Great pieces don’t mean a lot if you don’t know where to put them. That’s never been a problem for Metro Boomin. Since dropping his debut solo album, Not All Heroes Wear Capes, about five years ago, the 29-year-old producer showcased preternatural instincts for curation, fusing voices and sonic textures for collaborations that work so well you wonder why they didn’t materialize earlier. Last winter, he flaunted his all-around curatorial prowess with Heroes & Villains, and he continues doing so on Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse Soundtrack a project that’s as diverse as it is elegantly stylish.
Over the course of 13 tracks, Metro works with folks like 21 Savage, Don Toliver, Swae Lee, Offset and more for tracks that can be surreal and exhilarating, supple and festive or nakedly sincere. On “Annihilate,” he serves up cinematic synths and frenetic percussion, giving Offset and Lil Wayne a canvas to paint punchy bars, combined with an anthemic hook from Swae Lee that feels every bit like a heroic adventure. Floating over a celestial Metro beat, Lil Uzi Vert and Don Toliver trade alien melodies on “Home.” Their off-kilter harmony creates an engrossing lullaby for longing and loneliness.
Tracks like those are just a reminder that Metro knows how to put artists where they need to be — like an NBA head coach that understands putting their stars in positions to succeed. His eye for arrangements and talent itself shine throughout the LP, as they do on “Self Love.” On it, Coi Leray skitters across a tranquil, but forlorn instrumental designed for soul-searching, with her timid delivery and loosely connected couplets dripping out like lingering doubts that come with teenage existential crises.
On “Am I Dreaming,” Metro dives into his bag again when he grabs a Roisee, a little known, but talented vocalist who provides a disembodied hook that’s ethereal and entrancing. He also taps new fave collaborator A$AP Rocky, who lets loose bars that strike a balance between themes of the film and his own persona as a Big Apple resident. His verse could be about Spider-Man, but it could also be Rocky before a life in the spotlight: “Kiss my mama on the forehead, ‘forе I get the code rеd/’Cause I was born, bred to go in, toast read/And swing by 410, beef patty, cornbread/In the concrete jungle, where my home is.”
Finesse like that isn’t always present on the LP, however, as Lil Uzi Vert, NAV and Offset have a tendency to be heavy handed when addressing matters of the film. On tracks like the otherwise fine “All the Way Live,” Uzi’s stilted bars sound like they were written by ChatGPT. NAV’s turn on “Calling” is equally dry, spilling out like an unconvincing apology from a shitty boyfriend.
While the choruses for “Calling,” “Home” and a few others are symbolic and melodically rich enough to be engaging, no track here matches the all-around magnetism of Into the Spider-Verse’s 18-times platinum Post Malone and Swae Lee single, “Sunflower.” There’s nothing here as grand as “Superhero,” either, and when paired with lyrics that struggle to capture the essence of the new flick without sounding corny, you’re looking at tracks that occasionally lack potency. Nas’ “Nas Morales” feels a little forced, even if you love the novelty of Mr. Nasir Jones tapping in for the project.
And yet, with Metro Boomin’s knack for sonic architecture and outright flair for theatrics, it’s a soundtrack fit for a web-slinging adventure.