Celebration of 2010s pop
“Teen Spirit” is a film that got a wide release this month, and the Teen Spirit OST is its soundtrack, now available on major streaming platforms. “Teen Spirit” stars Elle Fanning as a British girl who enters a singing competition and drama ensues.
As for the soundtrack, at first glance, it seems like a random compilation. However, there are three attributes that group the songs together. First, many of the songs ride on the edgier side of the pop genre, from the funky synthpop of Annie Lennox to Major Lazer’s electropop banger “Lean On.” Second, the original performers of the songs are virtually all female singers. Third, most of the songs were released in the past ten years, giving a sense that the soundtrack is intended to celebrate the pop music of the 2010s.
As a final point, since “Teen Spirit” is a movie about singing, the tracklist largely consists of revisions of the originals, with Fanning or another actor/actress singing in place of the original singer. As a result, the soundtrack of “Teen Spirit” can be viewed with the same lens as that of “Glee” or “Pitch Perfect.” There is one completely new song in the track listing, the Carly Rae Jepsen-penned “Wildflowers.”
Overall, the selection of songs for the soundtrack is pretty great. There are big niche hits all across the track listing, from Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” to Ellie Goulding’s “Lights,” to “Genesis” by Grimes. It is quite impressive how authentically 2010s this soundtrack feels, simply from perusing the track list. Even the songs here that originate before 2010 have a millennial mood to them. The track list goes deeper than radio, which is rare for 2010s pop soundtracks.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack is not very inspiring as an actual listen. In the end, the soundtrack simply exists as a compilation of cover versions that don’t improve on the originals in any significant way. “Good Time” is pretty much a beat-for-beat remake, as is “Dancing On My Own.” In addition, the production often feels a bit stilted. If there is one thing the cover versions consistently do, it is to dull these songs of their original edge.
Fanning’s nondescript vocals on “Lights” don’t carry tension like Ellie Goulding’s sandy pipes do in spades. The cover of “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones is almost gag-worthy. The cover band turns a punk-pop classic into a stomach-churningly saccharine romp, removing the roaring guitars and adding a Sixties doo-wop veneer.
However, this soundtrack is far from unlistenable. For people who grew up in the 2010s and absorbed music the way a millennial does, this soundtrack can even be enjoyable, as bout after bout of nostalgia smacks them in the face. Even with the slightly watered-down sound of the covers, the strength of the original songwriting still shines through on each cut.
There are two kinds of people who can get a kick out of this soundtrack. The first group of people are in their early to mid-twenties and came of age in the 2010s. They heard the music on this soundtrack in their teenage years and have a nostalgic attachment to these songs. The second group of people has a mild curiosity about 2010s pop music. The soundtrack is an easy way to get familiar with some of the big pop songs that represent the 2010s, and maybe even serve as an entry point for kids just starting to dive deeper into music.
As the decade comes to a close, future generations need to be able to discover the culture that millennials cultivated. While the OST for Into the Spider-Verse is probably better, this soundtrack is not a bad place to start.