In the history of massive soundtrack albums, it’s almost impossible to come up with a contemporary example that only features women — especially one that includes so many upcoming stars. Enter Birds Of Prey: The Album, a highly-anticipated entry into the soundtrack canon that puts emerging names like Megan Thee Stallion and Normani on the same song (“Diamonds”), and doesn’t need a single credited male artist to bring plenty of star power to the table.
Accompanying the Suicide Squad spinoff, Birds Of Prey, the layout of the music on record mimics the storyline of the film in some ways. Birds Of Prey follows Harley Quinn leaving her abusive relationship with the Joker and thus entering into dangerous, unprotected territory. That is, until she meets a bevy of badass women who morph into a de facto crew of their own throughout the course of the movie. On record, too, these women collaborate and connect, the compilation effectively boosting them all to a level of mainstream visibility that (almost) none of them could’ve achieved on their own.
Plenty of the credited singers and rappers here are still relatively unknown, but their offerings are so compelling it’s hard to listen without wanting to go seek out more songs by each of them. Of course, bigger stars like Halsey (“Experiment On Me”), and Megan and Normani with their obvious hit, “Diamonds,” Summer Walker (“I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More”), and Saweetie (“Sway With Me”) help bring in listeners, but skipping around based on names that aren’t quite household ones yet will mean missing some of the best songs on the compilation.
There’s Maisie Peters, an English songwriter who contributed what she calls a “feminist bop” to the project with “Smile,” including the soon-to-be Instagram caption fodder “it’s my party, my body, my business,” and that emotional sentiment is echoed in a totally different sonic format on rising Memphis rapper Jucee Froot’s “Danger” hook: “It’s an all-girl party and no boys can come,” delivered in her decisive drawl with a hint of derision and plenty of attitude.
The album’s lead-off track, “Boss B*tch” by Doja Cat also has the potential to be a hit, and is another entry into Doja’s already infectious catalogue, proving she has all the makings of a star. One of the few loved-up tracks on the album is Summer Walker’s “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby,” which stands out a bit from the ragers and misandry that pervades the rest of the record, but it’s a nice respite, atmospherically, and would’ve easily fit in on her 2019 breakout album, Over It.
Plus there’s the new song from Normani’s fellow ex-harmonizer, Lauren Jauregui, “Invisible Chains” — a dramatic ballad with enough percussion to keep things interesting. In the slower vein, Charlotte Lawrence’s lilting, noir-pop ballad “Joke’s On You” and Jurnee Smollet-Bell — aka the Black Canary in the film — covering “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” for her musical debut are both shining moments. Adona’s molasses-slow cover of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” similarly reimagines the rock anthem as a bluesy, brooding Lana Del Rey-styled taunt, and fans of will recognize “Sway With Me” as a take on that iconic jazz standard “Sway” popularized by Dean Martin, that was actually initially written by Mexican composer Luis Demetrio.
Galxara, who is half-Nicaraguan, features on the track with Saweetie, and their version leans heavily into the track’s Latin roots, reviving it from the jazz era and bringing it firmly into 2020, when the prominence of Latin pop is everywhere, including stages as big as the Super Bowl Halftime show. It’s also worth noting that the film was written and directed by women of color (Christina Hodson and Cathy Yan, respectively), and the majority of the album is composed of them as well. Considering the historic makeup of superhero movies skews predominantly male, and the rare female stars like Harley are also primarily white, the emphasis on inclusion here is worth noting.
While it’s impossible to separate some soundtracks from their corresponding movies, the sheer quality of the songs on Birds Of Prey and the deeply relatable subject matter — from angry, to sad, to loving — makes the project a great listen even if you have no interest or background on the film. However, the thought of hearing some of these songs in the middle of a fight sequence is an equally compelling reason to go out and see it, even if comic adaptations haven’t been your thing in the past. The whole point of Birds Of Prey is to change some of the long-standing misconceptions and historical inequalities of the genre, and with the curation on this soundtrack, they’ve taken a tremendous step in the right direction.
Birds Of Prey: The Album is out now via Atlantic Records. Get it here.
Some artists covered are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.