Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The soundtrack to the first Guardians of the Galaxy was loaded with classic jams and deep cuts. They were unusual choices for a superhero flick, but they were well-matched with their respective scenes and became one of the many reasons why Guardians was such a unique addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Awesome Mix Vol. 1 was the emotional backbone to Guardians of the Galaxy, highlighting not only the Guardians coming together as a team but Peter Quill/Star-Lord's ties to his home planet -- specifically, his late mother. Meredith Quill carefully chose each song on her Awesome Mix to share them with her son, and Peter treasures those songs, at one point even claiming they belong to him. At the end of the film, Peter discovers Awesome Mix Vol. 2 -- yet another gift from his mother, allowing her to remain a presence in his life even though she's gone and he's light years from home.
Meredith's musical influence is again essential to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with her favorite tracks not just accompanying the film but at times propelling it. In an interview with Rolling Stone, writer/director James Gunn (the one who's actually picking the tracks for these awesome mixes) describes Meredith's musical taste:
"She's a music lover, but she's completely not elitist. If it's something that's thought of as goofy and pop, she likes it. If it's cool or funk, she likes it. She just likes hooks and melodies. She's a very quirky, young girl who fell in love with, you know, as it ends up, an alien. And falling in love with an alien is right up there in Meredith Quill's alley. She's an oddball, like her son."
The songs on Awesome Mix Vol. 2 do run the gambit, from the George Harrison classic "My Sweet Lord" to the band, Silver's one and only hit, "Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang." But they just about all share meaning with something in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Some more than others, but whether it's in their lyrics or a great riff, there's a reason the song lands where it does in the film.
Here is The Meaning Behind Every Song on Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (from first appearance to last).
'Fox on the Run' - Sweet
Like 'Spirit in the Sky' from Awesome Mix Vol. 1, Sweet's 'Fox on the Run' doesn't actually appear in the film (which is why we're knocking it out first). It did, however, play over the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and it perfectly matches the frenetic energy of the action on display. And in a way, the Guardians are on the "on the run" in the film, with Rocket having stolen some extremely valuable batteries from the Sovereign race, who then relentlessly pursue them for most of the movie.
'Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)' - Looking Glass
From a song with barely any firm connection with what's happening in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, to one that is absolutely crucial to the plot. Looking Glass' 'Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)' plays over the very opening scene -- a flashback to 1980 where it's first heard playing on the radio in the car that Peter's soon-to-be-father, Ego, is driving, and then later taking over as the soundtrack follows Ego and Meredith into the woods where he shows her a strange alien plant he's transplanted to Earth. The song, as it turns out, is key to Ego and Meredith's story, outlining right there at the start the sad truth of their love affair.
"There's a girl in this harbor town," the lyrics go, and in this scenario the "girl" is obviously Meredith. Earth is the harbor town and Ego "the man that Brandy loves." He is also a "sailor from the sea", or more accurately an alien visitor from outer space. And just like the sailor who thinks Brandy is a "fine girl", but won't make her his "good wife" because he feels "my life, my lover, my lady is the sea," Ego is more committed to completing his expansion than remaining with Meredith. Ego eventually leaves Earth for good, never to return, and so, like Brandy, Meredith "loves a man who's not around". (She also, all the more tragically, loves a man who gave her a deadly brain tumor because he loved her too much, so yeah).
'Brandi (You're a Fine Girl)' is a sweet, but mournful song, and for Gunn it's a song he's always "sort of sadly, tragically related to," which is also why the song is so dear to Meredith. It appears a few times throughout Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but always in scenes centered on Meredith and Ego's relationship, hinting at the ugliness hidden there.
'Mr. Blue Sky' - Electric Light Orchestra
Gunn considers Electric Light Orchestra or ELO to be the Guardians' house band, so it's hardly surprising a song of theirs finds its way into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As he explains to Rolling Stone, "it's the perfect song to start the movie because it's really joyous, but there's a really dark underpinning to it." The song itself comes in during the opening sequence (teased in the trailers) where the Guardians fight a giant trans-dimensional monster. The tune is integrated right into the story, with Rocket having rigged up speakers to allow Peter to listen to his music while they fight (regardless of whether or not anyone asked for this).
The fight begins before Rocket can complete his setup, but Baby Groot makes the final connection and ELO's 'Mr. Blue Sky' begins blaring. The opening credits start rolling and Baby Groot starts dancing, mimicking Peter's opening dance number from the first film, all the while the rest of the Guardians battle the alien creature in the background. Gunn calls it "the most hugely insane shot I've ever done."
Taking over from the longing of 'Brandi,' 'Mr. Blue Sky' is a jolt of energy. Paired with funny sequences between Groot and his teammates, it is a joyous opening, celebrating all we've come to love about the Guardians. But there is sense of foreboding to 'Mr. Blue Sky,' a sense that these good times don't last and eventually Mr. Blue Sky goes away, and in creeps Mr. Night.
'Lake Shore Drive' - Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah
'Lake Shore Drive' is certainly one of the deeper cuts on Awesome Mix Vol. 2, being more of a regional hit in Chicago and the surrounding area. For Gunn, it's one of the "catchiest songs ever written" and one he knew he'd have "a thousand places" where it could easily fit into the film. Where it ends up, however, is during a scene in which the Guardians return to the Milano -- the closest thing they have to a home.
It's a brief but important interlude, establishing the new dynamics among the team -- in particular, Peter and Gamora's "unspoken thing" and Rocket's increasingly combative nature. 'Lake Shore Drive' is a great fit for this sequence, reminiscing about a familiar stretch of road in Chicago as we, the audience, again familiarize ourselves with the Guardians.
'The Chain' - Fleetwood Mac
Besides 'Brandy (You're A Fine Girl),' there's no song as important to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain.' As Gunn explains, both songs are "deeply embedded into the fibers of the film." And where 'Brandi' is all about Meredith and Ego, 'The Chain' is about the Guardians themselves.
The oft-repeated lyric, "And if you don't love me now/You will never love me again," stands as an ultimatum, with one party pressuring the other that if they can't make their relationship work, if they can't repair the bond now, then it's over. In regards to the Guardians, their weird little family stands at a similar crossroads. 'The Chain' first plays when Peter, Gamora, and Drax leave with Ego, leaving Rocket (and Baby Groot and Nebula) behind to repair the ship, effectively splitting up the family. With the arrival of Peter's father, their unity as a team is threatened -- and it's already been stretched pretty thin recently, seeing as arguing over who's the better pilot, Peter or Rocket, is was led to them crashing the ship.
But the bonds that the Guardians have forged will not be so easily ripped apart. (These guys were able to channel the power of an Infinity Stone, remember?) "I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain," the song goes, and it isn't. When at their lowest, the whole team rallies. Peter is able to wrestle control away from his father and harness the Celestial light in order fight him, giving the other Guardians time to escape. It's as this moment 'The Chain' returns, swelling as Peter fights to protect his real family, re-affirming that their bond as a team has never been stronger.
Interestingly, 'The Chain' is also the only Fleetwood Mac song credited to every member of the band, making it just an all around perfect choice for the Guardians' family anthem. It was also the feature song for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's main trailer, (above).
'Southern Nights' - Glen Campbell
Again, not every song on Awesome Mix Vol. 2 was chosen for its lyrical significance or deeper meaning. Remember, Meredith likes some songs for nothing more than their "hooks and melodies." Glen Campbell's 'Southern Nights' is one of these songs, with Gunn calling it "a different flavor for the movie."
It comes into the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 when the Ravagers arrive at the site of the crashed Milano, having been hired by Ayesha of the Sovereign to hunt them down for stealing those batteries. Rocket, however, has rigged explosives throughout the surrounding forest and to the tune of 'Southern Nights,' dispatches with one group of unsuspecting mercenaries after another. The song has a real laid back quality to it, inviting us to sit back and watch as Rocket does what he does best -- blowing stuff up. He's captured in the end, but not before getting to have his fun.
'My Sweet Lord' - George Harrison
While Rocket is blowing up Ravagers, Peter, Gamora, and Drax arrive on Ego to the pleasant melody of 'My Sweet Lord.' It's a wholly appropriate choice because Ego is of an ancient, immortal and extremely powerful race known as the Celestials -- basically, he's a god (little-G). Gunn explains that he has "always been into Hindu creation myths," and the story of Ego's creation in the movie bears that influence, with Ego creating of himself a whole planet in his search for meaning. George Harrison was also heavily influenced by Hindu religious teachings, and the song even mentions the Hindu gods involved in creation: Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshvara.
In addition to being a song about literally searching for god, 'My Sweet Lord' is also a song about yearning. In the film, the lyrics speak to Peter's yearning to know his father with its repeating of the phrases: "I really wanna see you/I really wanna know you/I'd really wanna go with you/I really wanna show you, Lord." It can be interpreted as Peter wishing not only to meet his father, but to stay with him and prove himself worthy of being his son. And for a little while, that's just what Peter plans to do -- that is, until it's revealed Ego is more interested in using Peter as a Celestial battery than he is in reconnecting with his son.
'Come a Little Bit Closer' - Jay and the Americans
After capturing Rocket and Groot, the Ravagers mutiny because they don't believe Yondu will ever betray Quill and turn him over to the Sovereign. Yondu is imprisoned along with Rocket, and when asking Baby Groot for help proves futile, the still loyal Kraglin frees them. What follows is a scene first teased in Hall H at Comic-Con and it features Yondu -- now equipped with his trusty telekinetic arrow and new control fin -- killing the mutineers as they try and stop them from escaping.
