The Rise of Gru’ Soundtrack, Ranked
The Minions: The Rise of Gru the soundtrack is out, and it wants to be cool. Taylor Swift’s super-producer and friend Jack Antonoff “produced and curated” the album, which the press release calls “sunny ’70s.” [sic] inspired soundtrack. It features staples of the current scene “famous in liberal arts colleges but unknown to moms” like Phoebe Bridgers, Brockhampton and Tame Impala as well as real-life ’70s artists Diana Ross and Earth, Wind & Earth member Verdine White. Fire, and it’s clearly intended to provoke the reaction “Phoebe Bridgers is on a Minions album? Wow!” Still, its surface-level prestige makes it more boring than enjoyable. The whole project looks like something that sounded really cool in a boardroom. Still, uncool didn’t stop Pharrell Despicable Me 2 song “Happy” to dominate the airwaves on real pop stations for an endless amount of time, which means we still have to take Minions music (a little) seriously.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to categorize the songs on the soundtrack in hopes of finding out what’s good, what’s bad, and what the Minions cover “Cecilia” sounds like. Questions that were asked during this ranking include: Does the song fit into the “sunny 70s” ensemble [sic]” vibe? Does the cover reinterpret the original? And most importantly, is it worth watching? Minions: The Rise of Gru cover to listen to it?
19. “Cecilia”, The Minions
The press release referred to this song as saying, “And of course the Minions of Illumination themselves perform on the album, with their signature performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1970s classic, ‘Cecilia'”. Distinctive is definitely a word for it. Of course, it’s terrible. It’s a joke performed by Minions but mostly a strident cacophony of absurd sounds that only feels more silly against the backdrop of the classic Simon and Garfunkel tune. Next!
18 and 17. “Kung Fu Suite”, RZA; “Minions: The Rise of Gru Score Suite”, Heitor Pereira
It’s almost impossible to rank these two against the other songs, since they’re part of the score, not the soundtrack. I can say they are both better than “Cecilia” from Minions.
16. “Cool”, Verdine White
The bass is unsurprisingly excellent given White’s pedigree, and its funk is likely to blow your mind. Unfortunately, in the context of this album, an original instrumental interlude just isn’t what we came here for, so we had to rate this quite low (but above “Cecilia”).
15. “Funkytown”, St. Vincent
Worst cover by a real artist on the soundtrack; this one doesn’t work at all. The vocal effects are cranked up to an annoying 100, and, for a version of one of the most dynamic songs ever written, it drags. The St. Vincent Minion above though? Top marks!
14. “Rise the Sun”, Diana Ross and Tame Impala
By far the biggest disappointment here, the first single from the soundtrack and the only original single never come together. Maybe it suffers compared to Pharrell’s “Happy”, but the biggest problem is that the hook doesn’t catch. There was no way to get “Happy” out of your head. “Turn Up the Sunshine”, on the other hand, won’t enter your head.
13. “Dance to the Music”, ELLE
HER might have had the biggest barrier to entry to make her song feel fun the same way some of these collabs do since she does this kind of cover to, like, everyone else Grammy Awards. Her rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” is yet another technically proficient performance from HER, but it lacks a sense of fun. A certain spontaneity would go a long way in this blanket.
12. “Instant Karma!” bleachers
Jack Antonoff’s own band took on a completely unnecessary challenge by covering a timeless piece by John Lennon-Yoko Ono. This cover has a big “straight guys in theater camp got a singing energy” energy, and we’re only slightly here for it. It has an almost charming lack of vocal polish, especially in line with the original. Unfortunately, asking “Why the hell are we here?” Make sure you don’t live in pain and fear” while impersonating John Lennon on the Minions the soundtrack causes too much full-body recoil for this to be rated higher.
11. “Fly Like an Eagle”, Thundercat
A totally blissful flicker of a song that vibrates a bit over its duration. There’s a place for it, and here that place is on the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack. Does it work? Sure! Is it worth seeing this cover on my phone? Eh.
