As the third installment in the One Tree Hill‘s soundtrack franchise, The Road Mix, does exactly what a One Tree Hill soundtrack is designed to do:
(1) Expand the show’s brand through merchandise and accessories, like the Hill-figure clothing sold through the official website. Guys can transform themselves into “Lucas Scott” (Chad Michael Murray), right down to his long sleeves layered under his t-shirt. Ladies can emulate the wardrobe of “Haley James Scott” (Bethany Joy Galeotti), which is, like, so the hotness.
(2) Showcase the music, with some songs having appeared in key episodes, while others were included because they fit the show’s style.
In short, Road Mix succeeds with goal number one (“expanding the show’s brand”), but falls short of its potential with goal number two (“showcasing the music”). Road Mix, like the offspring of famous parents and grandparents, seeks to live up to the legacy of its predecessors. The first Hill soundtrack gave us the show’s monster theme, Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Wanna Be” (“any-thang utha thay-an whut I bi-in tryin’ na be late-layyyyyyyyy”—sorry, I couldn’t resist, it’s too catchy!). The second was built from the storyline’s benefit concert and a portion of the CD sales were earmarked as donations to the National Breast Cancer Association. Ultimately, this third effort is unable to outdo the others.
Road Mix ties into the “It Gets Worse at Night” episode that aired on May 9, 2007. Thanks to a national contest inviting viewers to explain why their town should provide the setting for one Tree episode, the cast embarks on a road trip (hence the soundtrack title) from fictional Tree Hill in my home state of North Carolina (Go Tarheels! Yee-haw!) to real town Honey Grove, Texas. The soundtrack, then, represents the mixtape for the trip, with the requisite angst and luscious melodrama from Dashboard Confessional (“Don’t Wait”) and Honorary Title (“Stay Away”), as well as tunes from previous soundtrack contributors the Wreckers (“Lay Me Down”) and Tyler Hilton (“You’ll Ask for Me”). This time around, we get a dose of non-threatening, radio-friendly hip-hop from Lupe Fiasco (“I Gotcha”) and a little beach bounce from the Gym Class Heroes remake of “Good Vibrations”.
It’s far from well rounded, genre-wise, but there’s enough fun here to help you get your One Tree Hill on. I did, however, try it in my car. It’s not bad on the highway—I especially like the song order, as the set gradually warms up, builds and rises, and then cools down again—but with a running time a little over an hour, make sure you bring a few other mixes if carry this one on the road. Mapquest says it would take me about 16 hours to drive from my home in North Carolina to Honey Grove, and I just don’t think I could listen to Road Mix 16 times (32 times, if it’s my theme music on the way home). Life may imitate art, but it has its limits.