By Amanda DK
It’s not a secret that Jason Reitman loves music. His first major breakout film success also yielded a hit soundtrack that reached number #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. He is a big supporter of Los Angeles public radio station, KRCW. Not to take away from any of the amazing music supervisors who have worked on his films – Margaret Yen and Peter Afterman for Juno and Thank You For Smoking, Randall Poster for Up in the Air, and now Linda Cohen for Young Adult – but the fact that all of his films have the same musical personality is a testament to his influence on each soundtrack. Conversely however, composer Rolfe Kent has been with him for all of the above referenced films except for Juno. In all of them, the musical choices feel deliberate, even at first viewing. Songs are not jammed in where they shouldn’t be; the score enhances certain moments, but allows others to bask in the (calculated) awkward or tender silence. As a result, each song or score cue feels that much more important to the story being told.
That said, I knew to have a pen and paper on the ready as I watched Young Adult. I was both surprised and unphased by the fact that there was no musical support for the first five minutes or more of the film. It was only after Mavis decides to go back to her small, Minnesota, hometown and begins packing her bags, when a few mischeivously quirky score cues snuck in.
While the soundtrack features a slew of classic nineties alt-rock bands like The Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr, The Replacements, 4 Non Blondes and Veruca Salt (perfect for a character that refuses to grow up beyond her high-school self), the most prominently featured song is “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub.
“The Concept” is the first song in the film, track number one on a mixtape given to Mavis by her high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade, who she is off to win back. It blasts out the windows of her Mini Cooper as she cruises down the highway. Later, however, we hear a live version of the song, performed by a band of town mothers – including Beth, Buddy’s wife, who is the drummer. The song is dedicated from Beth to Buddy. Mavis watches as the “love of her life” stares at the love of his life with a big grin as she plays. It is a turning point for Mavis: time to bring out the big guns. All of a sudden her quest turns from childish to desperate.
I’ll admit I’m not the most familiar with the Scottish band and their thematic tendencies, but as I am interpreting the song, off their 1991 album, Bandwagonesque, it is perfect to play this moment. It’s sweet and mellow, but still rough around the edges, with a few gritty riffs thrown in for good measure. It sounds like a guy apologizing for breaking up with his girlfriend to be with the girl of his dreams; I didn’t want to hurt you, but this other girl is just too awesome. The reasons may be immature (“When she’s at the gig she takes her car, And she drive us home if it is in a bar”) but that is the seniment. Mavis believes that she is the woman that cannot be denied, for reasons like these that were relevant in high school. From Beth’s point of view however, the childish nature of the lyrics is endearing and youthful; she is the woman he turned everyone else down to be with. When coupling that understanding with the tone, both juvenile and restrained, “The Concept” fits it’s role beautifully.
I didn’t want to hurt you oh yeah…
I didn’t want to hurt you oh yeah…
Teenage Fanclub “The Concept”
Purchase Young Adult (Music from the Motion Picture) here.