It’s entirely against my will that I know anything about the existence of a movie titled Minions: The Rise of Gru. I had to open a new tab just now to learn how many Minions movies there are (this is the fifth in the Despicable Me franchise). Like many childless millennials, I recognize the yellow creatures only as the stuff of low-quality Boomer memes and unnerving billboard advertisements. So I admit being caught off-guard by the latest film’s original soundtrack.
If I may be so blunt: What the hell? Diana Ross? St. Vincent? Phoebe Bridgers covering The Carpenters? It’s like this intellectual property hit an insane profit threshold — $3.7 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film series ever — at the exact moment it crossed into ironic respectability. For the musicians aged twenty-to-thirtysomething on this album, it must’ve been not only a great paycheck but the funniest possible way of selling out. “Hell yeah, I’ll do the Steve Miller Band’s ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ for the Minions,” Thundercat must have said. Ditto Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) with John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!”
Let’s fucking go.
It truly is a diabolical bit of cross-generational marketing. Parents will know the original 1970s songs, though perhaps not the likes of Weyes Blood, Caroline Polachek and H.E.R., and can thereby feel in touch with contemporary cool. Kids, meanwhile, will presume these are brand-new tunes, develop formative memories of the compilation album, and have their minds blown in another couple of decades when they realize BROCKHAMPTON didn’t write “Hollywood Swinging.” You can already sense the culture remixing and recalibrating itself.
We can’t yet say whether the soundtrack to Minions: The Rise of Gru will be a net positive or unleash a dark energy into the American consciousness. Again, the gibberish-speaking, blob-like characters inspire only fear and revulsion in me, so I’m not convinced they should wield the power of this shrewdly curated music. I will listen in moderation, with caution, and aim to keep it off my Spotify year-end list.
Otherwise, I expect to hear it playing at Starbucks for the next six months. Good luck to anybody who still believes we’re ever going back to “normal.”