Comic Bookery / Music / Nerdery / Nostalgia'd! / Pop Culture Analysis / Tunes

The Emotional Depth of the Awesome Mix

tape deck

**Spoiler warning: If you have not yet seen Guardians of the Galaxy, run to your local theatre and remedy that! Otherwise, proceed at your own risk lest I spoil major plot points.**


If you’re like me, you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy multiple times. (I’ve only seen it twice so far, but I could honestly watch it every day were time and money no object.) One way I’m revisiting it is through the soundtrack, Awesome Mix, Vol. 1. I bought it even though I own most of the songs on the soundtrack in some form of media. I even went so far as to create a playlist with the songs in the order they occur in the movie.

I did one other thing with this soundtrack. I sent it to my mom as a gift. When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy the first time, I sobbed through the opening scene between Peter and his mom. It hit home for me like crazy. No, I wasn’t abducted by aliens and raised by a space ravager, but I was raised by parents who love music and who shared their love of music with me. I, like Peter Quill, have a mom who exposed me to the music she loved when she was growing up and often made me mixtapes. Her brother, my uncle, also made me mixtapes of stuff he dug. Plus, my dad exposed me to music he loved. Add all that together, and you have a kid who not only loves stuff from her childhood, but also stuff from her parents’ childhoods. And a kid, who from childhood until the moment I’m writing this, has to be surrounded by music at least a little bit each day, much like our own Star-Lord.

I read this Slate article that posits that the soundtrack is a lie because it includes the two songs at the end (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Want You Back”) and betrays Peter’s mom’s mixtape skills because these songs were from the ’60s. I disagree completely, mainly on the premise that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that she liked songs from the late ’60s, not to mention that they probably knew they couldn’t squeeze out a second volume since the rest would be songs that didn’t appear in the film. And any soundtrack that includes “I Want You Back” is aces with me.

What James Gunn did with this soundtrack is make it a character. It lives and breathes as much as Groot, and is much more articulate. The songs themselves seem to be a conversation, a story Peter’s mom is telling her son about her relationship with his father that ends with reassuring words for her frightened little boy. She starts with “I’m Not In Love”, then moves quickly to “Come And Get Your Love” and “Go All The Way”, then to “Hooked On A Feeling” and “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”. She hints at Peter’s father’s otherworldly pedigree with “Moonage Daydream”, then back to her feelings with “Fooled Around And Fell In Love”. She shows a little rebellion, or perhaps comes to terms with her illness with “Cherry Bomb”. She closes out the first volume with “O-O-H Child,” a song to encourage Peter through the loss of his mom (and perhaps to reassure herself when faced with her own mortality). The first two tracks of the second volume are, at least in my own head, songs she chose for Peter’s father, as if she knew what we eventually find out, that on the eve of her death, Yondu retrieves Peter with the intent of returning him to his father. Both songs are about reuniting: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” fits since Peter’s father hired someone to fly across the galaxy to get him, and “I Want You Back” because, well, he wants his son back.

Even if  I’m reading too much into the selections, it’s a damn fine collection of songs. Gunn has said that “I Want You Back” is his favorite song, and I agree. Plus, this is in the world now.

So this one goes out to my mom, with whom I share volume after volume of awesome mixes. I love you!

3 thoughts on “The Emotional Depth of the Awesome Mix

  1. I love your interpretation of the ST and I agree on almost every point! Looking at all of the songs in there, you’re dealing with love, loss, or the otherworldliness of Peter’s dad. I love that the ST not only becomes a character… it becomes the ghost of Peter’s Mother running through the whole movie.

    Great article! I tried putting together a volume of music that followed the same rules:

    1. Music that Peter’s Mom would have been familiar with, time-wise (my list even drifted into the very early 80’s since there was no way she didn’t hear and love some of that music as well).
    2. Music that fits the themes and scenes of a space-bound adventure film
    3. Songs that would work as a part of the conversation between Peter, his mother, and Peter’s Father.
    4. Songs that are fun to listen to just on their own.

    Following those set rules, what sorts of songs would you put together for your own “Awesome Mix”?

  2. Pingback: Oh My……. | Nerdy Life of Mine

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