Sunday, May 7, 2017

Countdowns with The Rock Otaku 07: Top 11 Awesome Mix Vol. 1 Tracks

Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, and deviants.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and let it all out.

As some of you may have noticed, I tend to have that opening slogan in my blogs when I do something big or based on a series, but I seem to only discuss the first two (and three after that when the opportunity arises) in my blog overall.  As for the others, they end up serving as times to make references or jokes in my main series.  And this is the main reason why I am now going to try to fit in more anime reviews, news, and countdowns into my blog.

You know what, I’ll use the extra week I’ve added to my time to make my LET THEM EAT METAL series bi-weekly to create a series of countdowns.  And they don’t have to be just about anime.  I can use this to mention movies, TV shows, episodes of shows, news, games, and even other musical artists I want to talk about but aren’t able to usually thanks to my current load.  But I’ve set my mind to Guardians of the Galaxy this week.

And no, this shouldn’t take too long.  All I am doing is counting down my favorite songs from the first film based on the song alone as well as how it’s used in the main story.  And for this list, it had to have appeared in the theatrical cut of the film, so “Spirit in the Sky,” which was only in the trailers, is merely an honorable mention.  And I’m going top 11 from least-effectively used to best used for this countdown.  And before we go into this, let me state this: I do not hate pop music.  In fact, certain eras and variations of it, based on sound and even country, are appealing to me and are the basis for somñe of my favorite songs of all time.  And I think that this soundtrack did a great job of channeling the best of 60s and 70s pop, soul, rock, and funk into a wild, rebellious, and crazy track list for what is arguably one of Marvel’s best films.  So in honor of the sequel coming out today, with some word on if I liked it at the end if this is released after I see it, I will be discussing these tracks, sans “Spirit in the Sky” because it HAD to be in the movie for it to count.  Anyway, let’s rock:

11.       "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes
For this, let me get this out of the way.  This is a good tune to relax, kick back, and think of getting away from a crappy relationship, only to learn that your soul mate had a fun side you didn’t think of.  For anything else, this song is kind of a joke, being about an a-hole that’s practically cheating on his own wife if favor of the flavor of the month, with interests similar to his.  And it turns out, cue the punchline, that this great gal for him is his own wife.  As for the instrumentation, it’s very mellow outside of some alright guitar licks that I’m sure constitute mini solos before a very chill one towards the end.  The rest of the instrumentation is basis yacht rock, so there’s nothing too special about it.

So how is this used in the movie?  During the end of the escape scene.  And after Star Lord takes back his cassette player and tape from the guards.  Simply because of the title.  While I can praise this song’s use for not doing so when a girl Star Lord likes reveals she likes Piña Colodas, I’m with Drax on this one.

10.       "Go All The Way" by The Raspberries
If this was a quality contest, this song would be higher since it rocks.  It’s a raucous track with pummeling guitar chords, rock star strutting, a catchy beat, and an ear-wormy chorus that, as Eddie Trunk revealed somewhere, is the kind of song that gets people into hard rock and heavy metal despite being power pop.  The tone is great, the singing is great, and while there isn’t any flashy guitar lines, the guitar playing is top notch, and it’s a blessing that this made it into Rocksmith last Tuesday.

As for the song’s usage in the movie, this is more of a breather track to let our protagonist, Peter Quill aka. Star Lord, chill on the Milano with another random girl before being chewed out by Yondu.  After a very intense action scene where Quill reveals his skills as an action hero against forces employed by Ronan The Accusor.  And until you learn this, this makes this song’s use surprisingly more entertaining as it’s practically a reminder of this movie’s tone, being a mix of sci-fi action and an embrace of the sillier aspects of genre films.  If the last two tracks did not perfectly convey what this movie’s about and it’s themes, then this tune confirms the movie’s reason to exist: to be a big, dumb, loud story with a lot of heart, confidence, and tongue-in-cheek swagger.  And if this movie’s your introduction to this song, then more power to you.

9.         "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5
Before Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, he was arguably the Child Prince of Motown.  And with this catchy, upbeat track, it’s not hard to explain why.  It’s catchy and upbeat, and that’s probably the song’s strength, despite it being like the Motown equivalent of a banging hair metal song about wanting a girl back.  And, well, since this is technically bubblegum, it works here.  But this is the best kind of bubblegum pop, the one’s where you feel like the musicians behind the track, including the teens and tweens, put a lot of effort into every single aspect, and it can still last.  Also, that bassline.
I'm with Groot on this one.
For the movie, it’s only…
…at the end of the movie.  Like, at the direct end of the movie.  I’m not joking here, this song is used as the ultimate symbolic statement of “We are getting a sequel to this” using pop music.  And that’s just my opinion.  But if that were the case, this would have been at the bottom of the list if this movie bombed.  Instead, this fact docks points for this song due to it being effectively sequel-bait, but that doesn’t explain why it’s ultimately as high as it is.  The reason?  Baby Groot dancing to this after seeing “THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY WILL RETURN!” in a pot with Drax in the distance sharpening his knife.  And it also makes sense considering the character’s age as well as the possible fact that a character in the later stories will have grown up with Star Lord’s taste in music, making it less alien to this section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Good on you, Michael, hopefully Peter’s return to earth gets songs from Thriller in future installments.

