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Five years ago, I reviewed the soundtrack from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, a film that blew my mind and instantly became ingrained as not just one of my favorite Spider-Man or Marvel or superhero films but one of my favorite films, period. Five days ago, I watched that film’s sequel, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, and now, as I write this, I’m still buzzing from the high of watching it again just hours ago.

The sequel isn’t so much a continuation of the first story as it is its own evolved organism. Like how life started with aquatic creatures and eventually became the wildly diverse array of species and body plans we see today. There’s shared DNA, but you can see how things have adapted and changed and grown into much more complex lifeforms — not necessarily, better, per se, but totally different in endlessly fascinating new ways.

Here’s what I wrote about the first soundtrack: “Like the Black Panther soundtrack before it, the film understands its cultural relevance, the moment it speaks to, and the world it must represent, and does so, making it one of the best hip-hop-oriented film soundtracks ever created.” With that in mind, writing about the second soundtrack, which was produced and curated by St. Louis superproducer Metro Boomin, begs for the sort of reinvention and deconstruction that the second film does.

Fortunately, the new soundtrack offers the perfect opportunity for it. Unlike the first Spider-Verse soundtrack, Metro Boomin Presents Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse plays as more of a straightforward album than its predecessor. While the original presented a diverse slate of artists and styles reflecting and deepening the themes of the movie, listening to the second, you might forget that it’s a soundtrack at all. Nobody mentions Spider-Man, the character, or says the word “superhero” across its 13 tracks (19 on the deluxe version released just days later).

But while each of those tracks slots perfectly into its respective needle-drop moment in the film, here, there’s a sense of cohesion that the first one lacked — for certain, a product of having a single producer curating tracks with his favorite collaborators. Where the first featured a number of rising stars who might not be instantly recognizable — one breakout song, “What’s Up Danger,” was performed by Blackway, who isn’t exactly a marquee star — this one is littered with A-list talent, from 21 Savage and ASAP Rocky to James Blake and Nas.

Fittingly, though, there is some continuity: Coi Leray returns here for the reflective “Self Love.” She’s seen a similar rise in popularity since the first movie, just like the franchise itself (the first film opened at $35.4 million for the weekend; the new one grossed $120.7 million in the same span). Metro also wisely expands his own range, continuing the first soundtrack’s nods to the multi-cultural Brooklyn setting of the film with forays into dancehall (“Silk & Cologne” with Ei8ht and Offset), Afrobeats (“Link Up” with Don Toliver and Wizkid), and alt-pop (the standout “Hummingbird” with James Blake).

And where the first film dazzled with entirely new animation techniques and novel production design, the second, without the element of surprise that the first one had, deepened and expanded its use of these elements to enrich the visual storytelling (in Spider-Gwen’s world, the watercolor backgrounds shapeshift to reflect the characters’ emotional conflicts — strong stuff). Likewise, Across The Spider-Verse‘s soundtrack doesn’t get to blow us away with a “Sunflower,” the Post Malone and Swae Lee collab that went 18 times platinum while becoming a soundtrack earworm on the scale of “Don’t You Forget About Me” or “Danger Zone.”

So, instead, Metro and friends spread the inescapable catchiness across the tracklist as a whole. In the past seven days, I have been stuck, alternately, on ASAP Rocky and Roisee’s “Am I Dreaming,” whose strings pulsate with emotion; Swae Lee, Nav, and A Boogie wit da Hoodie’s “Calling,” which may mark my first time actually enjoying a Nav song; and Dominic Fike’s deluxe edition addition “Mona Lisa,” the very definition of a bop. My neighbors are undoubtedly sick of all three by now, but I’ve considerately varied the playlist with Future and Lil Uzi Vert’s “All The Way Live,” Offset and JID’s (!!) “Danger (Spider),” and “Silk & Cologne.”

Throughout the album, it’s clear that Metro, like the Sony Pictures Animation studio, stepped up his game tremendously. We’re well used to his thumping 808s and haunting samples by now; this time, he adds soaring strings, blaring, superheroic horns, subtle synths, and sprinkles of dialogue from the film to his formula, crafting candy-coated musical concoctions that sit as easily aside each other as they do the frenetic animation and heartfelt scenes on the screen.

If Enter The Spider-Verse produced one of my favorite superhero film soundtracks, Across The Spider-Verse presents one of the best — no caveats or categories needed. It may not feel as groundbreaking as its predecessor, but it is an album that compels repeat listening and rewards it every time. Tasked with producing a soundtrack worthy of the mighty leap forward the sequel has made, the artist whose oeuvre includes not just one superhero-themed album but two (with another on the way) proves himself up to the Herculean task and, like the film itself, leaves listeners desperate for more.

Metro Boomin Presents Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is out now on Boominati/Republic.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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