Heard Music

Sync Spotlight // Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Sync Spotlight aims to showcase examples of music licensing in India and across the globe – be it in web series, ads or films. Warning: major spoilers ahead!!

Episode 4 of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (2023). 

Song: United States of Whatever, by Liam Lynch

Not quite a reboot, nor a sequel, Netflix’s newest anime series brings back the cast of the beloved “Scott Pilgrim v/s The World” movie, based on the cult-classic “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels. For fans of eclectic movie soundtracks and 80’s garage grunge rock, this name isn’t unfamiliar – it’s a long-awaited retake on one of my favourite movie albums of all time, this time helmed by anime-core chiptune band Anamanaguchi and electro-classical composer Joseph Trapanese. In this adaptation, Scott Pilgrim faces Ramona Flowers’ evil exes in a bid for love, seemingly dying after losing to the first ex. As everyone’s lives take eerily unexpected turns, Ramona investigates, interrogates and time travels to learn that Scott may still be alive.

Music has always been an integral part of the Scott Pilgrim multi-verse, with Scott himself playing bass for an indie band. There is the absolutely banging music from the in-universe bands in the graphic novels – Sex Bob-omb, The Clash at Demonhead, The Katayanagi Twins, and others. The 2010 movie adaptation added a lot of fresh and wacky songs to the mix, composed by alt-rock legend Beck, and performed by the cast themselves, most of whom had no prior musical experience but still did an amazing job. The new anime adaptation also features music from the aforementioned fictional bands and the cast, but brings something new to the screen, having sync licensed a number of classic era-appropriate hits. 

My favourite of all the non-original music in the series has to be from the opening of Episode 4, where the creators have licensed the 2002 chartbuster “United States of Whatever” by Liam Lynch. It plays in its entirety while superstar bad-boy character Lucas Lee skates across town, dodging paparazzi ninjas, traumatising fans, and performing superhuman skateboard manoeuvres. As we come to the end of the song, and the scene, it becomes clear that to Lucas, nothing is more important than being himself – not his friends, not his fans, and certainly not public opinion. With each short, near-nonsensical verse of the song ending with an exclamation of “whatever!”, it is a perfect, pithy example of Lucas Lee’s dismissive and nihilistic view of life.   

Bursting with repetitive rebellion, thoughtfully hilarious lyrics and pretty much no song structure, this novelty garage rock song is one part grungy refusal and one part proto-Apple ad. Over a distorted, barely interpolated guitar riff and a clattering beat that sounds as if it were played on a sheet of aluminum, Lynch talk-sings about a series of failed social interactions, punctuated by a chorus which is pretty much the song’s title being yelled out. One thing that most people (in 2002 and even now) didn’t understand was why “United States of Whatever” was, and is, as much of an earworm as it is. It became immortalised as one of those historically novel songs that defined a genre and a movement, for however short a time. 

The soundscape of “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” is vibrant and energetic, matching the lively animation and amplifying what makes this such a spectacular new adaptation of a familiar work. With eight episodes that are bursting to the brim with life and energy, there’s plenty of room for the soundtrack to shine. They pay homage to the legacy of anime opening songs with the propulsive song “Bloom” by Japanese rock band Necry Talkie, and even throw in a diva-rock remake of the 2009 classic “I Will Remember You”, originally performed by Sarah McLachlan. In short, the soundtrack is full of bops, and it makes a great show even better.

This show is available for viewing on Netflix