As has been the case lately, this top 5 list became a much larger undertaking than I originally anticipated. When I thought of soundtrack songs, I figured there would only be a handful and that I could easily whittle down the list. The overwhelming amount of songs I eventually came across could be because the soundtrack experienced about a 20 year golden age beginning around the early 80s and kind of fizzling in the early 2000s and this encompasses anywhere from 99-100% of my youth. I even bought my mom The Bodyguard soundtrack for Christmas one year, thinking I was an absolutely genius gift giver. In the 80s, studios were forgoing the massive film scores usually created by one composer, or shit original songs from bands that didn’t even seem real, and began dropping in radio friendly songs for their background music. Probably taking a cue from the sales in the realm of musicals, they began compiling popular artists, rather than settling for Malice, realizing they could generate even more revenue from the movie off of pop music album sales and that would more than cover what they had to pay the artists.
I always thought I would enjoy constructing a soundtrack, though not like a well-thought out theme like Requiem for a Dream or a period piece like O Brother, Where Art Thou? as I am not a composer nor a musician. I would most likely be inspired by existing album songs and the main rule I followed for this list is kind of the opposite of that. I wanted the songs on here to be something you could only find on a soundtrack, not counting tracks that eventually ended up on a “best of” compilation, or b-sides single, etc. What I mean is, if the song came from a full length or proper EP, even if the album came out after the soundtrack was released, I omitted it. So, you won’t see any classic rock songs like the ones featured on the Forrest Gump and Almost Famous soundtracks. You will also most likely find the list to be rather short-sighted as most of the songs on the list are from similar genres. This is my fault for not being a filmophile and still having the gall to do this list. I don’t know a whole lot about indie films and the amazing songs that are probably included in those movies. And if any of my favorite instrumental bands composed music for an entire film, I won’t know about that either (please inform me). There also won’t be any hip hop songs on this list. Not because I believe there aren’t any good ones, I just don’t know any other than “Lose Yourself” and “Ghetto Superstar”, and those aren’t great songs or movies, though the latter is far worse. I don’t even know if metallic hardcore bands (my wheelhouse) have been included on legitimate soundtracks. I’m pretty sure Vision of Disorder was on something, but that song eventually got included on For the Bleeders. So anyway, here we go, my poorly informed Top 5 Soundtrack Songs.
5. The Cardigans – “War”
I opted for one soft song on the list and the battle was between this track off of 10 Things I Hate about You vs. Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery” from Good Will Hunting. I went with this one because I’m a much bigger fan of The Cardigans and I was still able to mention the Elliott Smith song in the same breath. Even though I had seen 10 Things I Hate about You a dozen times, I never noticed this song. It’s in there for, like, 5 seconds at most and it’s still difficult to pick out when you know it’s there. It wasn’t until I began listening to it a lot and noticed it wasn’t on any proper record that I decided to research its origin and found it on the fantastic Heath Ledger movie soundtrack.
4. Incubus – “Crowded Elevator”
I’ve never seen Scream 3 and I believe I found this song because it was dangling out there on its own on Napster. A b-side to Make Yourself (I’m not counting that it was on the Japanese release), they were right to not include it on the album as it kind of doesn’t fit. However, I like this song better than most of the tracks that did make the cut.
3. Nine Inch Nails – “Burn”
It was hard to decide between this and “The Perfect Drug”, but look at that, I was able to mention it in the same breath, too. “Burn” made the list because it’s heavier and I’ve actually seen the movie that it was composed for, that being Natural Born Killers. Fans of the band and/or the movie don’t need to be told that, but I don’t know who the fuck you are.
In the 90s, soundtracks became a haven for those of us anxious to hear new material from a band between album releases. Though it kind of makes me sad to put these two bands side by side anymore, and the songs don’t even appear on the same soundtrack, both soundtracks came out in July of ’96 and were equally revered by my friends and me at the time. Plus, I just wanted to sneak more songs onto the list. I think I was the one who bought the Escape from L.A. soundtrack that this Deftones song is included on and my friends dubbed it onto a tape from me as I’m sure I did the same from whomever bought The Crow 2 soundtrack that held the Korn song (as well as another Deftones song, “Teething”). These songs served as the summer quenchers between Korn’s new record that would come out that fall and a Deftones album that would be released the following year. “Can’t Even Breathe” is the song that sparked the idea for this list as a conversation was had with two other longtime Deftones fans who both hadn’t heard this song before. I found it interesting that something released 20 years ago by a beloved band could get overlooked due to it not being on a major release. It’s always been one of my favorites, even though the aggression of “Teething” probably captured me more so back then. “Can’t Even Breathe” combines so many elements of the Deftones that makes them great into one song rather than divvying them out individually like the aforementioned aggression on “Teething” or the subdued restraint on something like “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”. As for the Korn song, it’s slow, dark, and lurking until the explosion at the end and you know that’s what us 90s kids loved.
