Last week featured the release of the soundtrack for Furious 7, the final installment in the Fast and Furious film franchise. Your correspondent admits that he wasn't a huge fan of the first edition when it debuted during 2001. He's since warmed up to the series as the films have started to feature more and more absurd stunts, and more and more Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The final film, which premieres in theaters next week, looks to be a proper, adrenaline-fueled final chapter and a fitting tribute to Paul Walker.
One thing that hasn't necessarily gotten better as the films have progressed: The soundtrack albums. Music Times ranks the seven film companion albums from worst rides to best:
07) The Fast and The Furious (2001)
Things may not have gotten consistently better, but they've at least been better on average than the collection of songs that went with the first film. Obviously the budget was lower back in the day, but surely Universal could have done better than partnering with Murder Inc.? Ja Rule not only landed a small role in the film, he also landed three songs on the soundtrack, while appearing in two more, while Ashanti also made two appearances. If you love Ja Rule, this is the soundtrack for you. If you have sensible taste in hip-hop, not so much. This is a collection where Limp Bizkit's "Rollin' (Urban Assault Vehicle)" is a marked improvement over most of its companions. A second playlist would be released, featuring mostly nu-metal and hard rock, but that didn't help the cause.
06) The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
This is the chapter in the film series that people prefer to forget, because Paul Walker doesn't appear and Vin Diesel makes only a minor cameo. There are a few good things to say about this collection: Star Shad "Bow Wow" Moss doesn't appear on the soundtrack despite appearing in the film, and it also includes an aggressive number from German electropunk outfit Atari Teenage Riot. Unfortunately, the urge to add a more "Asian" vibe to the compilation doesn't pay off for the better. The 18.104.22.168's had pretty much reached its peak during Kill Bill, and surely better Japanese rappers exist than the unfortunately-titled Teriyaki Boyz.
05) Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Most of the titles in the Fast and The Furious soundtrack series have always, even when poorly curated, come hard. No matter what the genre-hip-hop, rock, electronic-the music has always been in-your-face, just like the films. Sure, there's love stories of sorts going on within the plot, but the viewers are there for the car chases and the sex (not a first-date movie). So it caused your correspondent to have a minor aneurysm when the remix of "Cruise," a Florida Georgia Line single featuring Nelly, appeared on the album, as well as "Rest of My Life," a single from a much softer Ludacris than the type we expect from a F&F film.
04) 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
The soundtrack from the second installment in the film franchise is far from perfect but at least the curators learned from their previous mistake: If you're going to have a rapper star in your film, make sure he's at least halfway talented behind the mic so that it doesn't become regrettable when he has three songs on the album. Ludacris came much harder than he did 10 years later, and in the process delivered "Act a Fool," the best promotional single Fast and Furious has ever had. You'll also notice, way at the back of the tracklist, a song titled "Oye" by a performer named Pitbull. It would be at least five years before the majority of American listeners had heard of him...
03) Fast & Furious (2009)
...making the 2009 resurrection of the series the perfect time to bring back Mr. Pitbull to dominate the soundtrack. We should point out that the multiple appearances from the rapper and fellow performer Don Omar don't necessarily make sense: The former is a proud Cuban and the latter is a proud Puerto Rican, while the majority of the film takes place either in the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Just saying. Either way, a hefty amount of production help from The Neptunes makes this album bounce. Omar deserves a shout-out for being one of the most popular performers in the soundtrack history of the series...he appeared on every tracklist from Tokyo Drift to Fast & Furious 6.
02) Furious 7 (2015)
We're hoping that Furious 7 will be the best film in the series, based strictly on the absurdity of stunts featured in trailers. And indeed, the soundtrack came pretty darn close as well. Don't get us wrong: The hip-hop featured on this collection is about as ratchet as it gets, but there's simple pleasure to "Ride Out," a superjam featuring YG, Wale, Kid Ink, Rich Homie Quan and Tyga. It's always surprised us that Skrillex and Diplo never got involved, together or separately, in the Fast series but we won't complain about the contributions of DJ Snake, both on his already established "Turn Down For What" and "Get Low," a collaboration with Dillon Francis. And if you haven't been turned onto the Famous to Most "Whip" fad yet, you can get your first taste here.
01) Fast Five (2011)
Despite his dedication to the brand, Omar didn't get his true chance to shine until Fast Five, when he got headlining status with the "How We Roll" remix. His headlining came largely as a result of the curators of the soundtrack opting to avoid big American names (although Ludacris gets one track), instead opting for performers from Brazil, where the film takes place. Stars such as Claudia, Marcelo D2, Carlinhos Brown and more grab the opportunity and run with, delivering the most consistently quality album in the history of the franchise. One more helpful addition: This is the only soundtrack album that has featured work from Brian Tyler, the composer whose handiwork was limited to the score albums previously. He gets a much-deserved spotlight during Fast Five.