AMMs can be actually called musicals is the fact that their characters are aware of the songs being played. The songs don’t necessarily further the plot, but they set the mood for most of the scenes in the movie. This aspect also allows the director to seamlessly switch songs from the foreground to the background of the film (we hardly notice when the song shifts from a muzzled ‘played through headphones’ effect to a clearer ‘played on speakers’ sound). James Gunn, who directed ‘Guardians..’ actually spoke about how he used to repeatedly play the songs on the movie’s set in order to create the right tone for his scenes.

It would be interesting to see how directors would milk this cow further. But what can be said for sure is that this is the kind of musical that is more likely to gain universal acceptance. A few eyes may have rolled when Russell Crowe had tried to sing (a tad ‘miseraab’ly, some might say), but what can possibly go wrong with Jon Hamm wigging out to the tune of Brighton Rock?

Gautham Srinivas
MBA student by day, online provocateur by night.