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Soundtracking: "Love, Simon"

by Chris Feil

Love, Simon is chasing the ghost of John Hughes, a brand of uplift where teen woes are packaged conventionally and without condescension for maximum warm fuzzies. Naturally that package must include an anthemic sound, music that connects with the generation it depicts and becomes part of the fabric of what we remember about the film. But if Love, Simon is supposed to be a gay alternative on Hughesian comedy, does the sound also have its gay twist?

Simon’s signature sound comes from Jack Antonoff and his band Bleachers, bookending the film. Instead of the singular force of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” as Hughes employed in The Breakfast Club, it’s more like the film uses Antonoff as the artist to hang its headphones on instead of one song. He’s a straight musician, but Bleachers is fairly embraced by the queer teen set - at least the kind that the film depicts. Though in an age where Troye Sivan can produce hit bops about bottoming, is that really enough for the film to define itself musically?

It’s important to remember that Simon’s is a coming out story, so reflecting the closet musically has some narrative value here. Sivan does underscore Simon’s first coming out, awkwardly to his friend Abby, perhaps an intentionally revealing song choice to christen Simon’s proclamation. Similarly his musical taste hides his gayness while making it plainly obvious. He’s more of a hipster gay, one who listens to The Kinks on vinyl and has his bedside draped with heartthrobs on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Unfortunately that does come with gay self-loathing. When Simon imagines the freedom of college, the film abruptly tumbles into full Gap commercial dance sequence set to Whitney Houston’s heartbursting “I Want to Dance With Somebody”. It’s a primary color fantasia on national choreographic themes, one that Simon dismisses with: “Yeah, maybe not that gay.” As someone whose gay daydreams were crushingly close to this (Whitney and all), this feels like a slap on the limp wrist.

Does Simon’s musical identity signify his just-beginning journey of self-discovery or is it further evidence for the film’s dissenters that Simon chases heteronormativity? Like the film, the soundtrack must land the tricky task of embodying someone as they begin to find themselves. For better or worse, that may mean facing the harshness of Simon running in the opposite direction. Maybe myopia is part of the point here.

And yet littered throughout the film are musical choices that reveal the graciousness at the film’s heart, both for a more overt gay fantasy and Simon’s chill bro tension that only makes his real self more evident. Behind that posturing is a gay guy jamming to contemporary coolgirl songstresses like HAERTS and a guy who knows every word to a Justin Bieber song when he steps up to karaoke. What kind of high school is putting on Cabaret? The imagined one inside our rainbow hearts, but also the one the film places him in, one that can only reflect Simon back at himself no matter how he evades.

Love, Simon is now available on iTunes and Bluray/DVD.

All Soundtracking installments can be found here!

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Reader Comments (3)

I like the song Harry Styles co-wrote, 'Alfie's Song (Not So Typical Love Song)'

Acitng, singing, songwriting, he can do it all! Kind of like a reverse Cara Delevingne, who flopped at acting and singing.

June 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

I've been listening to this soundtrack non-stop since I saw the movie. It's such a good compilation.

June 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I thought Love, Simon's soundtrack was lovely, and it captured something that a lot of critics were wise to notice: some gay guys really ARE just bland, and to come out with Whitney as their soundtrack would be as much a betrayal to who they are as keeping their gayness inside. I don't think anyone meant anything hurtful by it... And to be frank, a lot of times it's the middle-of-the-road people who get shunned the most, or ridiculed, or worse, told they can't have something because they didn't suffer enough for it.

We're all different, but we're all the same, and yet, no, really, we really are all different.

It makes a great double feature with The Fault in Our Stars as YA adaptations that fall just shy of overtly twee and proudly display a heart worth showing and receiving.


June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterManny

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