While all the tunes on the Songs album are readily available on streaming services, should the movie do as well as expected, many could see three-digit upticks following the film’s opening weekend: after the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel came out in 2017, the 14 ‘70s and ‘80s nuggets on its soundtrack cumulatively soared 231 percent in on-demand streams and 388 percent in sales, according to Billboard.
Ready Player One, based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 science fiction novel about the battle for OASIS, an immersive virtual universe, takes its musical template from the book as well. The best seller mentions hundreds of songs, giving the filmmakers great suggestions when it came to making their selections. “There are 500 songs in the book, so it pretty much covers everything,” says Zak Penn, who wrote the screenplay with Cline.
“The book really leans heavily on ‘80s trivia because the contest is all about the ‘80s, but when you have to build OASIS, not everything is going to be an ‘80s reference,” says Penn. Therefore, we hear earlier hits such as The Temptations’ 1971 classic “Just My Imagination,” which also got added because it is one of Spielberg’s favorite songs, Penn says. Spielberg also personally picked Bruce Springsteen’s “Stand On It” (Trivia buffs will know that the “Glory Days” B-side also appeared in the 1986 movie, Ruthless People).
The final musical choices were ultimately Spielberg’s, but he took suggestions from the book, Penn, Cline, and even cast members, including Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the villain. “He was open to anything, he’s so collaborative” Penn says, “But everything is ultimately his decision. In terms of Spotify playlists, Ernie had an exhaustive one and I had a trimmed-down one [we gave Spielberg], but in the end, these are his choices.
Whereas a music supervisor would usually help coordinate the musical selections, Spielberg seldom uses one since his movies are usually score driven with very few, if any, licensed tracks. "Steven doesn’t do a lot of needle drops, he rarely will have songs in his movies,” Penn says. “I joked with him that this was like a Scorsese film with all its needle drops.” He also credits Toby Emmerich, who was upped to chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group as the film was being made, with taking an active role. “He was really helpful,” Penn says. “There were a few songs that were getting swapped in and out and it was good to have him there.”
Track listing for Ready Player One: Songs From The Motion Picture
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” Prince
“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” T ears For Fears
“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” The Temptations
“Stand On It” Bruce Springsteen
“One Way Or Another” Blondie
“Can't Hide Love” Earth, Wind & Fire
“Blue Monday” New Order
“Stayin' Alive” Bee Gees
“We're Not Gonna Take It” Twisted Sister
“You Make My Dreams” Daryl Hall & John Oates
“Pure Imagination” Bryan Nguyen feat. Merethe Soltvedt