With anticipation high for Jay-Z’s soundtrack to American Gangster (due in stores Nov. 6), it’s no wonder people are mulling over, once again, the question of what makes a good soundtrack. Too many soundtrack songs are chosen for marketing reasons, not because they actually complement what’s happening on screen. At the same time, you’d like an album that holds together conceptually, that you can listen to without watching the movie. I used to think that, when it came to matching images with the ideal found songs, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme had no peers, but lately, such directors as Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, Zach Braff, and Wes Anderson have joined that list.
We know you PopWatchers obsess over soundtracks as much as we do, so we wonder what you’ll think of the latest contribution to the discussion, this one from Vanity Fair. The magazine has compiled a list of the 40 best soundtracks of all time for its next issue, but the top 10 have been made public. Hard to argue with Prince’s Purple Rain (pictured) at No. 1, but this list does skew kinda old. Aside from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, no other movies from the last 20 years cracked the top 10, which otherwise consists of such (admittedly unassailable) Boomer favorites as A Hard Day’s Night, The Harder They Come, American Graffiti, Saturday Night Fever, and The Big Chill. Still, where’s Braff’s Garden State? Where’s The Matrix? And where’s hip-hop? (No 8 Mile or Hustle & Flow?)
Maybe Jay-Z will make VF wish they’d waited for American Gangster, or maybe it won’t merit a place on the list. Tell us, PopWatchers, what you think the best soundtracks are. Pick ones you still listen to, that have earned a place of honor in your CD collection or on your iPod.