James Gunn's pride and joy, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, is the best thing to happen to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People often forget that the entirety of Phase One leads up to the first Avengers film, which was great. But in just one film, Gunn and crew managed to make Guardians of the Galaxy with another big cast without any buildup films, and it was nearly perfect.
Then Vol. 2 came out and it actually was perfect, and the Guardians went on to have roles in Infinity War and Endgame, with a third film slated to wrap their arcs. The real-world music featured in the films plays an integral role in the style and the story of the films, so it's time to look at some of the highlights of the tracks used.
10 "Rubberband Man" - The Spinners
James Gunn managed to get some input for Infinity War, so for the appearance of the Guardians to join the rest of the MCU, his suggestion to use "Rubberband Man" to cue their appearance was great. The funky '70s sound is exactly the kind of music that Quill grew up on (due to his mother's taste), and the entrance of the Guardians into Infinity War was a huge crowd-pleaser. The fact that retro music instantly became a cue to the fans shows how far the Guardians have come in pop culture and their recognizability.
9 "Hooked On A Feeling" - Blue Swede
"Hooked On A Feeling" was used heavily in the marketing for Guardians of the Galaxy and almost worked like a theme song for them. It's used in the first film quite hilariously, when a curious guard steals Quill's Walkman and plays it, clearly getting into the groove a bit before an enraged Quill demands he stop. Of course, the trope of "upbeat music to unfortunate circumstances" works well as Quill gets tasered to the tune.
8 "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" - Elvin Bishop
Peter Quill is a completely immature mess, and the Guardians films are essentially showcasing his growth into a more responsible person. While conversing with Gamora, Quill tries out his playboy tricks, playing the very on-the-nose song of "I Fooled Around And Fell In Love." However, there seems to be more sincerity to Quill's seduction tactics this time around, as he isn't necessarily trying to just use Gamora for a one-night stand. However, she's a bit wiser to his "pelvic sorcery" than he assumed and draws her weapon on him, warning him off in a pretty sudden turn of atmosphere.
7 "Southern Nights" - Glen Campbell
Michael Rooker's role as Yondu was a great performance in the Guardians films, and the distinctive Southern drawl he carries worked well with the character. As Yondu and his Ravagers approached the seemingly undefended Guardian campsite in Vol. 2, it's revealed that Rocket was well-prepared and waiting for them, playing "Southern Nights" to make it seem as if the crew was relaxing.
Rocket gladly hums along and causes complete chaos in the Ravagers' ranks, blasting them with darts, blowing them up, and sending them up and down with gravity mines. The fun country tune works to both point out the loveliness of the alien planet's night, signal Yondu's arrival, and serenade the madness.
6 "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" - Looking Glass
As one of the more developed and engaging MCU villains, Ego was pretty influential in what made Quill the person he was. A father being present, or in this case, not present, can have massive ramifications on a person. He successfully managed to have Quill's mother fall in love with him and bear his child. Ego was essentially like an intergalactic parasite of sorts, doing this on planets throughout the galaxy. The seemingly breezy tune of the song takes a different turn from '70s escapades to realizing that Ego was represented by its lyrics, which he later points out. "My life, my love, my lady, is the sea..." is a very suiting statement for a manipulative being who wanted to basically absorb the vast galaxy.
5 "Father And Son" - Cat Stevens
Yondu's death in Vol. 2 is among the saddest moments in the MCU, and the subsequent funeral is one of the most emotionally charged moments. In fact, Yondu's funeral was arguably better than Tony Stark's funeral (though Tony was obviously the more beloved figure). As "Father And Son" plays while Quill comes to terms with the fact that his adoptive father figure died, every character gets their own existential crisis to ruminate on in the movie's final scene. But it's Rocket who gets the most bittersweet moment. Rocket was bitter and self-isolating, but he bonded with Yondu and rediscovered himself. As he looks at the gorgeous tribute the Ravagers put on in the sky for Yondu, Rocket silently sheds a few tears and reflects on the larger picture while reflecting on his fallen friend.
4 "I Want You Back" - The Jackson Five
The iconic mid-credits scene in the first film is easily one of the best MCU credits scenes out there. As the new baby Groot grows back after the original sacrificed himself, he sprouts his arms and begins to dance. As Drax sits behind him, he checks on Groot, but a shy Groot freezes perfectly in place until Drax looks away, and Groot resumes dancing. This gag would pop up again in the opening of Vol. 2, when a dancing Groot would open the film and again freeze when Drax looked his way. It's nothing really important, but it captures the sheer fun that the films offer.
3 "The Chain" - Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac is one of the most high-profile bands that the Guardians films utilize, and the choice of "The Chain" was brilliant. As Vol. 2 deals with the Guardians' growth as a family, "The Chain" plays while the Guardians are bickering in the film's first act. As Peter chases after the (biological) father he never had, and that father betrays him, he fights free of Ego's control.
When "The Chain" plays a second time, it's when Peter reflects on the real family he formed, and he's able to chase down Ego and fight him in an epic brawl. Famously, "The Chain" was on the "Rumours" album, and it's interesting to note that it was the only song that gave credit to all the members of the band, having been well known for the complicated and dramatic relationships between its members.
2 "Come A Little Bit Closer" - Jay And The Americans
Vol. 2 has a lot going for it, and it also hosts one of the coolest scenes in the MCU. As Rocket, Groot, and Yondu break out of their holding cells and reap their revenge on the Ravagers that betrayed Yondu, Rocket manages to taunt the doomed crew with "Come A Little Bit Closer," as Yondu's new whistle arrow darts in and out of the turncoats. The visual display of the red line of death and the cheery music playing over the carnage of the mutineers' comeuppance is a perfect visual and audible treat.
1 "Come And Get Your Love" - Redbone
People trying to guess or request upcoming music in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are just wasting time. The songs are exactly what they need to be. Music is a very personal subject, and the Guardians films have their own flow and personality to them and their music. After all, no one would tell a painter what colors to use for their work. And with that in mind, the best-used song is the one that played over the first film's opening credits: "Come And Get Your Love."
It's an often forgotten feelgood tune that isn't really about much, and in the opening scene, Quill is just dancing and enjoying his day to day business. He's got his own little system, he's doing fine, and the music complements his work. The music cues the audience into the entire mood of the film: have fun. This is the song that started that feeling and managed to follow a very heavy opening scene without feeling forced or giving emotional whiplash. It's representative of the Guardians franchise. Fun, but still able to deliver heart.
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