What Happened to the Soundtrack?

Remember when movies would be released and you’d be more excited about the soundtrack than the actual movie? Remember sitting in the theater, hearing a song played and making a mental note to get the soundtrack ASAP? The very song you wanted was NEVER on the soundtrack! What did the music directors do with all of those miscellaneous tracks?

 That’s what a friend and I were talking about a few weeks ago. I’m not sure when it started (possibly in the 70s during the Blaxploitation era), but music plays a huge part in movies, especially African-American themed movies. Blame it on Curtis Mayfield for using music to make us nod our heads while watching Priest sell heroine on New York corners in Superfly or Isaac Hayes for making us believe that Shaft was, without a doubt the smoothest crime-figher ever.

Since then, perhaps, we’ve needed music to complement cinema. It makes us think of certain scenes in movies just from hearing a snippet of a song (Ladies, remember what was playing during the lovemaking scene in Love Jones?). Sometimes, it goes a step further, playing parts in scenes of our own lives. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite soundtracks. I know I’m missing a few, but here goes (in no particular order):

Purple Rain

You just can’t have a soundtrack list without mentioning the Purple One and his first movie soundtrack, Purple Rain. If it wasn’t a classic, VH1 wouldn’t air it every other week. Every time it comes on, I shut everything down too watch him perform “Beautiful Ones” and “Darling Nikki.” And yes, I have all of his dances/movements down and I do them (in the mirror). I would blast this song in my room upstairs until my mother called my phone and told me turn “all that racket down.” This has to be the best soundtrack ever.

School Daze

“Don’t you wish you had like this? Then the boys would give you a kiss!”

How many girls sang along to “Good and Bad Hair” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight” while watching this movie? Over 20 years later, if “Da Butt” is played at any party, it’s going down. For some reason, I can only think about Spike Lee’s skinny butt dancing in those little shorts. Please, God, take that mental image away. This soundtrack was a mixture of all kinds of music: spirituals, Go-Go, slow jams and upbeat songs. And how can you not love “I Can Only Be Me”?

Above The Rim

I only an adolescent when Above the Rim was released, but like most kids, I had no problem sneaking into rated R movies and getting tapes (nope, I hadn’t upgraded to CDs yet) with the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” warning plastered across the cover. Soundtracks were still being produced by single producers or record labels in their entirety. This one was produced by Death Row Records–in the early 90s. No explanation needed.  SWV’s “Anything” and Pac’s “Pour Out a Little Liquor” were just a few songs on the album that I loved, but this one was my favorite (don’t judge me):

Waiting to Exhale

For whatever reason, the year 1995 always sticks out to me. Nothing too memorable happened that year. I was 14 with braces. I taught my baby cousin how to walk and fell in love with Biggie’s “One More Chance” remix all in that one summer. Waiting to Exhale was released that year, too, and after seeing the video for Whitney’s “Shoop,” I knew I had to have the soundtrack. My uncle bought the CD for me for Christmas. I loved EVERY song on this album. I belted out MJB’s “Not Gon’ Cry” in my room everyday like I really was some man’s lover and secretary. Even my mama liked the album (“Sitting Up In My Room” was her song). It was such a smooth, relaxing album. Even the up-tempo songs were still sexy (This is How It Works, TLC). This was my jam though (as if I knew anything about it then. Now I do.):

Love Jones

I think everyone feels the same way about this album: There are no words. Lauryn Hill’s “Sweetest Thing” had me hooked. I won’t be predictable and use the “Maxwell” clip. Instead, I’ll use another song that I absolutely adore. A remake of Minnie Ripperton’s classic, “Inside My Love.” Where are you, Trina Broussard?

Sidenote: One song I always wished was on the soundtrack was the song playing at the “Wild Hare” on their date.

Jason’s Lyric

Besides Allen Payne’s taco meat and the cast’s terrible southern accents, there were other memorable things in the movie–like the music. So many time choose from: “Rodeo,” “U Will Know” and “Crazy Love.” Good stuff.


Me and U-Tony Toni Tone (Boyz N Da Hood)

Can’t U See-Total (New Jersey Drive Soundtrack)

Top of the World/Unconditional Love (Menace II Society)

Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer (Poetic Justice)

Fool of Me/This Woman’s Work (not included) (Love & Basketball)


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