Playlist: Going to the Movies

It’s the last month of summer, so it’s time to get in as much chill time on the beach or in the A/C as you can. Summer doesn’t only mean hot sun, parties, and swimming. It’s also the season for blockbuster movies. This got me thinking about movie themes, which aren’t a big trend in movies anymore. Some are powerful others are cheesy making the point to tell you the plot of the movie in three minutes. It seems the 80s had the best and biggest movie themes out there, but there are too many to keep track of. So, let’s look at some notable movie themes and make summer last a little longer.

“Lose Yourself” theme from 8 Mile (Eminem)

Eminem was already an international superstar by the time 8 Mile dropped, but this song put him over the top. It was the hottest song of 2002 and one you couldn’t escape from. It even earned Eminem an Oscar win to the surprise of everyone including the rapper himself. Em has a lot of hit songs, but the drive, aggression, and persevering message of this single connected with fans all over the world. The song was so overplayed it grew sickening whenever you heard it. But now that it’s not blasting on the radio every five minutes, it’s easier to sit back and appreciate the track. Over ten years later, it remains one of Em’s strongest and successful singles. Didn’t hurt that the movie was actually good either.

“Ghostbusters” theme from Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr.)

Movie theme songs have the tendency to be cheesy with this being the ultimate example. It may be full of 80s cheese, but that’s what makes the song so lovable. From the wonky synth to Parker Jr.’s smug “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” it’s a track that’s a lot of fun, which is why it fits perfectly with the movie. Everything about it is memorable, especially the tagline “Who ya gonna call?/Ghostbusters!” It may be corny, but at least it isn’t the hellish spawn that is the rebooted theme song. Believe it or not, Huey Lewis sued Parker Jr. and claimed he stole the melody from his track “I Want a New Drug.” The two are surprisingly similar; the matter was later settled out of court.

“Stayin Alive” theme from Saturday Night Fever (Bees Gees)

If you were asked to pick one song to represent the disco fever days of the 70s, it would be this Bee Gees hit. It has an unmistakable riff and Barry Gibb’s unique falsetto vocals. Whether you genuinely like the song or think it’s beyond corny, you have to admit there’s so much swagger in the opening riff. You can’t help but feel like a boss when strutting to this tune. The Bee Gees actually had several hit songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, including “Night Fever,” “How Deep is Your Love,” and “Jive Talking,” but it’s this track that’s their most notable. Now, if you could only get the image of John Travolta dancing out of your head whenever it plays.

“I Will Always Love You” theme from The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston)

This song was originally written by Dolly Parton in 1974 but didn’t gain massive notoriety until Whitney Houston performed the song for The Bodyguard soundtrack. The song turned out to be a perfect match for Houston’s haunting, beautiful vocals. And the part when the beat drops and she belts out that one note near the end still gives you chills. The single is still considered the singer’s signature song and many have forgotten Parton as the originator. Sure, the movie was shit, but it at least gave us this timeless song.

“Footloose” theme from Footloose (Kenny Loggins)

This is another song filled with 80s cheese, but it has a hook that’s hard to resist. The song, from the cheesy 80s film of the same name, ended up being Kenny Loggins’ most recognizable song, which is tough considering he released the equally popular “Danger Zone” for Top Gun. With its stark synth and memorable guitar riff it’s a track that’ll get you dancing even if you don’t want to. Guess that’s why it was a perfect fit for the movie. The tune was later covered by Blake Shelton for the laughable 2011 remake. Footloose may be a corny movie, but I’ll watch Kevin Bacon herkin’ and jerkin’ any day rather than the unnecessary remake.

“9 to 5” theme from 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)

This song is from the successful film of the same name, which stars Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lilly Tomlin as three women sick of their dead-end jobs and getting even with their boss. The song follows a similar suit; it’s about someone getting ready for a job they hate and barely making it on minimum wage. It’s one of those songs everyone can relate to, especially women with the line about not getting a raise. It speaks to people forced to work at jobs they hate with people they can’t stand on a wage that’s barely keeping them afloat. It’s hard to stay down about your job when you hear Parton’s jolly vocals on this upbeat country pop tune.

Pet Semetary from Pet Sematary (The Ramones)

Who would’ve thought The Ramones recorded a movie theme? Stephen King is a big Ramones fan and he asked the band to be a part of the soundtrack. Story goes, he handed a copy of the Pet Semetary book to Dee Ramone, who took it and came back with lyrics an hour later. The song has several references to the movie, particularly the hook of “I don’t wanna be buried/in a pet sematary/I don’t want to live my life/again.” It’s a fun, somewhat spooky song, but not everyone was a fan. It received a Razzie nomination for Worst Original song in 1989. Despite this, the single turned out to be one of The Ramones’ biggest radio hits and help cement their crowns as punk rock kings.

