Yesterday, I saw Minions: Rise of Gru (somehow a day before the worldwide launch), and it was a surprisingly exceptional experience that threw me through a range of unexpected emotions. The character designs are remarkable — specifically the Vicious Six, a far-out and evil motley crew with a fierce collective sense of style, and the lustrous updated animated look of the titular Minions. These teensy, yellow malleable orbs have finally found themselves, handily surpassing the hollow shells of their former prototypes in the original Despicable Me and securing an eternal spot in miniature mascot history.
Without silly dances, the Minions are nothing — and there are no silly dances without music. This whole film is powered by a fashionable soundtrack featuring underground legend Yeat; ethereal vocalist Caroline Polachek; Diana Ross, one of the mothers of Motown; and even more. Chock-full of danceable throwback covers, the Minions: Rise of Gru soundtrack sieves artists of contradicting genres into a sonic purée that everyone is sure to groove along to.
If it’s not obvious from my praise, I unironically had a blast watching Minions: Rise of Gru. During this transient martial arts and discotheque adventure, I came to the conclusion that soundtracks in the Minions Cinematic Universe (MCU) have and will continue to always go ridiculously hard.
To understand why these OSTs are so potent, we have to go back 12 years into the past, to the launch of Despicable Me, to the birth of the MCU. This original motion picture soundtrack was produced by Hans Zimmer and composed by Heitor Pereira and Pharell Williams. Williams wrote and performed most of the songs, also enlisting the performances of the Bee Gee, The Sylvers (both pre-recorded), and unfortunately, Robin Thicke.
Aside from the blemish of Thicke’s involvement, the soundtrack compels a feel-good time. The classic sweet floatiness that Williams is known for is infused into the tape, while songs like “Rocket’s Theme” help add sincerity to the otherwise frivolous sequence of gags that is Despicable Me.
Despicable Me 2 is fairly similar to the first, but it gains a feature from CeeLo Green and more instrumental tracks from Pereira. Minions introduces a lot more Minions singing covers and originals. Despicable Me 3 follows suit with more original Williams tracks as well as even more licensed bangers of the past, including Nena’s 99 “Luftballons” and a-ha’s “Take on Me.”
Even from the series’ start, the Minions knew it was imperative to get down — a dogma that continues strong throughout the rest of the MCU. The Jack Antonoff-produced Minions: Rise of Gru soundtrack is a drastic swap from the MCU musical formula, tossing audiences in a time machine and treating them to modern covers of hits from the 1950s to the late 1970s.
Yeat, as a minion, from the Lyrical Lemonade trailer
What is especially wild is the choice of artists who come from such varied pockets of sound. A couple of days ago, Yeat dropped a song called “Rich Minion,” a Universal-sponsored single that made me think I teleported into another dimension. The rage rap track is about a self-described rich Minion, and it, against all odds, slaps.
Some highlights include sections where Yeat says, “Yeah, I don’t like Vector! (Take ’em out)” twice in reference to Vector, Despicable Me‘s antagonist, and at the end of the first verse when he says, “I called the Minion up and this what he said.” As he does this, a Minion slides on the warped trap beat to exclaim, “Ha (Huh?), hey Mel, la bastichi. La papaya, du la potato (Yeah, la potato, oh, yeah).”
Yeat has blown up in the past year with his latest tape “2 Alivë,” but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this collaboration. Like many songs on the Minions: Rise of Gru soundtrack, it is good. I’m genuinely streaming these tracks.
Minions: Rise of Gru was a meme before it even launched, so it’s been astonishing to watch it and realize it’s one of the most fun movies in recent memory. Even if you don’t go out to theaters to watch it, you should absolutely give the soundtrack a listen. It goes hard because Minions OSTs have always gone hard — it is simply honoring its 12-year legacy of goggles, denim, and bops. Check out Diana Ross and Tame Impala’s new single “Turn Up The Sunshine” if you get the chance. Sound of the summer.