When writer/producer/star Seth Rogen was putting the finishing touches on his uproarious action/comedy “Pineapple Express” (due August 8), he commissioned none other than Huey Lewis for a theme song, giving the ’80s icon one key request: The name of the movie must be in the lyrics.
The rockin’ results got us thinking about the best (and worst) moniker-dropping songs written solely to shamelessly promote a feature film. With apologies to Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science,” “The Never Ending Story” by that dude from Kajagoogoo and the Cult singing about “The Cool World,” here are our most memorable soundtrack songs that name-check their movies:
Do bands ever play proms anymore? According to every ’80s teen movie, no school dance was complete without a really cheesy group that may or may not already be famous (but is still getting booked at local high schools … hmmm). The ’80s-est example has to be E.G. Daily and her backing band in “Better Off Dead,” one of John Cusack’s first films. Daily was probably best known for her roles in “Valley Girl” and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” but her performance as a prom singer in a tinfoil-inspired minidress deserves just as much recognition. It’s hard to say whether she was asked to squeeze the phrase “better off dead” into the chorus or the lyrics just happened to be there, but it’s safe to assume that the studio dictated the song’s parenthetical title.
For those too young to remember the majority of this list, Cobra Starship took matters into their own hands by bringing back the name-checking trend with the song “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It).” Unlike most of the other songs on this list, Starship’s song was entirely voluntary — written without any affiliation to the movie at all. Gabe Saporta and crew were so inspired by the gloriously cheesy movie title that they just had to hit the studio. The song earned its way into the movie’s closing credits, and Samuel L. Jackson made a cameo in Starship’s music video. Nothing says dance-rock like hundreds of poisonous snakes!
Next time you’re out in a public place, we dare you to take a deep breath and scream: “Who you gonna call?” Sure, you might get some weird looks, but inevitably a few people will respond, “Ghostbusters”! That theme song, just like the first movie, will be held in our hearts forever as an ’80s gem. Less successful was Bobby Brown’s song “Too Hot to Handle” from the sequel, which stood the test of time about as well as “Ghostbusters II” did. Brown’s neon-filled, cameo-stuffed music video, however, was an appropriate companion piece for Parker’s classic clip (was that Peter Falk?) from the original film.
Sorry to bring this party down, but there has never been a name-checking soundtrack song quite as powerful as Springsteen’s Oscar- and Grammy-winning track from the 1993 Denzel Washington/ Tom Hanks drama “Philadelphia.” Raw, moody and crafted with a minimalist aesthetic, Springsteen rarely performs the song in concert to this day. It captured both its film and its moment in time brilliantly.
“Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living,” Dolly sang, presumably after chugging down a cup of ambition. She wrote the tune for her acting debut as Doralee Rhodes, and the song inspired women to get through a workday in a male-dominated labor force. Now it just makes us nostalgic for the eight-hour workday. A stage production of “9 to 5″ hits Los Angeles in September, and Dolly’s description of an office in which “that man is out to get me” will undoubtedly be the show-stopper. That is, if the producers haven’t attempted to update the song to something like “7:30 to 6,” which just doesn’t have the same ring.
One of the few soundtracks to outgross the film it accompanied, “Superfly” was an instant hit. Hayes, meanwhile, kicked in Hollywood’s door with an Oscar-winning ode to a black private dick who’s a sex-machine to all the chicks. Combined, the two songs capture the true essence of 1970s soundtrack soul. Thanks to those songs, all these decades later, Shaft and Superfly are still remembered as two bad mutha … shut yo’ mouth!
“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins (1984)
Say what you will about the ’80s, deep down everbody has a soft spot for Kenny Loggins’ leg-shaking song from the movie that made us all want to be within six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The “Footloose” song also has a knack for burrowing deep into your brain and remaining there long after you’d like it to — which might explain why John Lithgow was so intent on banning Bacon’s never-ending dance party.
Hand-picked by Steven Spielberg to create the soundtrack for the children’s adventure flick, Lauper became so stressed out working 12-hour days that she reportedly wound up in the hospital. This might explain her hit single from the film, which surely wins the award for lyrics having the least to do with the movie. The final two minutes consist of the rainbow-haired songstress endlessly repeating, “Good enough for you/ Good enough for me” (keep in mind, the song is only three and a half minutes long). Naturally, there’s no mention of pirate ships, buried treasure or even a “Heeeeeyyy youuuuu guyyyys!” anywhere in the song. Lauper hated the song so much that she didn’t put it on a proper album for 20 years. Captain Lou Albano fans, however, will forever treasure its two-part music video.
In the history of pop culture, never has there been a man more aware of movie-music synergy than Will Smith. On the downside, both of these songs now feel like an unwelcome visit from a long-forgotten ex and have rendered it impossible to ever listen to Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” or Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” again without getting caught up Big Willie’s alternate, movie-promoting chorus. Hey, come to think of it: Where’s our “Hancock” song?
The James Bond themes
Just like the Bond films themselves, some are good (Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Live and Let Die”), some are bad (Tom Jones’ “Thunderball”), some stand the test of time (Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”), and others were forgotten by the end credits (Madonna’s “Die Another Day”). Still, the best Bond films always give birth to songs that allow us to listen along while some high-profile star (Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, Sheena Easton) attempts to force-feed the movie’s unwieldy title into a song’s chorus. It’s just one more reason we can’t wait for November’s “Quantum of Solace.”
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