I'm listening to the Southpaw soundtrack right now, as I write these words. Rob Bailey is howling "I'm a motherf*cking beast" in my ear, and Eminem and Gwen Stefani are proving to be an unexpectedly ideal musical match. In fact, one of the most striking things about Southpaw is the way it merges unanticipated combinations — perhaps best evidenced in the combination of James Horner's musical score and the soundtrack that features the heavyweights (pun very intended) of the rap scene today, from Eminem to Action Bronson to The Weeknd. So where can you listen to the Southpaw soundtrack for yourself?
The soundtrack is available via all the usual suspects — Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon — and it definitely deserves a listen. It's hyper-aggressive and testosterone-laden, macho in the extreme, and I'm loving every minute of it. It's a worthy successor to the last great rap soundtrack, for Eminem's 8 Mile — fittingly so, considering Southpaw was originally penned as a sequel to 8 Mile before Eminem dropped out of the project to focus on recording The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Southpaw The Soundtrack features a modicum of Eminem, both solo and with his Bad Meets Evil partner Royce da 5'9". But how does it really stack up against 8 Mile ? To judge, I've picked five totally arbitrary points of comparison that were, um, in no way biased to yield a particular outcome. Without further ado, 8 Mile vs. Southpaw: The Face-off.
1. The Lead Single
This game feels a bit rigged already — how could "Phenomenal," the Eminem song that soundtracks the Southpaw score, stand up to the legend that is "Lose Yourself"? But disregarding the cultural phenomenon that "Lose Yourself" became, "Phenomenal" is a great, mood-appropriate track for the Jake Gyllenhaal film. It features in the second half of the main Southpaw trailer, with Eminem's echoing chorus of "I am phenomenal" accompanying slow-motion shots of Gyllenhaal's battered and bloody face. Still, I can't imagine it existing outside the universe of the film quite the way that "Lose Yourself" has been able to, so this round must go to 8 Mile.
2. Eminem And More Eminem
What it lacks in an Eminem masterpiece, Southpaw's soundtrack makes up in sheer quantity of the rapper's music. It features "Kings Never Die," the second single from the soundtrack and one that features Eminem and Gwen Stefani, as well as "Phenomenal," and "Raw" and "All I Think About," the two Bad Meets Evil songs. Eminem is also listed as an additional credit on many of the other tracks, though he's not the main performer. In contrast, his performance on the 8 Mile soundtrack was somewhat more limited. His rapping occurs more on-screen than off, so I'm going to give this one to Southpaw.
3. The Open And The Close
8 Mile features an amazing variety of performers beyond rappers — it even includes a track by Macy Gray. But the Southpaw soundtrack is inventively bookended by two somber James Horner tracks that act as an intro and outro to the otherwise hardcore rap assortment on display. It's the perfect lead-in, so as a cohesive work, the Southpaw soundtrack pulls ahead of 8 Mile.
4. The Acting Talent
In 8 Mile, Taryn Manning (now best known as Pennsatucky on Orange is the New Black) plays Eminem's ex-girlfriend. And on the soundtrack, she plays her pop-star alter-ego in an band called Boomkat. Boomkat is the joint venture of Manning and her brother Kellin, featuring Manning's dulcet, melancholy vocals for the track "Wastin' My Time." It's evidence that 8 Mile focuses more on the breadth of its music (also shown with its Macy Gray track), though Southpaw brings together an impressive array of rappers. Even score for 8 Mile and Southpaw, for those keeping count.
5. The Critical Review
Hit Fix referred to a couple of the tracks on the Southpaw soundtrack as "middling," though it praised the variety of names and Eminem's own contributions. Similarly, the A.V. Club declared much of the 8 Mile soundtrack "filler," though it deemed the Eminem tracks some of the best of his career. Outside experts may have just declared a draw between the two soundtracks.
So by the numbers, it appears Southpaw definitely holds its own against its predecessor. Without Eminem in the movie's starring role, it's less a sequel than a "to be continued..." — in the same spirit of the original, but without any continuity. They're different enough that Southpaw thankfully doesn't feel like a pale facsimile of 8 Mile. Still, its music has a similar vibe and infectious energy, and it'll definitely be joining this summer's other great soundtracks in my rotation.
Image: The Weinstein Company