Iconic Movie Soundtracks to Hear Before You Die
You could catch them at in the mall: punk kids with spiked hair and piercings waiting patiently in line, gripping vinyl while nerd-rock enthusiasts sporting corduroys thumb noisily through CDs. Older customers sit on wooden stools in the back tapping their heels, adjusting the volume for their headsets, their kids looking on in disgust. This is not a picture from a fictional universe, but rather a slice of life memory from a bygone era and place once frequented by music lovers of every age race and creed - the record store. While the taste of the average patron may have differed, each customer could find solace in their shared love of motion picture soundtracks.
With genres as contrasting as the films they represented, soundtracks were once an anomaly in record stores, showcasing a variety of artists and themes. And though they may no longer be available in Sam Goody, Tape World or Tower Records, this doesn’t mean you have to forget these diverse compilations that once were king. Here are our picks for iconic soundtracks you should try before you die. Download or stream at your convenience:
Space Jam (1996)
“Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now...” Need we see more? 1996 was the year of the “space KABOOM” as Quad City Deejays along with mid-nineties power hitters Seal, Monica, Coolio and LL Cool J all paid tribute to Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes on this show stopping record. And who can forget R. Kelly’s overplayed, “I Believe I Can Fly”? Years before Dave Chappelle would have a field day with the artist, you couldn’t enter a store or turn on the radio without hearing Kelly’s sappy-yet-tear-educing anthem. If you’re looking for some 90’s nostalgia (or just plain fun), be sure to give this album a listen.
The Social Network (2010)
Based on the debatably true story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to notoriety, The Social Network hit a nerve with audiences around the world, in part for the headstrong altruism of its lead character (played by Jesse Eisenberg), and its soundtrack’s haunting experimental sound. The score, composed by NIN front man Trent Reznor and engineer Atticus Ross, can be best described as a brooding post-industrial masterpiece (just listen to their rendition of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and tell us we're wrong). Busy, unsettling and unpredictable, this album was the recipient of nine major awards including a 2010 Golden Globe for best original score, as well as a win at the Academy Awards.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
In the late '80s, Dirty Dancing was one of the most-popular movies around, and its soundtrack shared equal acclaim. Holding eighteen weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, Dancing featured a variety of hits by artists from bygone decades (Bruce Channel, The Ronettes, The Five Satins), and of course the Bill Medley/ Jennifer Warnes duet "Time of My Life" which can still be heard at every wedding, prom, or awkward social gathering imaginable. Give this one a shot for nostalgia’s sake.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Few have come close to replicating the fever caused by this iconic record. Released in 1977 during the height of the disco craze, Saturday Night Fever brought perms, platform shoes and party dresses to the big screen, along with some of biggest names in music at the time. It’s no wonder this soundtrack was so well received; Bee Gees, Kool and the Gang, KC & The Sunshine Band, and many of their contemporaries contributed to the album remaining 120 weeks on Billboard’s album charts (through March 1980). And who can forget John Travolta striking his lord of the dance pose for the album cover? “Would you just watch the hair?!” Iconic to the max.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
EDM/disco/synthpop legends Daft Punk (and whatever other titles you wish to bestow upon them) have been churching out music since 1993, but it was the duo’s success on the French house scene in the late nineties that propelled them to superstardom. Fresh off the success of Human After All, their Alive 2006/2007 tour, and a brief collaboration with Kanye West, Daft Punk was recruited by Disney to compose what would become a Gold Certified record, enthused with the right amount of savvy bass-thumping to keep their fans entertained, while executing a more somber approach to set the tone for the accompanying film. What sets Tron: Legacy apart from previous Daft Punk records was the originality of the mixing; Tron’s score features an 85-piece orchestra, combined with electronic music. Our favorite tracks: "Derezzled", "The Son of Flynn", and "Rectifier".
The title for this one pretty much says it all. Produced for the 1973 film American Graffiti, set against the backdrop of 1950’s Americana, American Graffiti features exactly 41 hit songs from rock ’n' roll’s pivotal introductory decade and beyond. Bill Hailey & His Comets, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Buddy Holly are all present and accounted for. You can even find later recordings by The Beach Boys, Flash Cadillac and Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Make sure to check this one next time you headed for a drive-in or a road trip.
500 Days of Summer (2009)
As fun as the title suggests (though a bit of a misnomer considering the film’s plot), 500 Days of Summer (Music From the Motion Picture) is pure escapism. Filled with songs of joy and despair regarding the complexities of romance, this one gets our vote for most diverse range of artists. Mirroring the film’s narrative, featured tracks include performances by The Smiths (remember the elevator scene?) Regina Spektor, Hall and Oates, and Wolfmother to name a few. Its eclectic blend of musical styles may be due in part to the titular character’s fascination with collecting records in the movie, but regardless of the reason, this album comes highly recommended.
The Bodyguard (1992)
The Bodyguard makes our list for two reasons: 1) It holds its own as the best-selling soundtrack of all time and 2)… Whitney Houston, duh! The first album to have spent over twenty non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, The Bodyguard features many hit songs from the 1992 film including Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing". It has gone seventeen times platinum in the US and sold over forty-five million copies worldwide. If that doesn’t grab your attention, just let Whitney’s pipes reel you in. Though there are notable performances to be found here by other artists, it is Houston who takes the cake, and as you listen you will understand why The Bodyguard rocketed her to superstardom.
Garden State (2004)
The movie was panned by some and adored by others (currently holding a mehhh score of 67% on Metacritic), but it was the music that set that tone for Zach Braff's 2004 indie/mainstream soiree. Pick out anything here from the track list and you are bound to be entertained. With appearances by Coldplay, Simon & Gurfunkle, Iron & Wine and the now iconic "New Slang" by The Shins, Garden State is a feast for the ears.
So, what do you think? Good, bad, or indifferent? Agree, or disagree? Let us know YOUR picks!
All photos courtesy of amazon.com