Legendary film director Steven Spielberg is credited with the creation of the summer blockbuster movie when he directed the thriller-horror classic Jaws in 1975. Filmgoers stood in line to see the film all summer long as it spent 14 consecutive weeks as the number one film at the box office. The film industry was changed for ever after the success of Jaws and every Hollywood studio executive was looking for the next big movie project.
Just two years later three brothers from Australia would change the movie landscape again at the same time George Lucas and his space opera would reshape the summer blockbuster as well. Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb better known as the Bee Gees had already released 12 albums to chart in the United States before 1977 when they changed the music and film world forever. After the film Saturday Night Fever had wrapped shooting the brothers were called upon to create songs for the film. The Bee Gees who were in France working on their next album, 1979s Spirits Have Flown, sat down and wrote the songs for the film over a weekend at their chateau. Released in November of 1977 the soundtrack went on to be certified Platinum 16 times and was the best-selling album in the world until Michael Jackson’s Thriller came along five years later.
After the massive success of the Saturday Night Fever movie studios would make it a high priority for their films to have a commercially successful soundtrack to help steer movie fans to being tickets to see the film. From the late 70s to the end of the millennium movie soundtracks were a vital key in a movie’s advertising. Purple Rain, The Bodyguard, The Lion King, Flashdance, Top Gun and Footloose are some examples of soundtracks with original music that helped promote the film and turn them into great successes at the box office.
The compilation soundtrack was just as huge during this time as well. The Big Chill, Forrest Gump, Dirty Dancing, and Pulp Fiction were all massive draws to the theater but their mix-cd soundtracks are just as rememberable the films.
The movie soundtrack became to be a thing of the past for some time but in recent years the big budget movie soundtrack seems to be becoming an important part of a film’s advertising again. 2020 brought us the soundtrack to Birds of Prey with original songs from Doja Cat, Megan THEE Stallion, and Halsey. In 2021, the compilation soundtrack was king with Licorice Pizza’s phenomenal mix that including David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” The one soundtrack that I still have on repeat from that year is Cruella. The music used in the film was so perfectly curated that it seemed like a character in the film.
Musical films have played a big part in the recent success of soundtracks as well. In 2021, we were graced with 3 amazing musical soundtracks with the film adaptations of Broadway classics West Side Story and In the Heights as well as Disney’s Encanto.
In 2022, the biopic Elvis gave us some creative reworking of classic Elvis Presley songs as well as other songs from that era. Last year was really the year that showed a new generation just how powerful a movie soundtrack can be. Barbie was not only the biggest film of the year at the box office but its soundtrack was one of the biggest albums of the year landing at number two on the Billboard 200 album chart and number one in six different countries.
2024 is only in its second week but this week we are treated to not one but two soundtracks that could help sell some popcorn and soda at multiplexes all across the country. The film adaptation of the Broadway musical adaptation of the 2004 film Mean Girls hits theaters this week and the soundtrack was released Friday. The film led by Renee Rapp who portrayed the villain Regina George on stage revives her role in the film that also returns Tina Fey and Tim Meadows.
The soundtrack is missing a number of songs form the stage production including It Roars, Where Do You Belong? and a large number from act two. The songs that did make the cut for the film are performed with the direction that the soundtrack was made to be played on radio more than to replicate the 12-time Tony Award nominated show. The songs just feel too polished and as if they have been run through the ‘pop hit’ machine.
If you want to pre-game before heading out to a screening skip the films soundtrack and opt for the Original Broadway Cast Recording instead. It’s FETCH.
Drama-comedy Book of Clarence lands in theaters this week and its impressive soundtrack is out now as well. The film about a low-class drug dealer who is struggling to support his mother and score the girl he has his eyes on is written and directed by Jeymes Samuel with the soundtrack executive produced by Jay-Z. Samuel, who didn’t have enough to do working on the film, took on the soundtrack as well. The multi-hyphenated Samuel hit a home run with the album delivering a beautiful companion to the film. Jay-Z and D’Angelo join the filmmaker on the seductive I Want You Forever. