Nostalgic Soundtracks Are Suddenly At the Top of Everyone’s Playlists

Friends, it is my great pleasure to announce that the soundtrack is having a moment in pop culture, and it’s a moment that’s absolutely loaded with nostalgia.

Watching Hustlers last week in the cinema, I screamed (silently, I’m not an asshole) when Jennifer Lopez was introduced while performing a pole dancing routine to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. I knew it was coming as I’d read the reviews and seen people tweeting about it, but seeing it onscreen for myself was still exactly as thrilling and perfect as I’d anticipated it to be, as was the montage set to Britney Spears’ “Gimme More”, which is the only song from 2007 that matters.

Now, look. I know I’m biased. I’m 33 year old and have worshipped at the throne of Britney Spears everyday since 1998, so it’s hardly surprising that my inner fangirl was in awe during these moments. But I swear, it wasn’t just them! Every song on the Hustlers soundtrack was perfectly chosen, and took us on a journey all the way from Britney to Cardi.

When thinking about it later, it occurred to me that there seems to have been a recent influx of really great film soundtracks, and nearly all of them have had a major element of nostalgia to them.

The Captain Marvel soundtrack also played heavily to my undying love for a time when I didn’t have to pay bills, setting one of the major fight scenes to No Doubt’s “Just A Girl”. Of course, any 90s kid will tell you that the song had already enjoyed a major movie moment when it was featured on the Clueless soundtrack back in 1995, and hearing it pop back up in Captain Marvel delighted me. I sat there grinning like a tween, thinking about how similar the fight was to those of Buffy back in the day, and absolutely loving it.

Jordan Peele’s Us was released at the start of this year (even if it feels like it was 900 years ago now), and got everyone singing “I got five on it” to themselves again. Bringing the classic to a new audience, the way the trailer wove the song into the build up of tension made it an absolute earworm that stuck in people’s minds.

Of course, that’s not all. In fact, most of the major film soundtracks released this year have relied heavily on our nostalgia for days gone by. We’ve had Taron Edgerton’s take on all the Elton John classics in Rocketman, Disney has been serving up live action remakes galore, and the live action releases of Aladdin and The Lion King meant, yep you guessed it new renditions of “Hakuna Matata” and “A Whole New World”. And let’s not forget Yesterday, which featured Himesh Patel recreating The Beatles’ back catalogue in his world where he was the only one who remembered the Fab Four had ever existed.

So, okay, perhaps this is all a big ploy by filmmakers to get us to buy tickets, right? I mean, not to get all tin foil hat on you, but feelings of nostalgia are scientifically proven to make you feel happy and warm. Literally, physically warm. In fact, Slate reported that “psychologists and neuroscientists have confirmed that [songs we loved as teenagers] hold disproportionate power over our emotions”.

They continued:

“Researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains bind us to the music we heard as teenagers more tightly than anything we’ll hear as adults a connection that doesn’t weaken as we age. Musical nostalgia, in other words, isn’t just a cultural phenomenon: It’s a neuronic command.”

Are they brainwashing us into liking their films? I mean, maybe! The 18-24 age demographic is the one buying the most movie tickets at the moment, so I guess it stands to reason that if they could bump up the millennials’ sense of satisfaction at the cinema by giving us that warm rush of nostalgia and all its associated feelings, perhaps they would be likelier to come back to the cinema more often, associating it with a place where they feel happy, rather than a place where they’re forking out money that should really go to bills, or whatever. Or, you know, maybe we’ve just had a weird year where all the films are either set in the past or remakes of Disney classics.

Either way, as a millennial, I’m not mad at it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to the Hustlers soundtrack.