There’s always one characteristic that helps shape the movies we see, and that’s the music that runs behind them. Most motion pictures are usually mixed with an equal amount of both orchestrated symphonies made especially to heighten scenes of sensitivity or romantic interest with a few popular songs or period appropriate tracks during moments of socialization, partying, or road tripping. Usually, the track list for a film provides ignored background music to keep things cinematic, other times, the music is one of the main characters. In the case of Baby Driver, directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), the music behind the film was one of the most significant aspects of the film’s entire aesthetic, making the dramatic explosions and visually pleasing neon diner scenes simply some good eye candy for the soundtrack that shapes it.
Music can be one of the most forgotten aspects of a film. It can also be one of the most quintessential. The Graduate, Garden State, Dazed and Confused, and even Clueless all have iconic soundtracks stuffed with tracks that pair insanely well with the most well-known scenes from each. After all, what is Almost Famous without a barefoot Penny Lane sliding around an empty stage on rose petals to Cat Stevens? But Baby Driver is a little different. While characters usually ignore the music that plays behind them, as it’s is largely unimportant for their plot or character development, Baby Driver uses it’s incorporated soundtrack to express emotion, build a story, and speak for its characters. The music isn’t there to add ambiance, it’s the whole point of the movie. Lead character and getaway driver Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, communicates through sound, speaking more with his music taste than he ever does with his mouth, name dropping oldies for over two hours to express his feelings of love or anger, but mostly to drown out noise during his day job. Massive car chases and shoot outs are synchronized to classics like ‘Tequila’ by The Champs or Queen’s 'Brighton Rock'.
Baby shows viewers nostalgia by utilizing varying generations of iPod Classics throughout the film, but showcases love for something even more aged than the OG 2001 mp3 player by mostly drowning out the sound of his severe tinnitus with a playlist of songs that are collectively aged. Simon and Garfunkel, Brenda Holloway, Sam & Dave, and Carla Thomas are all featured on the album’s official soundtrack, backing the film with a mix of motown and classic rock in between a few modern occurrences, such as Beck’s ‘Debra,’ which, mind you, is still nearly 20 years old itself.
Wright made his music selection impossible to forget after stepping away from the film, as everything from gunshots to car door slams to character names synched up with the beats that backed them. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s ‘Bellbottoms’ sucks viewers into Baby Driver immediately, as the opening scene utilizes the track’s unique mix of orchestra and deep vocals to summarize both an intense bank robbery car chase and coffee delivery before the five minute song concludes. Expect this to occur around 20 more times before the film's conclusion. But don't get so caught up in the music that you miss cameos by artists Flea and Sky Ferreira, who briefly add even more to the power of music that the film provides us with.
At the end of the day, Baby Driver leaves living a life of crime looking cool and dusting off your old iPod to listening to some old favorites on shuffle even cooler. The film was enhanced by its incorporation of real-time music and is likely to be remembered less by it’s all-star cast (sorry, Kevin Spacey) and more for its ability to seamlessly incorporate The Commodores into a film primarily centered on police chases, explosions, and several cases of casual murder.