This Is 40: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
This Is 40: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Music Poster Image
Soundtrack features pensive songs, one with harsh lyrics.

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age 16+
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The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

The songs on the soundtrack to This Is 40 explore different aspects of long-term relationships. Some romantic songs (Yoko Ono's "Yes, I'm Your Angel," Wilco's "I Got You," the Avett Brothers' "Live and Die") suggest that everything's going to be OK as long as we have love. Others, with telling titles like "Always Judging" (Norah Jones) and "Sick of You" (Lindsey Buckingham) send a bleak message about the likelihood of sustaining romance over time.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some would say that the characters in these songs exhibit a negative attitude toward long-term relationships. Another way to view them would be to say that many of the veteran artists on the soundtrack (Lindsey Buckingham, Graham Parker, Loudon Wainwright III, Paul Simon) set an example of impressive dedication and undiminished artistic relevance after decades of writing and performing.


Fiona Apple's "Dull Tool" repeats that you are "more likely to get cut with a dull tool than a sharp one." Graham Parker's "What Do You Like?" includes an image of a "hook in my mouth," and the singer's lover will "kick that chair from below me." However, in both songs, the singers are speaking metaphorically.


Yoko Ono's whimsical opener, "Yes, I'm Your Angel," says "Our hearts are one/ Our bodies, too/ And it's so good, mm, ev'rytime." Ryan Adams's "Shining Through the Dark" mentions "lying here next to you." Fiona Apple's brutal song "Dull Tool" includes the language "You don't kiss when you kiss/ You don't f--k when you f--k."


Fiona Apple's "Dull Tool" is the only song with foul language: "You don't kiss when you kiss/ You don't f--k when you f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ryan Adams' "Shining Through the Dark" mentions a "red wine stain."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the soundtrack to Judd Apatow's 2012 comedy This Is 40 explores the same questions about sustaining romantic relationships into middle age that are integral to the film. The content may be beyond the experience of teenagers, but appearances by popular artists such as Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, and The Avett Brothers add to the appeal for young listeners. Most of these pensive songs are clean, but there's one mention of wine ("Shining Through the Dark"), a couple of mild sexual references ("Yes I'm Your Angel," "Shining Through the Dark"), and one song with foul sexual language plus a violent image: Fiona Apple's "Dull Tool" includes the lyrics "You don't f--k when you f--k," and "You're more likely to get cut with a dull tool than a sharp one"; this is clearly the song that earned the album a Parental Advisory.

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What's the story?

The soundtrack to Judd Apatow's 2012 comedy film THIS IS 40 digs into many of the same themes that the movie explores, especially the challenge of sustaining romance in a long-term relationship. Some songs take a bleak outlook, whereas others are more light and charming. In the film, actor Paul Rudd founds a new indie label that he hopes will revive the careers of some high-quality '70s and '80s artists; this is also reflected in some of the soundtrack choices. Included on the album are veteran singer/songwriters Paul McCartney, Lindsey Buckingham, Ryan Adams, Graham Parker, and Loudon Wainwright III, plus younger performers such as Norah Jones, the Avett Brothers, Fiona Apple, and Wilco.

Is it any good?

There's enjoyable variety on this soundtrack album: songs of promise and cynicism; artists new and not so new; arrangements that range from quiet acoustic guitar and voice to full band blow-outs. Particularly enjoyable are tracks that combine older and newer artists, such as Lindsey Buckingham with Norah Jones on "Brother and Sister" or Graham Parker with the Punch Brothers on "What Do You Like?" It's also worth mentioning that the one song that could ruffle some parental feathers, Fiona Apple's "Dull Tool," has profound lyrics and powerful, well-produced music -- it's worth much more than its shock value.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the variety of performers on this album. Did you discover any older artists that you like?

  • How do the songs on the album fit with the plot of the movie?

  • Fiona Apple's song "Dull Tool" stands out as the most brutal-sounding song on the soundtrack. Why do you think this song is included? What does she mean when she sings "You're more likely to get cut with a dull tool than a sharp one"?

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