8.         "I’m Not In Love" by 10CC
Thinking about this, it’s a depressing song.  It’s a declaration about how the singer is not in love and that it’ll hurt him if he were.  And with the melancholic tone, it becomes more obvious that this track is from the point of view of him being hurt by the last time he cared about someone.  Or even losing them.

And it’s appropriate that this song is what we hear when we see Peter’s flashback to his childhood.  Which, because of the framing, makes this the first song we hear in the movie, and its accompanying scene the first thing we see.  And it’s rather depressing, capturing the sense of shock, sadness, and brokenness that Peter’s dealing with, since his mother is…
…dying from cancer around what is probably his birthday.  In a way, this arguably makes this one of the saddest scenes in the MCU to date, in stiff competition with most likely a later moment in the film I may reference as well as the entirety of Captain America: Civil War.  And during this time, he gets a present from his mother (which I’ll reveal later like the film), but due to fear and something else, Quill doesn’t hold her mother’s hand when she dies, instead running off in tears before being abducted by the Ravagers (to be taken, in the words of Yondu, to a jackass).  And this is before the Marvel logo comes up.  As a way to start the movie with Peter’s origin and character motivations (or most of his baggage), this song is arguably the best way to do so, in both tone and theme.  But due to the outright amount of manly tears likely shed at the beginning, I don’t think I can put this higher since it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film.

7.         "Fooled Around And Feel In Love" by Elvin Bishop
This might be one of my favorite tunes from the soundtrack in concept alone as well as execution.  This bluesy pop rock tune is from the point of view of someone who would rather just go wild, live life to the fullest, and has no time to relax and settle down.  However, something happened during his free-spirited days that caused him to suddenly fall in love with one person.  And the music is appropriately sleazy as it is romantic, capturing the raw lust for life before he fell in love and the lovey-dovey feelings that came after.  Along with that, there is a great guitar solo that showcases the concept of melodic blues to the fullest.  Plus you also have many other great moments here, such as the instrumentation, the production, and the singer’s delivery.  If there is a song that I would use when I meet a really attractive girl, it’s this one.

Speaking of getting hooked up with attractive girls, this is played when Peter and Gamora hang out while the other members are gambling and getting wasted before meeting with The Collector.  And in this scene, Peter explains the purpose and reason for him having the mixtape, which is the last thing that connects him to Terra (or Earth, as we know it) as it’s a collection of songs he and his mother enjoyed.  And while they’re talking about this, Peter decided to let Gamora, who was interested in knowing why he would go back after it in the Kyln before leaving it, take a listen, and it’s this track playing on it, with it playing in the background for us as well.  She, of course, complements him for it, then they dance, but, this being an action comedy in space, she tries to kill him when she gets caught in his “pelvic sorcery.”  And if you’re wondering, based on the trailers to the new one, this is the song that will, to me, be the tune that marks the moment where Star Lord and Gamora start to have feelings for each other, especially the former for the latter.  I wonder what would happen if someone in-universe figured that out?

6.         "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie
This is a song by David Bowie, and I’m sure that if I discussed this song in depth I’d get something off.  But all I can say is that this is a great song and among is best.  And the mix of the spacey tone and the rock swagger that we associate with Bowie makes this even better and more memorable.  Also, it’s better to experience it yourself than for me to explain it.  Plus it’s been added to Rocksmith last Tuesday.

So how is it used in the movie?  As a way to set the stage for what kind of locale Knowhere is in the movie.  First off, the location is one where The Collector is, and it’s arguably the closest equivalent in the movie to Mos Eisley in the Star Wars series.  And as a result, having a classic rock song that sets a sleazy, mysterious, and bizarre tone is necessary if you’re going a route like this; and the flamboyant moments of the song really work to set up this bizarre section of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a living, breathing aspect of it.  As for the song chosen, it’s almost perfect in setting the tone, and while it’s not directly tied to the story and the moments, it’s more about atmosphere and feelings.  And this gets that perfectly.  So yeah, this is good, but not enough to reach the top 5.

