The two main characters shop for records and converse about their thoughts on The Beatles

Music in Film: A Look Inside the Soundtrack of “500 Days of Summer”

By Iliana Ramirez
Music Journalist

During the summer of 2009, Fox Searchlight released the quirky “romantic comedy,” “500 Days of Summer.” The story centers around Tom, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt and Summer, played by Zooey Deschanel. Tom, a hopeless romantic and greeting card writer, becomes infatuated with the new secretary at his job, Summer, after he realizes that they have similar interests such as The Smiths. Tom falls for Summer, who doesn’t quite view love the same way Tom does. The story follows the highs and lows of the pair’s 500 days together.

The music in this film is so consistent and well-constructed that it feels like another character in the movie. I say this because even when a song isn’t filling one of the scenes, there are still small hints of music thrown in. For example, Tom wears band t-shirts for The Clash and Joy Division, Summer’s senior quote was pulled from a Belle and Sebastian song, and the two even have a disagreement of why Ringo is no one’s favorite Beatles member. Music is one of the driving forces that brings Tom and Summer together and fills the entire film from start to finish. The soundtrack has a large range of genres from singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, to indie rock band, Black Lips. Being that this is one of my favorite films, I want to take a look into some of the songs that define the film.

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers of the film, 500 Days of Summer

“Us”-Regina Spektor

As the opening credits are rolling, home videos of each character play alongside the bright and joyful sound of singer-songwriter, Regina Spektor. “Us” can be described as a song of storytelling, which is why it is a great choice of the introductory song of the film. Although the narrator of the film directly tells the audience at the beginning of the film that is not a love story, Spektor’s nostalgic songwriting make it seem like it might it be. This light and airy sound works so well for the start of the film because it sets the audience up for many surprises that are to come later in the film.

“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”-The Smiths

Right from the beginning of this film, Tom and Summer bond over their love of the Smiths. One of their first interactions occurs in the elevator at their workplace. Summer overhears The Smiths blasting through Tom’s headphones. Summer expresses to Tom how much she loves the English band and even sings the famous lyrics, “To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die”. This elevator scene is such a defining moment for the film as it is the start of Tom’s infatuation with Summer. The Smiths play a large role throughout the entirety of the film as Tom uses their songs to make Summer believe that their relationship holds significant meaning.

“Bad Kids”-Black Lips

One of the reasons I adore this soundtrack so much is because it dips into various genres. The first 30 minutes of the film features a softer sound until the garage rock band, Black Lips plays while Tom and Summer have one of their first conversations. As Summer has just moved to the metropolis city of Los Angeles, she begins to tell Tom some of her backstory. The two exchange memories of their child hood all while the lyrics of “Bad Kids” play in the background. The youthful theme of the song is the right match to Summer and Tom’s dialogue.

“You Make My Dreams”-Daryl Hall & John Oates

One of the highlights of music of this film and possibly one of the most iconic scenes occurs when Tom takes a stroll through the park, walking to “You Make My Dreams”.This song encapsulates Tom’s joyful mood after his night spent with Summer. The choreography, his interaction with others in the park and the small animated animals in the scene give the film the uniqueness that it entails.

“There Goes The Fear”-Doves

In one of the more humorous parts of the film, Tom and Summer are seen in a montage walking around in Ikea. “There Goes The Fear” accompanies the scene as the two are warming up to each other. Although the scene is between the two characters, audiences feel more closely connected to Tom’s character. Tom’s interest in Summer grows deeper as he gets to see a more playful side of her personality.

“Bookend”-Simon and Garfunkel

As this melancholic song plays, audiences begin to see the shift in Tom and Summer’s relationship.The two end their day by catching a showing of the classic film, The Graduate. The story of this classic film is told through the sound of the two piece duo, Simon and Garfunkel. Clever enough, the filmmakers chose a song from the duo to play during the climax of the film. Summer sobs as she watches the infamous wedding scene of the 60s film. She realizes that she has not experienced this kind of love in her life before because she never believed love was real. This scene is one of the most empathetic of the film as audiences feel Summer’s somber emotions.

With the diverse soundtrack and cleverly written screenplay, 500 Days of Summer is not your average romantic comedy. In fact, it is nothing short of honest . It is told throughout the span of 500 days of a relationship of two people that were not meant to be together. Just as the narrator states in the beginning, this is not a love story, but rather how just one person coming in your life can leave such an impact. This soundtrack was thoughtfully put together in order to emphasize the emotions of the characters and to give the story the quirkiness is contains.

Listen to the movie soundtrack on Spotify:

 

Featured image b Creative Commons.

 

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