Guardians of the Galaxy’s Hit Soundtrack Is a Mixtape of Lies

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 14 2014 6:00 PM

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Hit Soundtrack Is a Mixtape of Lies

Album art for Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1
Lies.

Album art for Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is now at the top of the Billboard charts, showing that all my parents’ Columbia Monster Hits compilations of the ’70s are still as relevant as the “Cool New Music: Summer 2014” playlist I’m listening to as I write this.

Unfortunately, this hit album is a mixtape of lies. Part of the appeal of the soundtrack is that it ostensibly recreates the mixtape Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) keeps at his side as he travels through the universe. The cover recreates the look of Star-Lord’s tape, down to the title, Awesome Mix Vol. 1, and the tracklist largely reflects what we hear of the mix in the film. This is significant because the tape plays no mere incidental role in Guardians of the Galaxy—it’s the movie’s emotional core. The compilation comes from Star-Lord’s deceased mother, and it represents his last tether to his past. As director James Gunn has explained, “It was of songs that she loved, all songs from the 1970s, and that’s the only thing he has left of his mother and that’s the only thing he has left of his home on Earth.” Given the mix’s thematic importance, and the way the soundtrack is marketed, you’d think it would reflect the canonical tracklist, the one carefully sequenced by Star-Lord’s beloved mother.

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Instead, the OST shoehorns in two songs—Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”—that were quite plainly tracks from Awesome Mix Vol. 2, which Quill unwraps toward the end of the film.

Not only is this narratively inconsistent with the film, but it disrupts the mix’s aesthetic integrity. As the popularity of the mix suggests, Star-Lord’s mother was no amateur when it came to mixtape sequencing and aesthetic consistency—qualities any mixtaper worth her weight in underappreciated B-sides would go to the mat for. But the new additions don’t fit. Every other song on the mix is a hit from the ’70s, while “I Want You Back” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” were released in the ’60s. Their inclusion ruins the thematic purity of a mix clearly crafted by Peter Quill’s poor, dying mother for her son. How dare you, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)? These additions dishonor the memory of Quill’s mother, misrepresent one of her last gifts to her son, and insult her skills as a mixtaper.

Also, they definitely should have released this as an actual tape. Cassettes are totally hip again.

Chris Wade is a video and podcast producer for Slate and occasional contributor to Brow Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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