I Never Thought My Life Would End Up Quite this Way

Some of my co-workers and I started sharing some of our favorite music. We’ve been doing it for a while, but now we’re actually reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another.

One of my coworkers participates in a contest every year called The 48-Hour Film Project. Essentially, you get a team of writers, actors, cinematographers, etc. together and at a designated time, the people running the contest give the team some parameters. The team then has 48 hours (hence the name) to write, shoot and edit a short film, which is then submitted at the end of those 48 hours. They hold a screening festival at some local theaters and the films are judged. Apparently it’s lots of fun. The point of me telling you all that is to explain why this week we all suggested some of our favorite soundtracks (at that one coworker’s suggestion). There was some debate if we were doing “official score” soundtracks or “music from the motion picture” soundtracks. Mostly, we just decided no “music inspired by the motion picture” soundtracks; the music actually had to be IN the movie.

I put a lot of thought into my suggestion.

Most of the soundtracks in my iTunes library are video game soundtracks, and many are from games I’ve never even played. There are some that are great, like Shadow of the Colossus (which is very atmospheric and good for when you have to do work and don’t want to concentrate too much on what you’re listening to) or Red Dead Redemption (which is great, but a lot of it is the same speed and in the same key, so potentially monotonous). I didn’t share them, but you should check them out.

There are others that I’d like to share, but might be too long for easy consumption. Two of my favourites are 3 hours and 10 hours long. So honorable mentions go out to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Disneyland has a great soundtrack, but like many of the video games, there’s just too much there to practically consume in a short amount of time. So another honorable mention goes to the sounds of Disneyland.

While I could have pull out my favorite tracks from those, I think that would be cheating.

Speaking of cheating, I thought things like Cirque du Soleil‘s Beatles Love would be off-limits, since it’s a show based on already existing songs. And I thought things like That Thing You DoA Mighty Wind and other movies about music were just kind of cheap picks, but you should check them out.

There were quite a few “score”-type soundtracks, but I couldn’t decide which one to do, so I picked the only one I thought about sharing that was different.

First, here are the four soundtracks that were suggested to me this week.

A note on how I rate things. One star means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.

That Thing You Do! (1996)

I think I saw this movie about 12 times in the theater (most of them were at a dollar theater when it really was a dollar and the movies got there 6-9 months after they left the other theaters). My first band was an One-ders cover band. I’m sure we were horrible, but it was fun. I would have picked this, except I thought it was a cheap shot. I didn’t even have to listen to the soundtrack to write my review, but I did.

Every time I listen to this soundtrack or watch the movie, it makes me how much I love … pretty much everything about this movie. From the cheese-y, late 50s intro music through the big bands and small jazz jams to … whatever genre Diane Dane represents, the soundtrack sets the musical scene of where music had been. I mean there were even some Johnny Cash-type country folk music girls at the beginning. Frankly, I’m a little sad that song and the mariachi-esque, Tijuana Brass stand-ins’ song didn’t make it to the soundtrack.

And then, along with the Wonders, they showcase other emerging styles of music like Motown soul and surf rock (let me say here that Voyage Around the Moon is still one of my favorite songs to play).

I grew up listening to The Beatles (whether I’ve finished growing up or not is debatable), and I was primed to love this movie – and its music. All of its music. I credit it more than anything else with my desire to play music. I’ll also say that I like the I Need You (That Thing You Do) reprise more than I like the title track.

I could go on and on about how as I’ve matured musically, I’ve looked to the Wonders’ experience during the high points of my bands, their eventual break-ups and my solo times. But I won’t. This isn’t a movie review blog.

The long and short of it is I’m probably too biased, but I cannot find fault with this album. It’s awesome. 5/5

Grease (1978)

I’ve only seen Grease … four times? I mean THIS version. I’ve seen others, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original Broadway production, just adaptations of the movie (which is apparently different). I was in a stage version of it once. I didn’t have a big part and now all I remember is singing Grease Lightning.

