Netflix’s The Kitchen has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard from the streamer

Netflix’s The Kitchen, from co-directors Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares, is a bleak and beautiful parable about humanity that’s set in a near-future version of London — when extreme gentrification and technological advancement have pushed ordinary and disadvantaged people farther out to the margins of society. Thankfully, we don’t get any of the normal futuristic tripe about killer robots and flying cars here; the movie, which hit the streaming giant on Friday, grapples instead with real, tangible byproducts of things like housing inequality and the splintering of society brought on by Big Tech that’s already happening right now.

That’s one of the many things that I loved about The Kitchen, the title of which is also the name of an overcrowded Kowloon sort of enclave where most of the story unfolds. The Kitchen itself is a dilapidated collection of structures, with apartments stacked haphazardly on top of each other. From the sky, it looks unfinished and in disrepair. It’s one of the last refuges for the poor who can’t afford the high-tech, luxury apartment units and driverless cars that make the rest of London feel like it’s another world away.

Because water is constantly going out in The Kitchen, residents queue early for showers. They can get email on their mirrors, as if that somehow makes life better. Buzzing drones are a constant nuisance, surveilling everyone from above. There are frequent and brutal police raids, and the residents of The Kitchen stay tuned in to a pirate radio station hosted by the “Lord Kitchener,” who delivers a steady musical diet of funk and soul sprinkled with his aphorisms and defiant proclamations.

One of the many things that makes The Kitchen such a powerful and searing watch is the way it relies on both sight and sound to convey its message. The neighborhood is its own world, its own fragile ecosystem. You can pick up the vibe from the visuals alone — but, in addition to the heartbreaking imagery of an oppressed community teetering on the edge, the sounds of The Kitchen also ground you in this place and time. In fact, I found myself throughout the movie silently wishing that everything would slow down momentarily so I could just enjoy the music.

Tech. Entertainment. Science. Your inbox.

Sign up for the most interesting tech & entertainment news out there.

By signing up, I agree to the Terms of Use and have reviewed the Privacy Notice.

I’ll even go so far as to say the soundtrack here is absolutely one of the best I’ve heard from a Netflix original in a long, long time, thanks to tracks like these:

The collection of songs even includes a hymn, How Great Thou Art, which is heard during an emotional climax in the movie. As an aside, its inclusion is all the more powerful given that the world of The Kitchen is not unlike the one that OpenAI and ChatGPT are trying to usher into existence for us, whether we’re ready or not. And the closer that it gets to reality, it’s hard not to feel like Big Tech is increasingly having a bipolar effect on the world; for some people, in other words, it all promises a wondrous and better life. For others, like the kind of people who live in The Kitchen, it means labor-replacement and living with the consequences of someone else’s choices.

Here, the people who still have hymns to sing are the ones who’ve been trampled underfoot by technology’s Darwinian march of progress. This movie is as much about them, a fanfare for the common man, as it is an exploration of all the marvels and misery that the future holds.

Image source: Netflix

Needless to say, for these and so many other reasons, The Kitchen is a must-watch. And if you find yourself, like me, blown away by the music as you’re watching, the entire soundtrack track listing is included below:

  • Holding On, by Tirzah
  • Party Popper, by Backroad Gee
  • En blue jeans et blouson d’cuir, by Salvatore Amato
  • Kyenkyen Bi Adi M’awu, by Alhaji K Frimpong
  • How ‘Bout Us, by Champaign
  • Odo Nwom, by Kofi Nti feat Ofori Amponsah and Barosky
  • AK47, by Sayfar, Cyfred, 2woBunnies
  • Living Like I Do, by SBTRKT & Sampha
  • Lock Doh, by Giggs
  • Stay So, by Busy Signal
  • Zombie, by Fela Kuti
  • Candy, by Cameo
  • Xtra (Instrumental), by Ruff Sqwad
  • Walk Away (Dub Mix), by Charles Kipps
  • How Great Thou Art, by cast

Read More

Andy Meek