The sequence is one of the more violent in the film, but pairing it with 'Come a Little Bit Closer' by Jay and the Americans brings a real cheekiness to the scene. As the Ravagers converge on Yondu to a chorus of "Come a little bit closer", his arrow rips through one victim after another in a fantastic slow-motion display. It's brutal, but it's hard not to smile watching Yondu and Rocket enjoy a bit of ultra-violence to such catchy tune.
'Bring It on Home to Me' - Sam Cooke
Though he struck out with his "pelvic sorcery" in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter is still hung up on Gamora in the sequel. He considers their relationship the galactic equivalent to Cheers' Sam and Diane, thinking it's only a matter of time before this "unspoken thing between them" develops into something more. So during a quiet moment on Ego, Peter again tries romancing Gamora, playing the beautiful Sam Cooke song, 'Bring It on Home to Me.' In this case, it's a love song pure and simple, as Gunn explains: "In Quill's mind, it's about Quill and Gamora."
Peter strikes out again, and neither the song nor his Cheers reference gets him any closer to winning over Gamora. However, there is little doubt Gamora holds at least some affection for Peter, otherwise she wouldn't be so scared of losing him and the rest of her new family.
'Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang' - Silver
Initially, when this tune was first shared with Gunn he thought he was being tricked because he had never heard it before. "I wasn't sure if was a modern band doing a retro version of a song or if it was actually an old song." Well, it's absolutely a real 70s jam and it's the band Silver's (who?) one and only hit, 'Wham Bang Shang-A-Lang' (what?). It's a weird little ditty and it makes its cinematic debut as the Sovereign's fleet of drones track down the Guardians for the final time, confronting them just as they're about to attempt to destroy Ego's core. The moment is one of compounding factors where the Guardians' problems go from bad to worse, leaving them only one option -- do their "wham bam shang-a-lang and a sha-la-la-la thing."
'Father and Son' - Cat Stevens
Family is clearly a recurring theme in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, from Peter meeting Ego to Gamora and Nebula reconciling. But perhaps what proves most surprising is the slow realization that Peter wasn't as without a father growing up as he always thought. Once he meets his actual father and learns what he did with all of his other progeny, Peter puts it together that Yondu was saving him all those years ago by not delivering him to Ego. It may not have been a charmed childhood, but he survived and didn't become a Celestial battery fueling the destruction of the universe. Yondu was by no means a perfect father, but whose is? When it mattered most, Yondu was there for Peter, sacrificing himself in order to get Peter to safety.
No song on Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is more poignant than Cat Stevens' 'Father and Son,' filled with a sense of regret and loss. In the film, it plays over Peter's eulogy for Yondu (in which he so eloquently ties it all back to his dad really being like David Hasselhoff all along) and continues over the display of fireworks the assembled Ravagers set off as Yondu's ashes float out into space. The scene is sad, but beautiful with lyrics like, "Keeping all the things I knew inside" and "I know that I have to go away," mournfully paying tribute to Yondu's sacrifice.
'Surrender' - Cheap Trick
The first credit song, 'Surrender' by Cheap Trick is an upbeat song that follows nicely after the sad, regretful tone of 'Father and Son.' It's also, in a way, about parents, only this time celebrating what sounds like a loving, level-headed couple, who engage with their child, warning him to play it safe, but also finding time to enjoy themselves ("But when I woke up, Mom and Dad/Are rolling on the couch/Rolling numbers, rock and rollin").
Whether an intentional choice for its lyrics or not, Gunn reveals that the main reason 'Surrender' winds up on Awesome Mix. Vol. 2 is as a favor to the band for allowing him to use the track, 'If You Want My Love' on his earlier film, Super for practically nothing.
'Flash Light' - Parliament
The second credits song is 'Flash Light' by Parliament, which Gunn calls one of his "favorite funk songs." It's hard to resist dancing in your seat while it's playing, making it a song very much in the spirit of the Guardians. It also happens to play around what might be our favorite credit-scene: Teenage Groot being harangued by Star-Lord in a scene that hilariously continues the film's father/son thematic through-line.
'Guardians Inferno' - The Sneepers featuring David Hasselhoff
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ends its credits with an original song co-written by Gunn and score composer, Tyler Bates. Inspired by Meco's disco Star Wars theme, 'Guardians Inferno' is a remix of Bate's Guardians theme with an interlude song performed by none other that David Hasselhoff. The lyrics are filled with references and in-jokes about the film, like "procyon lotor", the scientific name for raccoon rhymed with motor, "infantilized sequoia" for Baby Groot, and "I didn't learn parenting/My daddy was a planet!", in reference to Peter's biological papa. There's also a couple refrains of "Zardu Hasselfrau", which is what Gamora calls David Hasselhoff. Without question, 'Guardians Inferno' is a fantastic note to end on, wrapping the film with a jam that's both funky and funny.
There you have it, the meaning we found in every song featured on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2 and why it winds up in the film where it does. Do you agree with our analysis? Share your thoughts in the comments!
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) release date: May 05, 2017