The music from the ’80s-themed Despicable Me 3 original motion picture soundtrack enhances Illumination Entertainment’s eighth animated movie (in in a quick 10 years) where Steve Carell expands his memorable villain-turned-good Gru into a dual role as his twin brother Dru. Kristen Wiig also returns to the fold as his wife Lucy, who works with Gru in the Anti-Villain League (AVL) and also includes Gru’s helpers, the Minions, legions of tiny yellow capsule-shaped creatures who provide immense comedy throughout the story.
This original motion picture soundtrack from Columbia Records, in conjunction with Universal, contains 16 works with a 51-minute running time. (Notes: Did watch this film before reviewing this soundtrack. Track titles may give away story/character elements.)
Gru, Dru, Lucy, and the girls bring action, laughter and some heart as they battle villain Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Trey Parker (South Park, Book of Mormon), in this third installment of the Despicable Me computer-animated comedy/adventure movie series.
The lead-off song, “Yellow Light,” has infectious lyrics, melody and instrumentation and was an advanced release through digital download and streaming before this soundtrack officially dropped on June 23, 2017. Pharrell will definitely keep his summer hit song streak going with this one that follows, “Happy” from 2013’s Despicable Me 2 and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” from 2010’s Despicable Me, which is included on all three soundtracks along with Pharrell’s “Despicable Me” song, which appears near the end of this soundtrack.
Parker even teams with Pharrell on the “Hug Me” tune, a frantic one with consistent, robotic drums and instrumentation that’s full of ’80s nostalgia and humor, especially right before the first chorus:
Our favorite color’s purple, we stay out past the curfew
My kung-fu grip will hurt you (who stayed in trouble with you?)
You dyed your hair like me, black so everyone can see
Your parents couldn’t believe (you’re either with me or)
[Chorus:] Hug me (bring it in)
Would ya loosen up? Would ya
Producers spread four memorable ’80s classics, which align nicely with Balthazar, beginning with “Bad” by Michael Jackson and then “Take on Me” by A-Ha. “Bad” obviously matches the villain themes in the film and celebrates the 30th anniversary of its release in grand style. It’s an easy addition thanks to Pharrell’s past collaboration with Quincy Jones and was prominently featured in previews and promotional spots. A-ha’s synthpop anthem also features drums, acoustic guitars and keyboards.
Next is the Minions tune “Papa Mama Loca Pipa,” an operatic work that stretches vocal cords and funny bones. This is the most entertaining track on this soundtrack that is based on “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” a prominent piece in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance.
The pace then slows a bit with Pharrell’s outstanding “There’s Something Special,” which hits high notes figuratively and literally. It has a nice tempo with a touch of blues and plenty of rhythm.
The Minions’ “Tiki Tiki Babeloo” is a funny Hawaiian-themed aside that’s one of the most relevant works in the movie’s story. “Freedom” is the second-best song on this soundtrack, and it enhances the Minions’ progression in the movie’s story. This Pharrell song has outstanding horns and powerful additional vocals performed by Rhea Dummett, Andrew “Munchie” Simmons, Cynthia “Cactus Plant” Lu, and Phil Holinger.
“Doowit” has great musicianship and a dance-ready beat, but the lyrical direction is a bit puzzling. A different direction would have been better here. The repetitive “doowit” refrains echo Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “do it” dialogue in movies, particularly Predator. If that was Pharrell’s aim, then he succeeded, but the song does not really satisfy or ring true.
“99 Luftballons” by Nena is subplanted far from its original anti-war protest theme here. It’s a catchy tune with great musicianship that makes listeners happy. This one is followed by one of Madonna’s first early hits, “Into the Groove,” which is featured prominently in a key sequence near the end of the movie and, again, totally out of the context/meaning of the original song.
Pharrell’s “Chuck Berry” is another standout featuring great vocals and, of course, guitar work to honor the great musician/guitarist. Heitor Pereira’s orchestrated score is only featured with “Despicable Me 3 Score Suite” and then the Minions end the soundtrack with another crowd-pleasing song, the traditional “Malatikalano Polatina,” based on the repetitively formatted “99 Bottles of Beer” classic sing-along.
Solid entertainment and some education on the classics make the Despicable Me 3 original motion picture soundtrack a decent offering. The color insert from the physical compact disc copy (love that nostalgic smell) even entertains with the well chosen accompanying graphics, but it mistakenly listed “Hug Me” as the lead song instead of “Yellow Light.”
Producers might have a chance at a second soundtrack offering since “The Difference” and “So Bad” by Eminem were featured in trailers, but, as Gru said in the first film, “it’s unlikely to explode (but try not to toss and turn).”
Complete track list:
- “Yellow Light”
- “Hug Me”
- “Take on Me”
- “Papa Mama Loca Pipa”
- “There’s Something Special”
- “Tiki Tiki Babeloo”
- “99 Luftballons”
- “Into the Groove”
- “Chuck Berry”
- “Fun, Fun, Fun”
- “Despicable Me”
- “Despicable Me 3 Score Suite”
- “Malatikalano Polatina”