Ryan Gosling likes to tell the story of how the movie Drive was created. After director Nicholas Winding Refn turned down the job, Gosling took him for a drive, when REO Speedwagon came on the radio, at which point Refn started singing along and crying and said, "This is what the movie is. It's about a guy who just drives around listening to pop music because it's the only way he can feel anything." Like the film, the soundtrack imitates "Pretty In Pink with head smashings," utilizing only five songs, including tracks by music supervisor Johnny Jewell's bands, The Chromatics and Desire, and a violently poppy score from ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Cliff Martinez.
The soundtrack packs in an 80s techno amp, but the songs selected are a little less Crowded House, and a little more Cyndi Lauper meets Daft Punk (wait, why hasn't that happened?). The soundtrack does an exceptional job finding songs that are perfect for long drives, ranging from the upbeat and autotuned "Nightcall" by Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx to the melancholic power-anthem, "A Real Hero (feat. Electric Youth)" by College. College's track maintains strong 80s nostalgia, but also has a completely fresh feel and strikes resonance to electro bands like M83.
Italian composer Riz Ortolani contributed to the soundtrack with his song featuring Katyna Ranieri, "Oh My Love." The song was featured in Drive's trailer, setting a premise for a melancholy romantic film. The rest of the soundtrack detracts from that notion entirely with its electro-pop songs. Although Gosling had hopes for a Pretty In Pink influenced soundtrack, the music of Drive seems to fit much more comfortably in a Brett Easton Ellis film than a John Hughes prom scene.
Although these songs highlight Refn's colorful scenes (and by colorful, yes, we do mean face stabbings), they stand equally as well on their own. Desire's "Under Your Spell" and College's "A Real Hero" would have been chart toppers in the 80s, and more and more audiences are seeing the film and citing the soundtrack as the motivating force. The score created by Martinez is drowning with ambient and morose waves, offsetting the electro-pop provided by the other songs on the album. Supervisor Johnny Jewell did an exceptional job creating songs that immediately instill images of late night drives, and are just as perfect for affecting a scene as they are for driving in solitude.