And the music from Grease is truly timeless. Summer Nights? You’re the One I Want? Great. And Beauty School Dropout is just funny. I’m not sure I understood this song when I was a kid. I’ve heard plenty of bands cover Grease songs, and fall far short of the original. Even bands that I really love can’t pull this music off like Olivia Newton-John and (I can’t actually believe I’m saying this) John Travolta can. Well, did. I don’t think Travolta could do this anymore.

But for every Greased Lightning or It’s Raining on Prom Night, there’s a Hopelessly Devoted to You or Sandy. I’ve never really liked Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee. I mean, I love the musical ragtime feel, but the song as a whole (so … I guess the words and vocals) just don’t do it for me.

But I have to be honest here. This whole soundtrack to me is like the high school relationships it portrays. Every five minutes it goes from up to down, and five minutes later it goes back. It’s mostly fun though, and I’ll always remember it fondly, but I haven’t thought about it in 10 years, and I haven’t really missed it. I guess my analogy kinda breaks down; when this soundtrack does come back around, I enjoy it thoroughly, unlike my high school girlfriends. Maybe I need to think of a better comparison.

My point is that while this is an easy three stars, I’m not sure I could give it a four over all. I’m not sure We Go Together and that slew of classic, blues-based rock ‘n’ roll in the middle of the album is enough to bring it up.

Romeo+Juliet (1997)

I think I saw this movie once in a high school English class. And I wasn’t really impressed with the movie. To be honest, I’ve never really liked Romeo and Juliet anyway. I don’t really remember the music at all, though. Which is a real shame.

I know this isn’t a movie about the 90s, but I feel like the soundtrack does a pretty good job of summing up my 90s musical experience. Not all of it, but a good representation. Everclear? Check. Butthole Surfers? Check. The Cardigans? Check. Filter? Not quite, but Once Inch Punch gets close enough.

Now, I’m only pretty sure I saw this movie. And I know I haven’t seen it twice. But the way I see it, this was supposed to be not-your-mother’s-Romeo-and-Juliet. It was supposed to be alternative, just like most things in the late 90s. And I think the soundtrack did a good job of reflecting that.

I will say that while I think this is a great soundtrack for this movie, It’s not exactly all stuff I’d chose to listen to all the time. I’ve always been a fan of Lovefool, and I probably won’t skip any of these songs when they pop up randomly, but I also probably won’t go seek them out or throw them on a playlist.

One exception to that is Young Hearts Run Free, which is refreshingly funky. Not weird-funky, but like soulful, groovy, disco-funky. I mean, I almost thought they were going to break into YMCA at one point. And Mundy’s To You I Bestow was also pretty good.

O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

I remember watching this movie for the first time in a hotel in (for some reason) South Dakota. I remember we had to rent a DVD player because there was only a VHS player in the room. Actually, this was one of the few DVDs the Blockbuster had in stock. Remember back when there were movie rental stores? and when DVDs were uncommon? Apparently that was the year 2000 in South Dakota.

Anyway, I feel like this re-introduced real American folk music to the world. I mean, people in the southern United States never stopped singing this kind of music. But most of the rest of us stopped after the Great Depression and the closest we got were the protest songs of Joan Baez and other folky stuff (like Simon and Garfunkel. Garfunkle? … like Paul and Art.) during ‘Nam.

Honestly, this is a weird (but not necessarily bad-weird) movie and I think one of the reasons it was so successful was because of the music. This was right about the time my family (spearheaded by my mother) started to get in contact with some extended family. And I mean really extended. Apparently her 7th cousin started having pretty regular family reunions since the 70s, and my mother went once back then and not again until about when this movie came out. Anyway, since most of her ancestors came from West Virginia and Kentucky (before you ask, no, I don’t think we were involved at all with the Hatfields and McCoys), and even down into the Carolinas, they often sit around and sing old music like this. Some of my fondest 4th of July memories are of sitting on a porch, wearing cutoff jeans, looking at the sun set over a mossy, catfish infested pond and watching the lightning bugs flit about, learning these old songs from my 9th and 12th cousins.

