Track 1: Nellie and Sam
Track 2: Joanna and Nellie
Track 3: Sam and Dante
Track 4: Margot and Frank
Track 5: Dante and Annette
Track 6: Joanna and Eleanor
Track 7: Sam and Frank
Track 8: Gigi and Jean
Track 9: Margot and Annette
Track 10: Finale
Netflix Original Series Soundtrack combines the cheesy teen drama of Glee with more serious familial themes seen in shows like This Is Us and mashes them in with a series of ill-placed music videos sporadically crowbarred into the narrative. The result is something that feels like two songs of different genres cacophonically blurred together – one a smooth jazz record and the other a hardcore metal band screaming Slipknot lyrics. The result is something that feels both incredibly discordant and messy but also strangely watchable despite its flaws.
The story revolves around a variety of different characters in a single neighbourhood but predominantly hones in on Sam, a hard-working Dad struggling to juggle his three jobs with looking after his son and moving on from a painful loss in his past. Early on, the show focuses on him and his duet partner Nellie, who finds herself recently single, heartbroken by her ex-boyfriend and desperate to find love. When she bumps into Sam, it’s love at first sight and all the usual romantic tropes crop up through the 10 episodes.
Intertwined around this around several different characters who make up the backing group, including ex-convict Dante, desperate for a clean break after his time in jail. These all work well to flesh out the world and each chapter hones in on two characters at a time, twisting their ideals and themes together through a variety of different melodramatic beats, right the way through until the final chapter, aptly named “Finale”. This rounds out most of the plot points nicely, bringing the focus back to Sam and Nellie, while leaving the door open for a second season.
As a musical drama, Soundtrack is ironically at its strongest when it ditches the music and focuses on story. There’s some well-written, thought provoking stuff here and ideas around the meaning of love, grief and our own personal soundtracks in life are all topical and interesting thoughts that are unfortunately muddied when the music begins.
Every song is lip-synced – and not all that convincingly either – and despite a diverse range of showcased artists, ranging from Carly Rae Jepson and Sia through to Frank Sinatra and Bruno Mars – the songs don’t always work well with the characters and oftentimes feel like a distraction from the drama. This is before even mentioning the background score layered underneath the more dramatic moments, and the result is something that feels like a bizarre stylistic patchwork of ideas.
It’s particularly disappointing because some of the characters are genuinely likable and easy to root for. Seeing Nellie and Sam together certainly adds some spark to proceedings and Sam’s character arc through the series is really emotional. The rest of the characters all have their own arcs too and the progression across the series is pretty good, even if some of the dialogue is a bit on-the-nose alongside an opening episode chock full of exposition.
Soundtrack will find an audience though and its unique style will almost certainly entice some people into its cocktail of blended and discordant ideas. Unfortunately I’m failing to see exactly who this is marketed at. Fans of Glee will almost certainly lament the lack of originality with the songs and poor lip-syncing, fans of This Is Us will be put off by the music, and everyone else will probably slot into a love/hate category with this one. Soundtrack isn’t a bad series per-se, but it’s not a particularly memorable one either. It ultimately feels like the warm-up act at a concert; watchable in the moment but ultimately forgotten when bigger things come along.