The perfect song can elevate a movie scene to instantly-iconic status. Whether it’s an all-out song-and-dance number, a new piece of music penned specifically for the film, or the exact right pop song used for the exact right scene, the best soundtrack choices can conjure all kinds of emotions. 2019’s been another stellar year for musical moments in the movies – and Empire has pulled together a list of the most memorable. From Disney’s latest belter, to another killer Tarantino compilation, and the best song about Keanu Reeves you could ever hope to hear, read on and listen to the best movie soundtrack songs of 2019.
Into The Unknown – Idina Menzel (Frozen II)
How do you solve a problem like ‘Let It Go’? You come up with another short, snappy phrase that instantly evokes a whole new adventure – this time being Elsa’s quest into (you guessed it) the unknown, following the ghostly voice that presents itself to her. A worthy follow-up to the most monolithic Disney song of the decade.
Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
The soundtrack to Tarantino’s latest is, as ever, a stellar collection of retro cool, this time all period-appropriate to the film’s 1969 setting. You could pull any tune out, but the opening piano strains of Neil Diamond feel inextricably linked to the movie’s golden hues.
Slip Away – Perfume Genius (Booksmart)
The perfect accompaniment to one the most emotionally impactful scenes in Olivia Wilde’s brilliant teen comedy, encapsulating the giddy joy and subsequent heartbreak of Kaitlyn Dever’s Amy as she discovers her crush on Victoria Ruesga’s Ryan is far from reciprocated.
I Got 5 On It – Luniz (Us)
In a genius move, part of Michael Abels’ score for Jordan Peele’s Get Out follow-up inverts Luniz’s 1995 hip hop hit into a Psycho-esque string-laden nightmare. Instantly iconic.
The Promised Land – Bruce Springsteen (Blinded By The Light)
Gurinder Chadha’s paean to The Boss is stacked with classic songs – but she makes particularly excellent use of ‘The Promised Land’, from 1978’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town. When British-Asian teen Javed (Viveik Kalra) gets lost in Springsteen’s music for the first time, he steps outside into the Great Storm of 1987 as the aching song whistles in the wind around him.
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting – Taron Egerton (Rocketman)
Dexter Fletcher’s Elton John musical has plenty of audacious visuals – particularly in the staging of this raucous piano-rock song as part dance number, part fight scene. It’s brash and breathless, and marks a smart transition point from Kit Connor’s kid Reggie to Taron Egerton’s soon-to-be-Elton.
In The Still Of The Night – Fred Parris And The Five Satins (The Irishman)
Popping up at several points throughout Martin Scorsese’s era-spanning gangster movie, ‘In The Still Of The Night’ is practically its theme song – a mournful love song that seems to haunt Robert De Niro’s hitman Frank Sheeran, whose violence effectively shuts out any love from his own life.
Portals – Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame)
The – SPOILER WARNING – re-emergence of an entire cinematic universe of Marvel heroes would be stirring enough on its own terms. But Alan Silvestri’s stupendous score pushes Endgame’s climax to even greater heights, a soaring battle-cry as Cap leads the charge in the final fight against Thanos. As far as classical scores can be, it’s a banger.
Hologram (Smoke And Mirrors) – Madilyn Bailey (Vox Lux)
Brady Corbet’s confounding commentary on contemporary America, cyclical violence, and popular culture is buoyed by a parade of Sia-penned pop. Performed by Raffey Cassidy’s young Celeste (with actual vocals by singer Madilyn Bailey) in the film’s opening half, ‘Hologram’ is a shiny single with sharp edges, even if it sounds too contemporary to have been released in the early 2000s as the narrative dictates.
I Punched Keanu Reeves – Hello Peril (Always Be My Maybe)
Among the greatest joys of Netflix’s bouncy rom-com is a string of genuinely brilliant songs from Randall Park’s in-film musical project Hello Peril. But this ode to the movie’s surprise cameo from Actual Keanu Reeves, who – mild spoiler warning – does indeed get punched by Park’s Marcus, is the pinnacle. The best lyric? It’s a toss-up between: “I hit John Wick and now I’m feeling so appealing”, and “I’ve got a high five that can make a man die”.
Celebrity Skin – Hole (Captain Marvel)
Over the end credits of Carol Danvers’ 1990s-set adventure comes an iconic piece of ‘90s alt-rock. Those crunching guitars and pounding drums make for a thrilling send-off to a fun and powerful origin story.
Love In This Club – Usher (Hustlers)
Before the whole drug-and-mug operation turns dark, the joy and camaraderie felt by the troupe of strippers in Lorene Scafaria’s crime drama is encapsulated by a joyous sequence – the girls hosting R&B icon Usher to the sounds of his own 2008 hit, $100 bills floating through the air in slow-motion.
Spirit – Beyoncé (The Lion King)
Penning a new song for a musical soundtrack as near-perfect as The Lion King’s is no mean feat – but is there truly anything Beyoncé can’t do? The rousing ‘Spirit’ is the perfect mid-point between classic heartfelt R&Bey, and the soaring, wide-open melodies of Elton John and Tim Rice’s original songs.
Catchy Song – Dillon Francis ft. T-Pain & Lay Lay (The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part)
It’s not quite ‘Everything Is Awesome’, but the bold chorus of “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your, this song’s gonna get stuck inside your heeeeead” proved to be pretty damn accurate.
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