The best soundtrack award differs from best original score in that it focuses on the use of pre-existing popular music rather than a newly composed score. Notice that I said “pre-existing,” so movies that mainly consist of newly recorded music like Inside Llewyn Davis aren’t really eligible, though soundtracks that mix pre-existing material with new material are (although only the licensed portions are to be analyzed).
- American Hustle: Like the movie itself, American Hustle’s soundtrack was all about the 1970s, and the song selction seems to cover every aspect of popular music from that decade. There’s some Disco (Diana Ross’ “I Feel Love”), some Folk-Rock (America’s “Horse With No Name”), some glam rock (Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”), some Soft Rock (Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work”), and some good old fashioned Arena Rock (Santana’s “Evil Ways”). It’s like the older and slightly more urban flip-side to Richard Linklater’s famous 70s nostalgia soundtrack to the film Dazed and Confused.
- The Bling Ring: With The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola is very much trying to capture what “the kids” are up to in 2013, and to do it she fills her soundtrack with a lot of very contemporary music from artists who paint a very opulent picture of American culture. It features tracks by Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, and of course two tracks by the maestro of luxury rap: Kanye West. Then in the closing credits she brings in Frank Ocean to act as a sort of voice of reason with his uncannily on-point song “Super Rich Kids.”
- Spring Breakers: Another director trying to figure out what’s wrong with the youth of today was Harmony Korine, who also filled his soundtrack with Hip Hop, but hip hop of a very different kind. Where Sofia Coppola focused on rappers who give off an aura of sophistication and taste, Korine focuses on disreputable and alienating voices like Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, and Meek Mill. Of course the real backbone of this soundtrack comes from Skrillix’s widely despised “bro-step” music which, in this context, alters the tone of the film to turn it into a weird trippy party from hell… y’all.
- The World’s End: The World’s End is all about a group of friends trying to recapture their youth in the late 90s, as such the film’s soundtrack is loaded with Britpop from that era by the likes of Blur, Pulp, Suede, and The Stone Roses. There was also that Soup Dragons track I nominated earlier as well as a Primal Scream song that’s integral to the film’s opening. The film also breaks the motif for a minute to include The Doors’ bizarro Brecht cover “The Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” which is certainly appropriate to the movies focus on old bars. It’s also pretty much the only nominee that isn’t actively about excess, so that’s something.
- The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese soundtracks in movies like Goodfellas and Casino are traditionally very melded to the time period they’re based in, but he goes for a much more eclectic mish mash for The Wolf of Wall Street. He uses some blues tracks by some of his own heroes like Cannonball Adderly and Howlin’ Wolf, but there’s also a punkier side to the soundtrack featuring the likes of The Lemonheads and 7Horse, as well as more 90s specific moments like Cypress Hill and Naughty by Nature. Also, kudos to Scorsese for having the restraint to keep “Gimme Shelter” out of this even though its opulence set against lyrics about rape and murder being a shot away probably would have matched every scene of the film.