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(500) Days of Summer Soundtrack: A Recount of All Things Ironic

(500) Days of Summer begins as any other tale: boy meets girl. However, it attempts to twist the story, alter the roles and create an idea outside of linear timelines and mundane relationships. This is the attempt. Although there are wonderful parts, mainly Zooey Deschanel’s uncanny ability to be utterly charming and loveable at every turn, the movie itself seems nothing more than separate interesting pieces scotched taped together because scotch tape is oh so cooler than glue or duct tape. The soundtrack is similar in means; it is a great compilation of songs, but seems to be trying too hard to be hip and relevant and comes off a touch try-hard.

The addition of Regina Spektor is always welcome because she adds a haunting tenderness to all moments, and I must admit, the Spektor songs are well placed within the film. Her quirky and grandiose style of devastating melancholy works within the sombre moments of the film and also couples with the over dramatic musings of lead character Tom Hansen. Her lyrics of song ‘Hero’ chanting ‘And the hero of the story/doesn’t need to be saved’ are beautiful but when layered with Tom Hansen’s inner psyche it becomes so emo it is to a point irritating and overshadows the music.

Speaking of hipster irritation, let’s talk about the Smiths. The Smiths are an incredible band; however, what has become an absolute travesty is that they are now the anthemic band to every over adulating 20-something with pointed shoes and a velvet blazer. Clad in a skinny tie, beige cardigan and oversized Sony headphones, ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ blares though Tom’s ears and into his loves, Summer Finn, where she echoes the lyrics and thus, Tom is smitten. I imagine his thoughts to be either: a) another person knows about the Smiths besides me? They must be just as cool as me and interested in all the same things I am or b) this girl knows who the Smiths are? She must be my soul mate and therefore I am going to put unnecessary and unreachable expectations on our forthcoming relationship based solely on this moment. Okay, I grip, but in all seriousness, I understand why the Smiths have become this marker of cool—but is it really necessary for that motive to trickle down into the seedy underbelly of the ‘cool kids’ just to be tokenized? Well apparently according to this movie, yes.

The choreographed dance number to Hall & Oates, though hilarious, seems forced and overly ironic due to the campy yacht-rock nature of the song. Hall & Oates definitely had their hay day, but credit fades when songs are used just for the subtle campiness of it all.

Before I completely sell this soundtrack short, beyond the obvious excellence of some songs, the inclusion of artists such as Carla Bruni and Feist adds a little of left field…sort of. Feist has long been a carrier of the alternative and quirky torch, but the presence of her smooth and sultry voice and unpretentious songs add to any compilation. And the simplistic and honest musings of Carla Bruni make the soundtrack a little more earnest and achingly romantic.
I think the thing that gets me about this movie is not the overly obsessive and controlling intentions of Tom over Summer or the idea that women are much the same as seasons and love for Tom can pass through a myriad of them, it is that everything is so on point with every cliché about hipster/scenester culture that it is ironically bad. Who would have thought an assumed hipster director would cast two hipster icons to make his tale of unrequited love and sappy melancholy so obvious to the point of monotony? Inclusions of references to The Seventh Seal and J.D. Salinger’s Bananafish are on par with the Joy Division and Clash t-shirts and Tom’s karaoke choice of The Pixies ‘Here Comes Your Man’ as obvious mandates of coolness. As much as the soundtrack is cool and original it’s originality is tainted with the phoniness and pseudo intellectualism of hipster idealisms and those respective guidelines.

1. A Story of Boy Meets Girl- Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen
2. Us- Regina Spektor
3. There is a Light That Never Goes Out- The Smiths
4. Bad Kids- Black Lips
5. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want- The Smiths
6. There Goes The Fear- Doves
7. You Make My Dreams- Hall & Oates
8. Sweet Disposition- The Temper Trap
9. Quelqu’un M’a Dit- Carla Bruni
10. Mushaboom- Feist
11. Hero- Regina Feist
12. Bookends- Simon & Garfunkel
13. Vagabond- Wolfmother
14. She’s Got You High- Mumm-Ra
15. Here Comes Your Man- Meaghan Smith
16. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want- She & Him
– Kaitlin McNabb