Sutherland hits ‘fictional’ pop-stardom with Netflix soundtrack

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Ohio-native and Wildstock headliner Spencer Sutherland provides some refreshing alt-pop bangers with the “Afterlife of the Party” soundtrack. Featuring four original songs — including a duet with co-star Victoria Justice — Sutherland shows off his powerful vocals, soaring falsetto and pounding pop melodies.

I first heard Sutherland’s music after stumbling across his song “Tell Me” on YouTube, which quickly led to a deep dive into his discography. He makes multiple appearances on my most-played Spotify playlist, including the above track, the falsetto break-up bop “Sweater” and the (somewhat too relatable) “Help Me.”

That said, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I saw Sutherland’s name as the headliner for the inaugural Wildstock concert here in Manhattan. I was even more shocked to see he was starring in and writing music for the Netflix original film “Afterlife of the Party,” a romantic dramedy also starring “Victorious” actress Victoria Justice.

While I have yet to watch the movie, the soundtrack has been on repeat since its release. These songs hold their own without the film’s context.

The opening track “Blush” is a groovy dance hit sure to get you moving around like a party girl in a club … which makes sense given the film’s party-girl-turned-ghost premise. Funky bass lines and insane falsetto riffs from Sutherland make “Blush” a fun pop song. Hopefully, we’ll get to dance to this song in person.

Next on the soundtrack is “Drive,” a somewhat steamier song compared to the previous track. Sutherland’s raspy, distorted vocals blend with an even more distorted electric guitar as he sings, “I’d be lost without your touch, give me something, just a little, wake me up.” I’m sure this song has people swooning in the movie.

The third song, “Home,” is a duet with co-star Victoria Justice. I honestly haven’t listened to Justice sing since her “Victorious” days, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear her alongside Sutherland. This song opens with cinematic synths before the drums kick in and Justice takes center stage.

Before listening to “Home,” I was skeptical if their voices would work together. My doubts were cast aside as both artists complemented one another on the song. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song plays during a happy montage in the film. It has that uplifting air one would expect in a romantic comedy just before everything hits the fan.

The fourth and final song written by Sutherland, “One Look,” is your stereotypical pop love song, with Sutherland singing in the chorus, “It only takes one look and I’m into you / There could be a hundred people in the room / If you take a chance you could feel it too / All it takes is one look, one look.”

When I call it a stereotypical pop love song, I mean that in the best of ways. In an interview with That Hashtag Show, Sutherland said he took a step back from his usual writing style to create the pop persona of his character Koop.

“In my music, I put a lot of truth and raw things about my life in it, and with these … it was interesting to try and think less while I was writing,” Sutherland said in the interview. “Like if something feels too generic sometimes it’s not; some of the best songs are like that … it was really a breath of fresh air.”

The final song on the soundtrack is an instrumental track by composer Jessica Rose Weiss, who wrote the score for the film. In the 8-minute-long “Score Suite,” Weiss explores many styles, from peppy strings and snares to a darker, almost intimidating middle section. Wrapping up with an ethereal string section that fades away without a clear final chord, Weiss makes it clear Sutherland isn’t the only musician deserving of attention.

Overall, I enjoyed the soundtrack. Sometimes dancing around to catchy pop music is what you need to get through the day. Just be careful not to slip and bump your head, or you might find yourself in a similar position to Justice’s character.

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