There’s a saying they have down there; all you need is three chords and the truth. These are simple songs, sung by (mostly) simple people. Or at least when they sing them, they shed their other selves and go back to a simpler life for a while.

Anyway, this album is great.

The first time my mother put it in her car and the first track started up with the hard labor prison crew busting gravel, she thought she had run over something and her car was broken. She pulled over, but quickly realized it was rhythmic and part of the CD.

I’ve said that I’m a sucker for great harmonies, and Down to the River to Pray and Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby don’t disappoint. I even like the haunting musical saw in the latter enough to forgive the egregious (although perhaps culturally accurate) grammatical errors.

I feel like the big track from the movie, I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow, really reflects the acceptance of hard times – and even death – through the lyrics, but then the music helps you feel like its nothing to be afraid of. And as much as I love the song, I like the two instrumental versions more. Actually, the whole album juxtaposes the troubles of life with … well, the sunny side.

This album is great and, like That Thing You Do, gets credit for really changing me as a musician. 4/5

The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack (1986)

All in all, I think it’s rather funny how each of our soundtracks really encompasses one decade of music (with some obvious gaps). O Brother was the 30s, Grease was the 50s, That Thing You Do was the 60s, this is the 80s and Romeo+Juliet pretty much summed up the 90s for us. Since I’ve already reviewed my suggestion for this week on this blog, I’ll just add a score (4/5) and move right along to what my coworkers had to say:

“I admittedly owned this soundtrack prior to Paul’s suggestion. I own it in cassette form! (For Kari and Chris those are these little plastic boxes that use magnetic strips to play music in my youth). The music is dynamic and totally 80’s, without being so far 80’s techno (which would have been tempting for the movie) that you become firmly fixed in a period. Each song was unique and fit the movie’s scene and music need perfectly. 5/5 Yes you saw that right. I just gave a perfect score. FYI, The Touch and Dare both had a lot of airplay during 1986, and are still used today in pop culture movies, TV, and video games.” -Tim

“It’s been long enough since I’ve seen this movie that I can’t remember a thing about it. As a result, it’s the only pick this week where I’m not already very familiar with the film and soundtrack. I admit, I was skeptical. But from the get-go there is an immediate air of nostalgia this. It’s the classic hair metal goodness that accompanied most awesome cartoons of the era. My inner 6-year-old is programmed to automatically enjoy this. In fact, I’m actually reminded of another one of my all-time favorite soundtracks from around the same era – The Dragon Ball Z Hit Collection, Vol. 9 called Future Shock!

I actually thought about sharing that album but decided against it as it’s Japanese. But I’m sure Paul would love it. Any way, how can you go wrong with lines like “You can fly if you try, leaving the past behind/Heaven only knows what you might find” (from Dare)? Put to the soundtrack of every late 90’s anti-drug video from junior high and it sounds cheesy, but coming from an epic cartoon about battling robots from 1986 (where they belong) and it is possibly the most epic of things. “Dare to be all that you can be!” And The Transformer’s Theme? Wow. The funny thing is, this isn’t just typical hair metal slapped on to a kids movie, it’s actually GOOD hair metal. Of course Tim loves it since he loves Poison and Bon Jovi … but I “Dare” say this stuff has better riffs and melody than most of the stuff I’ve ever heard from Poison.

In honest critical analysis, this isn’t music I would say is “great” other than being extremely fun in all the right ways. Context is everything. Hair metal always sounded like it belonged on some cheesy cartoon, but when it actually IS attached to a cartoon, it suddenly becomes amazing. The fact that there is a Weird Al song on the end proves this was made with nothing but tongue in cheek epicness in mind. So, major bonus points for novelty and nostalgia. Really hard not to have a good time with these tunes. I need this.” 8/10 -Chris


10 thoughts on “I Never Thought My Life Would End Up Quite this Way

  1. Whenever I need something to listen to to fill the silence, but isn’t distracting from what I should be doing, I always turn to the Castaway soundtrack. It’s pretty minimalistic, which is exactly what you want sometimes.

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