The moment in the Bling Ring trailer when Emma Watson is slow-motion grinding in the club and licking her lips while Azealia Banks’ “212” blares in the background is probably the moment that most people decided, “Yes! I want to see this movie.”
Unfortunately, these are the only sources of entertainment to be found in The Bling Ring: Watson shedding her good-girl image to play a spoiled teenage sociopath, and a soundtrack that pumps up the film’s vitality even when its stars are dead behind the eyes.
Sofia Coppola fifth directorial effort is not quite as banal as her previous two (2010’s Somewhere and 2006’s Marie Antoinette) yet nowhere near as brilliant as her earliest offerings (2003’s Lost in Translation and 1999’s The Virgin Suicides).
The true story of a group of California teens robbing celebrity houses practically writes itself, but Coppola misses out on an opportunity for greatness by making almost all of her characters frustratingly vapid blank slates.
The Bling Ring soundtrack features titles that are right on the nose of the film’s content: “Money Machine,” “Gucci Bag,” “Super Rich Kids,” etc. Most of these songs are performed by black rappers—which is a little odd considering that the cast of thieving rich kids are all lily-white—but hey, cultural appropriation is in these days (see Miley Cyrus’ much-ballyhooed music video for “We Can’t Stop.”)
Songs that were hits during the real-life Bling Ring robberies of 2008-2009, such as “Crown on the Ground” by Sleigh Bells and Deadmau5’s “FML,” are obvious choices. However, much older and less-known jams like “Freeze” by Klaus Schultze and Can’s “Halleluwah” also mesh well with the soundtrack’s electronic theme.
Most of the music sounds appropriate in context, although selections could have been a tad more inspired. Relatively current songs from Kanye West and M.I.A are slightly distracting, but don’t feel too out of place; while the use of Phoenix’s “Bankrupt!” off the band’s most recent album of the same name is an all-too-obvious plug for Coppola’s husband (and Phoenix lead singer) Thomas Mars.
In a January interview with Rolling Stone, Coppola’s longtime music supervisor Brian Reitzell spoke about the recent popularity of EDM in films like Spring Breakers and the Bling Ring as a very natural decision.
“I always do the things that sound the best,” he said, with “killer drums” on tracks like “FML” and “Halleluwah” being his main inspiration.
Reitzell also credited Kanye West for not only graciously allowing him to use the songs “Power” and “All of the Lights” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but also for recommending Franck Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” before the track had been released.
“Eventually we heard the song and Kanye was right. It was absolutely perfect,” said Reitzell, “You’ve got to see it in theaters. My favorite line is about the showerhead—’the showerhead’s so amazing.'”
A song about being vain and shallow, just like the annoyingly superficial teens of The Bling Ring—and for exactly that reason, it works. Even when the film suffers from obvious, empty narcissism, the music still intrigues.
Various Artists – Bling Ring tracklist:
- “Crown on the Ground” – Sleigh Bells
- “9 Piece” – Rick Ross ft. Lil Wayne
- “Sunshine” – Rye Rye ft. M.I.A
- “212” – Azealia Banks
- “Ouroboros” – Onehotrix Point Never
- “Money Machine” – 2 Chainz
- “Bad Girls” – M.I.A
- “All of the Lights” – Kanye West
- “Drop It Low” – Ester Dean ft. Chris Brown
- “Gucci Bag” – Reema Major
- “Halleluwah” – Can
- “Power” – Kanye West
- “Freeze” – Klaus Schulze
- “FML” – Deadmau5
- “Bling Ring Suite” – Brian Reitzell & Daniel Lopatin
- “Bankrupt!” – Phoenix
- “Super Rich Kids” – Frank Ocean ft. Earl Sweatshirt