Edgar Wright’s new movie Baby Driver takes a love story, heist film, a bunch of car chases, and a killer soundtrack and blends them together into a single movie that’s sure to thrill audiences. Boasting a 30-song track list with everything from Queen to the Beach Boys, this movie has something for everyone. We break down the five most important musical moments in the movie.
‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Wright’s vision for Baby Driver is never clearer than in the film’s opening scene. The movie opens on Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, in the driver’s seat of a car parked outside of a bank. As the three passengers in the car jump out and run inside to perform the heist, the audience listens as “Bellbottoms” by The John Spencer Blues Explosion begins to play. The way the film uses the song sets the tone for the movie in a number of ways.
First, it establishes right away that music will be a prominent influence and presence in the film. Wright makes it clear that the music is more than simply a surface level element; it is a character in and of itself, one that plays a role in the movie just as much as any of the other characters.
Second, it demonstrates how the characters and the film itself will interact with the music. The song is not simply playing over the scene, but it’s involved in the scene. Both the audience and the characters hear the song. Baby dances to it, sings along, and even strums an air guitar.
But Wright doesn’t stop here. Once the heist crew returns to the car and Baby drives away from the scene of the crime, the song becomes a part of the action sequence; tire squeals, brake slams, gunshots, and sirens are all choreographed to be in sync with the music.
Specifically, the song “Bellbottoms” — full of electric guitars, commanding strings, strong vocals, and intense drums — is a high powered and spirited song that aligns perfect with the energy of the opening car chase.
‘B-A-B-Y’ by Carla Thomas
Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y” is a distinct tonal shift from the film’s opening song. This is a deliberate choice, of course. Whereas the opening song plays over scenes of Baby engaging in crime, “B-A-B-Y” is used for Debora’s introduction. She is Baby’s love interest, played by Lily James.
The tone of the song, delightfully bright and uplifting, works in direct contrast to much of Baby’s characterization. The song plays over the scene as Debora sings along. Edgar Wright mixes the music in this scene so Debora’s singing syncs with the song. Unlike the fast paced editing of the opening car chase, Debora’s introduction plays out in slow motion, creating a dream-like atmosphere that fits the song.
The use of the Carla Thomas song suggests a degree of predetermined fate, as if to say Baby was meant to fall in love with this girl singing this song. It’s romantic, even if it is a bit heavy-handed. Most importantly, it gives the film the heart and soul it needs, so we have a reason to root for Baby.
‘Debora’ by T. Rex
Along similar lines to “B-A-B-Y,” the T. Rex song “Debora” reinforces the film’s underlying emotional current. Sure, Edgar Wright can easily handle the action side of the movie; the film’s fierce opening is evidence enough of that. But for the story itself to be successful, there must be a strong and genuine emotional landscape that grounds the thrill of car chases and bank robberies. Debora and Baby’s relationship provides that heart.
However, the use of “Debora” accomplishes something that “B-A-B-Y” does not: it gives Debora her own voice and characterization. Unlike “B-A-B-Y” that signals Baby, and therefore the audience, to pay attention to Debora, the song “Debora” works to provides her with characterization as something beyond an object of Baby’s fascination.
In the scene that introduces the song, Debora comments on how there are no songs named after her. Baby, in his infinite wisdom, pulls out one of his many iPods to show her the song “Debora.” She is charmed and thankful, and they listen to the song together.
This scene signals an important power shift in their relationship; he gives her something and allows himself to be vulnerable with her. This is something we haven’t really seen at this point in the film. By giving Debora her own song, Wright is equating her weight in the story to that of Baby, ensuring the audience knows that Debora and this romance are something special. It also means that the music in the film is not solely owned or about Baby, thereby giving Debora autonomy within this story.
‘Brighton Rock’ by Queen
Queen’s “Brighton Rock” is Edgar Wright’s choice to play during the film’s climax, and what a climactic song it is. Clocking in at a length of 5 minutes and 10 seconds long, it’s by no means a short pop song. It’s a soaring and bombastic tune complete with Queen’s signature vocals and a killer guitar solo. The song itself feels like a high-intensity collision of music, which fits how it’s used in the film.
The use of “Brighton Rock” also exemplifies the role of music in the film. Edgar Wright did not simply choose a song to play over the scene. Instead, it plays directly from the car stereo of one of the characters. Not only that, but the choice of song is completely intentional — Baby talked about the song earlier in the movie. This is what makes Baby Driver’s use of music so unique. It’s not just a technical element thrown on top of the scene in post-production. The song exists within the film and the characters interact with it. This is a unique aspect that I expect we will begin to see more in movies now that it was met with such success in Baby Driver.
The use of “Brighton Rock” is also significant because of the story it tells. The story of the song is simple: a boy meets a girl on holiday, they fall in love, but circumstance keeps them apart. It’s by no means unique in the story it’s telling, but it mirrors what’s happening in the climax of the film. Baby and Debora have fallen in love, but Baby’s past continues to get in the way. “Brighton Rock” is the perfect blend of narrative significance, technical achievement, and musical grandiose to make the climax of the film just what it needs to be.
‘Easy’ by Sky Ferreira
The death of Baby’s parents is hugely significant within the movie. Their death left Baby alone in the world and led to his involvement in crime. By extension, their deaths caused the events of the film to unfold. The movie often uses flashbacks to show the audience the car accident that killed them and to show that Baby’s mother was a singer.
Singer Sky Ferreira plays Baby’s mother in flashbacks and she recorded a cover of “Easy” by Commodores specifically for the film. The song does not play until the final minutes of the movie following the climax. It plays as we watch Baby come to terms with his responsibility in the crimes that he committed. This is provides a poetic contrast to the song itself.
So much of what Baby endures in the film is difficult. He’s constantly thrown into situations that force him to put aside what he believes in for what he is forced to do. There’s nothing easy about that. Wright’s choice to use a cover of “Easy” sung by Baby’s mother sends a clear message.
By bringing these three elements together — Baby’s mother, the resolution of Baby’s crimes, and the song “Easy” — Edgar Wright is seeking an emotional catharsis from both the audience and the characters. More than that, however, the song works to provide Baby with a certain absolution. It’s as if the song implies that the hard part is over now and easier days are coming. It’s a wonderful close for a film that is chaotic in so many ways.
The movie ends, not on a minor key, but in sweet harmony awash with comfort and ease. It’s a happy ending and one that feels earned.