1. Kenny Loggins – “Danger Zone”
I remember when Top Gun came out I just had to tell my dad about the awesome trailer I saw and we needed to go see it together because he was a pilot. I’m sure he found tons of errors in it (“That’s an F-5. There’s no such thing as a MiG-28. The Russians don’t use even numbers for their aircraft.”), but I thought it was so damn cool and I loved the main theme song. So much so that the Top Gun soundtrack was the first tape I ever owned that wasn’t a dubbed cassette like the INXS album my sister recorded for me.
Okay, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s a top 5 list of soundtrack songs that came from the bands’ proper release:
5. ??? – ???
So, I initially wanted to put the Guns n’ Roses song “You Could Be Mine” here, but it turns out it wasn’t actually released on the Terminator 2 soundtrack. It was just a single released as a theme song to promote the movie. The back up plan was “Quiet Little Voices” by We Were Promised Jetpacks, but apparently there’s no actual soundtrack for Hall Pass, further proving my point that the golden age for soundtracks is over. Anyway, “You Could Be Mine” was released as a single in ’91 and made me hopeful for a new double Gn’R album as Appetite for Destruction was my favorite record ever up until that point. I never owned Use Your Illusion I or II, and I don’t feel like I was ever shown anything to make me regret that decision. I do still like “You Could Be Mine”, though. I got into We Were Promised Jetpacks probably a year or so after I had seen Hall Pass and the song didn’t stick out to me at the time, but it’s definitely one of their best.
4. Stone Temple Pilots – “Big Empty”
This is kind of an honorary nod considering the news from last week. I was never a big Stone Temple Pilots fan, BUT they were my first concert ever. This, however, is my favorite song by them, and included on one of the most esteemed soundtracks of the 90s, The Crow. The track eventually ended up on the STP album Purple that was released a few months later. I might’ve actually first heard it on MTV’s Unplugged and thought, “Wow, a Stone Temple Pilots song I actually like.” I can’t believe that unplugged session isn’t an album yet. Now seems like a pretty good time to make that happen.
3. Alice in Chains – “Got Me Wrong”/”Would?”
“Got Me Wrong” was initially released on the Sap EP a couple of years before being used in Clerks. I feel like I bought the EP around the time it came out as I was a huge AIC fan. I may not have seen Clerks until the late 90s or maybe early 2000s. Just like the aforementioned “Teething” in The Crow 2, Alice In Chains actually played themselves and performed “Would?” in the movie Singles. The song would go on to be the album closer when Dirt was released later that year. I almost included “What the Hell Have I?” and/or “A Little Bitter” in the above list, but nah.
2. Cannibal Corpse – “Hammer Smashed Face”
I remember being the third wheel when I went to see Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in middle school. I knew of Cannibal Corpse as I was already a death metal fan due to Bolt Thrower and Morgoth, but had never actually heard CC. Since they also got to play themselves, I about jumped out of my seat with excitement when I saw their name on the banner at the back of the stage, amazed, not only that the filmmakers were not using a fake band, but one that I had been dying to hear. Of course, I was mocked by my friends who thought it pretty typical of me to latch onto some inane awful music while everyone else was glued to the comedy of what would become an iconic career making movie. I’m not much of a Cannibal Corpse fan, but I’ll give them credit that the first two songs I ever heard by them, “Hammer Smashed Face” from Ace Ventura and “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead”, a video that MTV played on Headbangers Ball (and got ripped on Beavis & Butt-head), are, to me, their best songs, and still the only 2 that I’ll consistently listen to.
1. For Love Not Lisa – “Slip Slide Melting”
Another track from The Crow, but written by one of the lesser known bands on a soundtrack that included STP, NIN, Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, and The Cure. I don’t think I’ve actually heard anything from For Love Not Lisa without having to search pretty extensively to find something on my own. What I mean is, even though they had a video for this song with pretty decent rotation on MTV, I never heard any of their songs on the radio, nor did I ever see another video from them. I guess they were a Christian band, which may have been why they didn’t get much attention in the alternative metal world. Whenever I listened to any of their records, including the rest of Merge which “Slip Slide Melting” was originally released on, I never found anything else that quite measured up to this song.