5.         "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways
So let’s talk about this tune piece by piece.  The guitars by Joan Jett and Lita Ford are punchy, aggressive, and loaded with both bite and melody, and the solo by the latter is a starting sign of her talents.  Sandy Fox also manages to provide a strong drum beat that allows for the fury and catchiness to coexist.  The bassist here is fine (and to be honest, it’s difficult to keep up with the band’s bassists), though her lines are likely easily done by Joan or Lita.  And now for Cherrie Curie, who’s arguably the unsung hero of this track, showcasing a rock-star performance and charisma right out of the gate, and while her youthful side shows up in the chorus, she has enough confidence and presence to prove just how crucial she was to this band (I associate Joan Jett singing with her own material or covers of The Arrows).  And that chorus, dear god that chorus is awesome; catchy as hell while also being furious.  Easily the most anarchic song on the soundtrack, even if the band is as authentic as BABYMETAL, and proof that both The Runaways and BABYMETAL shouldn’t be discounted for being the result of producers and managers looking for the next big thing.
So predictably this song is done for a suit-up montage.  How?  After Quill’s speech about taking the opportunity to save the galaxy that they have, even if they die, the song kicks in to showcase preparations for Star Lord’s plan to take on Ronan the Accuser and his forces.  All complete with getting their Ravager attire, mentioning each aspect of Ronan’s ship as well as how to destroy it, picking out their weapons, and finally ending with the titular team walking down a hallway before many Ravager ships fly from the main ship in Xandar’s atmosphere to take down Ronan.  It’s simple, straightforward, meant to pump you up, give both the characters a fighting and confident spirit like the girls in the song about themselves, and matches with the visuals on display.  A great track for a great scene.  But not the best use of music in the movie.

4.         "Come And Get Your Love" by Redbone
So this song is a lot of fun to listen to.  With its funky beat and happy tone, this Redbone classic is a great example of the better funk that came out in the 70s.  The chorus is great, the guitar use is great, with the use of fuzz and syncopation, the bass is ridiculously catchy, and the drums are used effectively here.  Plus those vocals are awesome.  If there was a tune where it would be a great idea to dance to, this would be it.  That and learn the guitar parts in Rocksmith to get a cute girl dancing.
The ultimate showcase of not giving a crap about your safety, and justifiably so.
Let’s face it, this had to be up high thanks to that opening credits scene.  It communicates so much of what’s going on and about to unfold in such a way that you can forgive just how silly it is in concept.  Overall, it’s just Peter Quill/Star Lord exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization, one that guards an Infinity Stone, and being his goofy self.  What I mean is that he’s dancing around and having a big goofy grin on his face, even when grabbing weird alien rats that look dangerous and singing into their faces like a microphone during parts of the song.  And it’s such a catchy little tune that contrasts with the imagery outside of Peter’s antics.  It’s so out there, weird, goofy, off-kilter, and, well, different that you realize that this movie is not trying to be a typical superhero movie.  It’s also not a typical ensemble movie.  It’s not a typical space opera.  And it’s not a typical action comedy.  It’s all of those, and it embraces that idea wholeheartedly.  And it’s a testament to James Gunn’s talents that he can make this work.  Now for DC to try this without making another Suicide Squad-level failure.

3.         "O-o-h Child" by The Five Stairsteps
So for this track, we have a fun little track that deals with trying to chin up and remain optimistic in the face of adversity.  With the song being from the perspective of someone telling this “child” that thing will get better, this manages to be a great song for moments where things went absolutely wrong and that you need a little breather.  It’s also very funky, the instrumentation is great, the beat is steady, and the vocals are really well done here.  If there’s a song I need if I just went through a bad day at work, school, or even crashing a ship with my favorite fellow crewmember sacrificing him/herself to save us all.  That and telling off a homicidal maniac while challenging him to a dance-off.
No declaration of battle has ever been this cool.
To explain why this song works where it does requires explaining Ronan the Accuser as a villain.  He’s kind of a goober when you get down to it.  Not in that sense you’re thinking, but in the whole kind of goober that seems to dominate DC fanboys for some reason.  He’s a devoted, angry, antisocial, and contradictory piece of crap that will defend the “honor” of something that he feels is right but may not be, slaughtering everything in his path to do so.  And unlike DCEU defenders on the internet who only exist on the internet (not flesh and blood ones or casual moviegoers), he has the power to do so.  And that’s where we get to his flaw, and the reason why he’s not as threatening overall: his ultimate immaturity.  Yes, I think Ronan is an overgrown teenager who grew up with an antisocial, holier-than-thou mentality that reeks of obnoxious if he was frail, but with his size and muscle, he can back it up.  But ultimately he’s practically a boy rather than a man, as Thanos would taunt him when they talk (and even then, Thanos is still a monster).  It all comes ahead when his ship is destroyed, his plans nearly halted (to wipe out Xandar in the name of Kree “pride”), and now Peter is singing and grooving to this upbeat, optimistic song while singing it as well.  In short, Star Lord is calling Ronan a brat!  While distracting him from losing the Power Stone!  And it’s really, really funny to see who is ultimately a symptom of Marvel’s “villain problem” being reduced to a complete joke while also trying to retain his character traits as this over-the-top evil monster.  Bravo Quill.  Bravo.

