Waves follows the Williams siblings, high school wrestling star Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his withdrawn younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell), before and after a tragic event. Director Trey Edward Shults explained that the character of Tyler was based heavily on his and Harrison Jr.’s experiences growing up and feeling immense pressure to perform. The film is split into two parts, before and after tragedy (the tragedy being a wrestling injury), much like the split nature of Ocean’s album Blonde, which is one of Shults’ favorite albums.
Shults explained that the film attempts to capture that “beautiful dichotomy” of honesty and vulnerability in an interview with GQ. He expressed that the album is timeless for him, and that when he listens to it, he feels like he is hearing stories that everyone can relate to.
Shults further explained in that same interview that the soundtrack was important to him as a storytelling device because of how much music influenced him growing up.
“I thought Ty and [his sister] Emily (Taylor Russell) would gravitate towards music in the same way that I did. They're both smart, sensitive kids. So then it's just picking stuff that feels honest to them. I think if you took the music and put it in a playlist — well, I know because I did it — there's a story being told from song to song that echoes the narrative of the movie,” Shults told GQ.
In addition to Ocean’s “Godspeed” and “Seigfried” and West’s “I Am A God,” the Waves movie soundtrack also features artists such as Kendrick Lamar, H.E.R., SZA, Tyler, The Creator, and Amy Winehouse. The film’s soundtrack plays a major role in the emotionally heavy yet beautifully shot driving sequences, according to Vulture. Shults stated that he eventually cried watching one of those sequences because of how emotionally moving he found it to be with the music elevating it.
“What the song is doing at that moment, I don't know. We kept working on that and mixing it and couldn't finish it until I started crying because I felt like I had finally lived it emotionally, with what the music's doing and what the visuals are doing,” Shults told GQ.
Waves is now playing in theaters.