11. Hollywood Swinging, Brockhampton
In the context of this strange journey of a soundtrack, this cover of Kool and the Gang is on the forgettable side. But it does at least have an energy that the songs further down this list lack. “Hollywood Swinging” is an inspired choice for a group best known for their hyper-contemporary hip-hop style. The biggest advantage of this song is that it’s the only one on the album with a full rap verse, something the other tracks could have used, to be honest.
9. “Shining Star”, Brittany Howard ft. Verdine White
“Shining Star” is one of the “straightest” covers on this list, which should come as no surprise considering Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White is featured on it. It’s a good take, but performing an individual take on a classic song will inevitably invite comparisons to the original, and the original is unbeaten.
8 and 7. “Bang Bang” — Caroline Polachek or GEM
These versions of “Bang Bang” are essentially the same, just with GEM, a singer originally from Shanghai, singing hers in Mandarin. They both have fantastic bridges, which are two of the album’s strongest moments: Polachek sings the word “blood” with all the delicate ferocity she can muster, and GEM turns some of the lyrics into “lalala lalalila “, which is the kind of fun choice that fits into a Minions soundtrack and forces you to sing along. Although they’re overall nice reinterpretations of the Nancy Sinatra classic – especially since they lack the type of histrionics Gaga does on her take — they could use some musical space to recapture the drama so inherent in the original.
6. “Black Magical Woman”, Tierra Whack
If this cover of Peter Green’s original suffers from anything, it’s a guitar that feels unnecessarily compressed. Fortunately, it has Tierra Whack, whose force of personality shines through the overproduced instrumentation. Even Whack’s presence on a gigantic movie like this feels like a win for those of us looking for hip-hop’s weirdest woman (especially since her personality cuts through the Hollywood machine untouched). But would that be too much to ask for a rap verse? Brockhampton has one!
5. “Goodbye to Love”, Phoebe Bridgers
Yeah, Phoebe Bridgers’ industrial complex got me again. This stripped-down cover of the Carpenters’ lush original is the only moment on the album that might get you emotional. Bridgers avoiding the guitars of Punisher because a piano ballad is thrilling, especially since it manages to evoke the sweet early ’70s feeling inherent in “Good-bye to Love” without losing the simple devastation that makes a Phoebe song a song. from Phoebe. The whole Phoebe Bridgers thing still works, damn it.
4. “Desafinado”, Kali Uchis
This one’s docked a few points because Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s original is technically from the 50s, which goes against everything the rest of the album does between the late 60s and the 70s. (I was promised “sunny 70s [sic]“vibes!) Still, it’s one of the few soundtrack covers that summons a smile with every listen. Uchis sounds great on bossa nova and slides easily along the single.
3. “You’re No Good”, Weyes Blood
A softer version of Linda Rondstadt’s “You’re No Good” shouldn’t work, seeing as the original is defined by its hard edge, but given that it’s a Minions soundtrack, Weyes Blood deserves some leniency there. Otherwise, his twang fits effortlessly into Rondstadt’s shoes. The song builds to a climax that hits just after its halfway point, then bleeds out for the rest of its run, giving it a sense of emotion that, unsurprisingly, the album often lacks, given that it is a Minions soundtrack album.
2. “Born to Live”, Jackson Wang
Wang is one of the less obvious choices for the album, but when he starts gritting his teeth in Mandarin about 50 seconds later, there’s no doubting why he’s here. The true excitement of this song is best represented in the way Wang sings the word born, almost moaning. It’s legitimately sexy, and listening to this vocal performance is shocking in the context of what the album really is. Although the instrumental sections can be a little cheesy, Wang’s seductive approach is what drives them. This song – originally recorded by Patrick Hernandez – feels like a true reinterpretation while retaining the urgency of the original. (It’s also followed immediately on the album by Minions’ “Cecilia,” in case you need to freshen up.)
1. “Vehicle”, Gary Clark Jr.
It’s hardly a surprise that Gary Clark Jr., who played with rolling stones and Tom Small, can nail a jam back. What is surprising: he throws his whole body into a cut Minions soundtrack. He makes “Vehicle” his female dog, to be honest, and it sounds good to do it. This song is the only time I forgot I was listening to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack, thanks in large part to Clark’s singular rasp. While everyone on this album seemed to be doing something to Minionsor, perhaps, despite MinionsGary Clark Jr. just did a great cover of a great song.