“The Power of Love” theme from Back to the Future (Huey Lewis & The News)

Huey Lewis & The News actually recorded two songs for the Back to the Future soundtrack, but this one is the most memorable. It’s not one of those songs that describe the events of the movie. Rather it’s about how love is a powerful and awesome force that makes people do different things. Written specifically for the movie, it appears near the beginning when Marty skateboards to school. It’s a bright, upbeat track with an unmistakable synth riff you still can’t get out of your head. The song turned into another hit single for the band and even earned them an Oscar nomination. They lost of Lionel Riche’s “Say You, Say Me.” “Back in Time,” the second song the band wrote for the movie, is more related to the film but isn’t as catchy or memorable.

“Who’s That Girl?” theme from Who’s That Girl? (Madonna)

Madonna has given us terrible movies over the years, but they’ve at least produced hit singles. Though what is arguably the best Madonna song, “Get into the Groove” can be considered the theme for Desperately Seeking Susan, it wasn’t featured on the film’s soundtrack. This song was recorded for Madonna’s 1987 film of the same name. And yes, it’s fucking terrible. But the song is another party anthem for the singer. Using latin influences, she creates an irresistible groove. She even lays down the hook in decent Spanish, a culture she’s always admired. The reviews on the song were mixed, but it ended up being her sixth single to top the Billboard charts. It’s not her best so, but it’s fun and puts you in a good mood.

“Eye of the Tiger” theme from Rocky III (Survivor)

One of the most bad ass movie theme songs, “Eye of the Tiger” is made to pump you up and make you feel like you can do anything. It has that iconic shuffling riff and the hook that’s somehow stayed relevant for the past 34 years. Rocky himself Sylvester Stallone approached the band to write a theme for the movie after Queen denied use of “Another One Bites the Dust.” I love that song, but seriously? The disco groove doesn’t fit the story of a boxer trying to keep his glory. Since its release, this song can be found in training montages everywhere. It’s almost as popular as the Rocky theme. The next time you need a pep, put on this song and achieve greatness. Or at least try to get off the couch.

“My Heart Will Go On” theme from Titanic (Celine Dion)

I’m sorry, I had to do it! Yes, it’s that song no one could escape in the late 90s. Titanic was a huge movie upon release and this song overshadowed everything. Every time those opening notes fluttered people either turned up the volume or rolled their eyes. It hit number one across the world and subsequently became a hit for Celine Dion. It’s still regarded as one of her most successful songs. This song was everywhere and by the end of 1997, everyone was sick of it. Revisiting the track, it’s actually quite beautiful. Sure, it’s sappy as hell, but Dion’s voice is what makes it powerful and alive. Now that it’s not playing on the radio every single second, it’s not that bad. Though it does bring up questions about the whole Titanic phenomenon, like why turned a tragic event into a love story?

“Weird Science” theme from Weird Science (Oingo Boingo)

They just don’t make movie themes like this anymore. Performed by Oingo Boingo, featuring Danny Elfman, it’s one of the best and oddest themes from the 80s. Nothing in the film made sense and neither does this song, which is why it’s perfect. The music is blaring, a mix of rock, synth, and dance and Elfman’s vocals make him sound like a mad scientist. The lyrics recall using “voodoo dolls” and “electricity” to make the creation come alive like the boys did in the movie. It’s a fun, offbeat theme that brings on flashbacks of the movie. The song was also used as the theme for the Weird Science TV show. Wait, there was a show? Oh no.

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” theme from The Breakfast Club (Simple Minds)

Arguably Simple Minds’ biggest hit, this song earned its place in movie and music history by being the opening and closing theme for the iconic film The Breakfast Club. As soon as you hear the refrain of “Hey, hey, hey, hey!” an image of John Bender pumping his fist in the air springs to mind. It’s impossible to hear this song and not think of the John Hughes movie. The song was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff and Simple Minds weren’t their first choice for singers. They offered the song to Annie Lennox, The Fixx, and The Pretenders who all turned it down. They eventually settled on Simple Minds, who needed some convincing since they didn’t want to perform songs they didn’t write. While the song is now considered a classic, the band still aren’t too keen on it. Vocalist Jim Kerr previously said he wanted to vomit every time he played it. Ouch.

“Maniac” theme from Flashdance (Michael Sembello)

Okay, so technically “What a Feeling…Flashdance” by Irene Cara is the theme for this 80s flick, but this song is more memorable. The song is best remembered for the montage sequence from the movie where Alex (Jennifer Beals) is training in the warehouse. The song has a simple, yet unforgettable hook along with an opening synth that’s so satisfying and memorable. The song was included on the Flashdance soundtrack accidentally. Sembello’s wife accidentally included it on a tape sent to executives at Paramount Pictures, who were looking for music at the time. The song also lives on in infamy since many believed it was originally written for the 1980 horror flick Maniac and Sembello changed the lyrics for its inclusion on Flashdance. Unfortunately, this is nothing but a myth.

There are way too many movie themes to include here, so which ones did I miss? What is your favorite movie theme? Let me know in the comments!

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