A good song choice in a movie or a TV show can create atmosphere and elevate a scene. But when a movie becomes too dependent on needle drops, the constant use of songs quickly becomes old.
Let me start by saying that Cruellasoundtrack is not bad by any means. In fact, it is filled with amazing songs, especially from British artists from the 60s and 70s. Songs by Queen, David Bowie, The Clash and many others do a great job of establishing the era, setting and tone of the film.
But there’s just a long way, long too many of them. To put it in perspective, there are well over 30 non-original songs throughout the film, which are 134 minutes long (including credits). This means that there is a new needle drop approximately every four to five minutes.
The result is that Cruella‘s soundtrack performances often draw focus from a scene instead of supplementing it with song choices that range from unnecessary to comically obvious.
Take, for example, the film’s last drop of needle, which comes when Cruella de Vil (Emma Stone) takes over Hellman Hall. The song that plays is the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, which is ridiculous on the nose of a movie with a main character named de Vil. Instead of ending the film in a triumphant tone, the song choice feels like a bad punchline for a two-hour set-up.
Cruella’s performance of a soundtrack often draws focus from a scene rather than supplementing it with song choices that range from unnecessary to comically obvious.
What’s even more sinister about the use of “Sympathy for the Devil” is that it comes right after a single piece of Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard”. It’s two needle drops one after the other, and it makes you wonder, “did we really need both of these songs?” No, one would have been enough.
This whole sequence also reminds me of the time “Sympathy for the Devil” was spent in the first five minutes of Suicide Squad, a movie with a very similar soundtrack problem. If the last scene in your movie makes me think of the beginning of Suicide Squad, then something went wrong.
“Sympathy for the Devil” is not the first song in Cruella to remind me of the soundtrack of other films. For example, “One Way or Another” by Blondie plays during the montage of Cruella upstaging the Baroness (Emma Thompson) – the same song has appeared in many other films, including during a similar montage in Mean Girls, when Cady, Janis and Damian try to take revenge on Regina George. Then there’s Judy Garland’s version of “Smile” from Modern times, played when the Baroness leaves Cruella to burn alive. Jimmy Durante’s version of the same song is used in Joker, which does not help to stop the comparison between these two films.
Here’s the thing: Movies are more than welcome to refer to other movies, including through their soundtracks. However, many of the songs are in Cruellaas “Sympathy for the Devil” has been used so often in other movies and TV shows that when you hear them in Cruella, you’re tired of them.
To CruellaTheir credit, there are moments where the soundtrack really lands. Using short bursts of Joe Tex’s “I GOTCHA” during cutaway gags is an inspired comic choice that never overwhelms his welcome, and “Time of the Season” by The Zombies perfectly accompanies our first introduction to the glamor of the Liberty store (and the threat ) of Estella’s job there).
Still, in a soundtrack full of solid tunes, it’s clear that not everyone gets prime placement. Much of the rest of Cruella‘s soundtrack falls into the category of “good songs that do not have too much influence.” That’s a huge problem. All the songs on this soundtrack are too good to be wasted. If they do nothing for the film, they must be removed.
Which brings us to the easiest way to correct Cruella soundtrack: Simply cut down on the needle drops, especially those that are not extremely effective. Removing 10 tracks – or even halving the number of songs altogether – would allow the remaining songs to be more powerful when displayed.
Cutting songs from the soundtrack would also give Nicholas Britell’s score more time to shine. Britell is the composer behind it Moonlight, If Beale Street could talkand Inheritance, among many others. His work with Cruella is dark and playful, like the title character himself, with a rock influence that complements the film’s references to the 1970s London punk rock scene. It is very effective when not overshadowed by an overloaded soundtrack.
Cruella can rejoice that the main character is bad, but its soundtrack is proof that too much of a good thing can fall into a movie. Here, we hope the sequel tones down the song choices – and stays far, far away from using “Sympathy for the Devil” again.