2.         "Hooked On A Feeling" by Blue Suede
For those who probably know, the Blue Suede classic is a cover of a 60s love song that is more of a romance tale than a sexy jam.  For the Blue Suede version, this song is definitely cheesy, but it’s cheesy in that sleazy way that we associate everything from adult videos, girly magazines, sleaze metal, and even ecchi anime and manga.  What I mean is that do you really think a family friendly song would start with “Ooga chaka, ooga ooga”?  Repeated for the first verse before returning after the guitar solo?  But here’s the thing, and why we remember this version: that chant is memorable.  So memorable and earwormy that it’s hard to not get it out of your head.  And in my experience, the only competition for that is a Japanese tune, and even then this one is so distinctive and iconic that it’s hard to replace it unless you cover it.  As for the song beyond that, it’s a standard yacht-friendly sexy pop rock tune with the guitar parts, horn sections, basslines, and drum beats that you associate with that style, alongside the husky vocals.  And the best part, it’s now in Rocksmith (alongside a few other tracks on this countdown), so while learning it on a real guitar, you’d also have the possibility of trying to match your version of the chant with the song’s.  And you also don’t expect it to appear in action movies, yet it’s now associated with one of the weirder ones in the genre.
You’re Welcome. 
If I didn’t put this song in the top three, I’m sure this would be most people’s reaction to this:
As for this song’s usage, it’s when they are now within the Kyln prison (Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot).  You learn more about some of them, you see a guard trying to get an understanding of Peter’s musical tastes while tasing him.  And you also get them practically being forced into prison life, tortured, and undergoing the initial steps to prison hell while this bouncy pop rock cover of a nice little pop song, one that’s arguably more iconic than the original, is playing in the background.  And then there’s the use of this song in the teaser trailer, first remixing the famous “Ooga Chaka, Ooga Ooga” chant at the beginning into a war cry alongside pounding drums as the characters are kicking ass, then playing it straight alongside a shot of all 5 members lined up and annoyed with it playing still, even when the title shows up, screaming just how weird and unexpected this is, even from Marvel.  Plus the scene where it’s ultimately in is very, very funny as well.  Despite that, and the great subversion of the song’s meaning versus the scene it’s in, it’s not enough to have this at number 1.  What I’m looking for is how it ties with the overall story.

1.         "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Motown glory.  That’s all I have to say on this one.  Anything else, including the great instrumentation, from its lushness to its beat, the fantastic vocal interplay between Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and the amazing lyrics, which is arguably one of the greatest showcases of love, is already noticeable and discussed.  This is a fantastic song, and I should stick with that.  Even better, you can learn the guitar and bass parts in Rocksmith now.

Based on the rule of elimination, this song ultimately made number 1 for reasons I’ve been specifying.  First, the song has something to do with the story, such as having the same themes.  Second, its usage has to make sense in regards to the story, like how it relates to a character when it plays.  Third, it adds to the atmosphere, such as having the melodies and lyrics mesh with the shots going on.  In this case, the song’s theme of how distance won’t stop the love two people feel fits with, and is a part of the ending of Peter’s character arc in the first movie.  What I mean is that, before this song plays, he survived the power of the Infinity Stone through not just his bond with his teammates, but seeing an image of his mother holding her hand out during her final moments, and him finally overcoming what was eating at him because of that by giving his hand to her (which is actually Gamora asking for HIS hand at the time to share the power).  This plays after that, and after he learn’s he’s half-ancient cosmic power from Nova Corps after saving Xandar from Ronan, with him playing it as the first track on Vol. 2 of his and his mother’s Awesome Mix tapes.  Said tape was the present he received before she died (cue the tears).  Finally, it also matches with the tone, with Peter remembering the good times with his mother and putting his familial bonds and trust in his new family, the other Guardians, as well as shots of Yondu, the Nova Corps, and Rhoman Dey in heartwarming scenarios like showing love to others who ultimately survived the ordeal that went down.  For Peter, and for everyone else in that moment, there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, and ain’t no river wide enough to keep them from getting to those that they care for, love, and support, but now and in their memories.  It just fits here, and that’s all I can really say.

So that was my countdown for Guardians of the Galaxy’s first Awesome Mix.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.  If you feel like I missed out on discussing Volume 2, feel free to leave your opinions in the comments below.

Oh, and I did see the sequel, so my thoughts will be here: I thought it was great, not as fresh or exciting as the first, but a lot deeper and more emotional than the first, with some fantastic action and very funny comedy.  It’s definitely a great continuation of the story as well as a great continuation and conclusion of a few character arcs from the first.

More thoughts and a numerical score?  It’ll be here:

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Until next time, this is The Rock Otaku.  Live Loud and Play Hard.

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