Only recently in my life as an adult working in the music industry have I realized what a complete and utter pain in the ass licensing music for video is. There was a short time in my life when I thought my career path was heading straight in the professional playlist direction, until I realized you couldn’t just scroll through your Soundcloud (RIP), pick a couple songs, and have them internationally broadcasted. There are such things as rights! Crazy. After coming to this realization, the respect I had for playlists in films grew two-fold. How frustrating it must be to watch a scene, think of a song, and then make sure that song gets to belong in the exact direction you planned it to be in.
A couple of films come to mind when thinking of the perfect playlist, but today, the 15th anniversary of the soundtrack's release, the cake goes to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Aside from King’s Quest, Lara Croft was the only video game I had ever obsessed over. Not only was she a complete and utter babe, the sense of empowerment that came from watching her kick ass was all too thrilling for a ten year old. I also had quite the ear for music at the ripe age of 12, or whenever it was when I saw Tomb Raider for the first time. Not only did the film plant the seed for the ever growing obsession I have with the Illuminati, secret societies, and all conspiracies in general, but Angelina completely KILLED the role of Lara Croft, and the music in the film opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box of electronic for my little ears. This film was my very first introduction to industrial techno, drum n’bass, and speed. Just kidding. Just look at the cast of players we’re talking about here, we’ve got: Chemical Bros, Oxide & Neutrino, OutKast, NIN, Missy Elliott, Moby, Groove Armada… the list goes on and it just gets better one after the other. Speed techno and weird, dark industrialism wasn't too big in my house, and it certainly wasn’t making its rounds in St. Patrick’s Parochial School Grade 6.
Remember the scene of Lara landing in Siberia with the Illuminati and slow motion walking up the hill in that incredibly warm looking fur hooded jacket in slow motion? I think that may have been the first time I broke out into chills due to some type of film-induced ocular orgasm. That scene would NOT have had the effect it did on viewers if Nine Inch Nails’ “Deep” wasn’t cradling the shot with Trent Reznor’s raw, creeping vocals and deep, dark electro rock. This was the beginning of a new world for my electronic days. Back then, in the stone ages, you couldn’t just “google” NIN and click “similar artists”, you had to do the dirty work yourself. You had to go to CD stores and ask what other artists have similar sounds. Enter the world of Crystal Method, Powerman 5000, Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, and a whole lot of time spent thinking about existential crisis because why the hell was this super spastic music making me feel so good on the insides but also making me want to start setting things on fire.
Anyway, back to Lara and fighting old Indonesian statues that turn into humans once the elixir of time runs through their veins - this soundtrack was quite literally ahead of its time. During the scene of Alex West getting stabbed in the shoulder (he totally could have walked that off) and time turning backwards, we hear Groove Armada’s “Edge Hill.” This has all the contemplative, melancholic vibes surrounding it, yet still hits you in the gut with its cutting synths and chords. You’re put in the metaphysical vortex of emotion, stuck between the crushing imaginary walls of dancing and crying.
Lest we forget the good old dance tracks laced within the film! The first being an incredible OutKast track “Speedballin’” right after she destroys the robot designed to help her train. And, if you listen ever so closely, when the UPS man delivers the package and everyone is doing their part to help clean up the shattered home, Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” featuring Nelly Furtado. Missy Elliott was a fun artist to have your mother find the discography downloaded on LimeWire from… I think I got grounded? Unsure.
The moral of this long winded reminisce of what I would call one of the greatest films to ever go into production, is that it, without a doubt, has one of the greatest film soundtracks OF ALL TIME. If you disagree, I don’t know how to help you. The album isn’t on Spotify, along with half the tracks featured in the movie, the most disappointing one being NIN’s, but here is a cleverly crafted YouTube playlist of the entire soundtrack - have at it. Also, there is a remake of this gem going into production soon, and rumor has it babelicious upcomer Alicia Vikander scored the spot of Lady Croft.
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