In the ‘90s, an important tool for discovering new music was the movie soundtrack; especially if your parents were total squares who wouldn’t spring for cable. Movie soundtracks were like the mix-tapes you hoped to get from your crush, only these were put together by middle-aged marketing executives because they needed to feed their families and buy Ferraris. In the ‘90s, you’d buy a soundtrack for Counting Crows then love it for bringing Radiohead into your life. Soundtracks helped me keep up with the trends and were my gateway to Coolsville.
Using the term “Coolsville” was the exit.
Here are 9 soundtracks that could not be avoided and why they struck a chord with ‘90s teens and tweens. Get it? Chord? Cause its music?
9. City Of Angels
If you got through 1998 without having “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls stuck in your head for at least a solid month cumulatively, then you were living under a rock. I’m not sure which is the more preferable way to have spent 1998. The City Of Angels soundtrack got us in touch with our emotional side. Alanis Morissette, Paula Cole, Peter Gabriel… before Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” was the soundtrack to puppy-induced tears, it was on the soundtrack to City Of Angels.
8. Can’t Hardly Wait
You wanna kick off a ‘90s mix? You start with Third Eye Blind – and that’s exactly what the Can’t Hardly Wait Soundtrack did. Smash Mouth, Busta Rhymes, Guns N’ Roses: this soundtrack was a ’90s popular music cheat-sheet for anybody who grew up without MTV. This soundtrack was pretty unapologetically ‘90s. I don’t think they realized that when they were putting it together, though. It was probably pretty cutting edge at the time. But now it’s like a time capsule — the only thing it’s missing is pogs.
This soundtrack was huge because Leonardo DiCaprio was so dreamy! And then his character in Titanic DIED! Oh, sorry. SPOILER ALERT… he dies at the end of Titanic and we all felt deep emotions. If you know a girl who was a tween in the ‘90s, odds are she bought this soundtrack. Then she realized it only had one pop song on it: “My Heart Will Go On,” making it a bit of a buzz kill. The soundtrack was full of pan flutes or something. Nobody knew what to do with it. I remember a middle school friend of mine telling me she listened to it while taking bubble baths.
6. Batman And Robin
Batman soundtracks were cheesy but also gritty enough that they made tweens feel like adults for having them. I realize that Batman Forever had Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.” I know that. Do you think I don’t know that? But I’m picking Batman and Robin for this list because that one ranged from Bone Thugs n’ Harmony to Jewel. And, of course, R. Kelly’s song about Gotham being full of love — even though Gotham was actually full of crazy mutant ice criminals named Mr. Freeze, according to the 1990 census.
The Clueless soundtrack had something for everybody and became a staple of teenage girl sleepovers. It had Radiohead on it for the girl at the party who felt misunderstood and Salt-N-Pepa for the girl who wanted to practice her sex-ay moves for the next school dance. Clueless? More like In-clue-sive!
4. The Lion King
As far as Millenials are concerned, this soundtrack took fledgling artist, Elton John, from nobody to superstar. And with ballads like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “Circle Of Life,” he was the first hip, new artist we could share with our parents without them trying to switch back to The Commitments soundtrack. My personal favorite part of this soundtrack was harmonizing with one of my childhood celebrity crushes, Jason Weaver, who had previously stolen my heart as Michael Jackson in the made for TV movie The Jacksons: An American Dream.
3. The Bodyguard
Every little girl who wanted to be a singer when she grew up (which is every little girl) spent a least a few afternoons, locked in her room, screaming along to every single Whitney Houston song on this soundtrack. Then the Kenny-G and Aaron Neville song would come on, indicating it was time for a PB&J break.
2. Will Smith
What do you get when you cross Willow Smith and Jaden Smith? You get Will Smith! Double threat: actor and musician! Teens and Tweens bought into Will Smith in the ’90s because ignoring him would have been like ignoring oxygen. Will Smith owned blockbuster movies in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. He didn’t just star in them, he rapped about them – very specifically, I might add. He’d basically just rap the movie premise and then that single would shoot up the charts. Men in Black and Wild Wild West both got the Big Willie treatment and Just the Two of Us made it on to the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, though it was a good deal less sentimental when sung by Dr. Evil. Will Smith has earned his own category on any soundtrack list.
1. Space Jam
To anybody who came of age in the ‘90s, the Space Jam soundtrack was their Thriller. Well, we loved Thriller, too. I just mean that everybody from every walk of life listened to the Space Jam soundtrack: boys AND girls. This soundtrack was instrumental in uniting the sexes and eradicating the cooties virus. From Seal to Jay-Z, this soundtrack was a slam dunk (see what I did there? Should I not call attention to it? Should I pretend that didn’t happen?). We still sing “I believe I can fly,” in celebration the way other generations sang, “we are the champions.”
Honorable mention goes to: Puff Daddy for rapping along with the growling of Godzilla, The Cardigans’ “Love fool” for lightening the mood of those suicidal lovebirds Romeo and Juliet, and The Spice Girls, who were responsible for 3 different performances of “Spice World” in my 8th grade talent show.
What were some of your favorites?