The Post "Titanic" Movie Soundtrack
When the soundtrack to Titanic sold over 30 million copies, studio and record executives saw a way to increase their revenue while showcasing new and emerging artists. Here are some of my favorites from 1998-1999. Some capture the feeling of the film they're associated with or represent the adventurous music coming out before the turn of the millennium, and some simply are a jumping off point to dive into an entire genre.
The Avengers (1998)
Grace Jones was just a villain in a Bond movie until I heard her sing with all camp of a 70's disco queen trying to seem relevant in the 90's on this soundtrack album of the infamous 1998 film flop. The movie was based on the cheeky 60's British television spy series that I loved starring Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg, but was modernized poorly by Uma Thurman, Ralph Finnes, and a campy Sean Connery. Add a few contributions from British techno artists and some b-sides from Sugar Ray and Dishwalla and this album could have rested on its laurels and been forgotten.
I still listen to it because there are some true gems. The Verve Pipe were known as a post-grunge one-hit wonder band, but not one trace of the dark storytelling of "The Freshmen" makes it's way onto the bouncy track "Blow You Away." The band's collaboration with XTC's Andy Partridge should have lasted for more than one song because this one's a prize. The best collaboration is "Summer's End," the album's finale whose title is a play on the film's meteorological theme. With lyrics and vocals by Sinead O'Connor and music by Ashtar Command, it's a heartfelt ditty that combined what made O'Connor so great in the early 90's and signaled the indie rock that was coming a few years later.
Dead Man On Campus
I was reminded how good Marilyn Manson's dark spin on the Bowie classic "Golden Years" was when I heard James Murphy's effortless, minimalist take on it during the opening credits of the indie film While We're Young. Manson's former bandmate Twiggy Ramirez works in the same musical vein with his cover of the 60's classic "I Only Want To Be With You." Sandwiched between the contributions from the Manson Family is "Cowboy Song," an amusing track from Blur with Damon Albarn singing falsetto, a B-side from Supergrass, the brief return of Elastica, and a track from the band that would eventually become The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater.
The dark comedy failed to make the world forget that Mark-Paul Gosselaar was once Zack Morris, but its soundtrack had the cred to capture the best of the underground of late 90's music. The soundtrack was executive produced by The Dust Brothers, which explains why there's a remix of Soul Coughing's "Super Bon-Bon" by The Propellerheads, a single that perfectly captured the best of British and American alternative, but doesn't account for Creed's appearance on this album. Not to be overlooked is "Paint By Numbers" from the band Self, an ironic song about creating the perfect hit single composed by a band that took the best of Beck, Jellyfish, and Cracker and labored in obscurity.
My gateway into rave culture had everything to do with this 1999 comedy and the 14 tracks that made up it's soundtrack. While No Doubt, who opens the album with the song "New," are a poor representation of what was going on at the time, the song marked a departure from their So-Cal ska roots. I became a fan of the quartet four years after my high school peers jumped on the bandwagon Gwen Stefani was driving.
Fatboy Slim was unavoidable when the movie was released, so it was no surprise when "Gangster Tripping" made it's way onto the album along with the debut song and only hit by the Canadian band Len. "Steal My Sunshine" was the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" for the 90's, with a he said/she said set against a bouncy sample of the 70's hit "More More More." Throw in some techno-lounge with the song "Cha-Cha-Cha" from Jimmy Luxury, a dramatic track from Natalie Imbrugalia, and a sexy track from French duo Air and your late 90's college party just became a hit.
Out of Sight
Much like the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, snippets of dialogue from Steven Soderbergh's crime masterpiece are sprinkled between a techno soul and funk score courtesy of David Holmes (who would later go on to score the Ocean's 11 series) and tracks from The Isley Brothers and Willie Bobo.
The legend states that Soderbergh, a fan of Holmes' DJ work, wanted the artist to put together a few tracks for the soundtrack. The eclectic filmmaker was so pleased with the results that he asked Holmes to compose the rest of the soundtrack, which he managed to accomplish in a mere six weeks. The finished product is 46 minutes of music that is as cool as the pompadour haircut George Clooney sports throughout the film. Having just moved to Wisconsin after growing up in Detroit, both the movie and soundtrack made me homesick for the Motor City.
Paul Thomas Anderson's three hour opus on drugs, raining frogs, and Los Angeles didn't seem so long when he made the choice to have Aimee Mann contribute original material for the film's soundtrack. Mann had been negotiating with Geffen Records to be released from her contract just as this album was released, and after performing the Oscar-nominated "Save Me" at the ceremony, leaving the label must have seemed like a great choice. Plus it's not everyday when you have Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and John C. Reilly cover one of your songs. This soundtrack began my love affair with Mann's music. I began converting followers to her well-structured songs that tell stories of sadness and longing. I was touched by her candor and kindness when I met her several years later after seeing her in concert for the third time.
I liked David Bowie and Roxy Music before I saw Velvet Goldmine, director Todd Haynes' tribute to glam rock. Two hours after the VHS warning appeared on my TV set, I became obsessed with the genre.
The film follows a news reporter, played by Christian Bale, in the 80's interviewing those who were involved in the staged assassination of the Bowie-esque Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Myers) a decade before. He discovers betrayal, orgies, and a love affair between Slade and an Iggy Pop-type character played by Ewan McGregor.
Rumor has it Bowie was approached for the soundtrack but wasn't pleased with the screenplay, so the producers (including R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe) went ahead and recruited Thom Yorke and Teenage Fanclub to cover Roxy Music and New York Dolls songs, respectively. Add to that musical coup the talented cast covering Iggy plus songs from Brian Eno, T-Rex, and Pulp and your education on the link between androgyny and rock music has begun.
This soundtrack was my true jumping off point to finding where alternative music truly began. Everyone has stolen from the trailblazing artists of this era. Eno's association with the greatest music of the last four decades begins with the first track of this album, "Needle In The Camel's Eye." Unsung glam hero Steven Harley and his band Cockney Rebel first hit my ears as the soundtrack closes with "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)." The nineteen tracks on this album will teach you more about the history of alternative music than any book ever will.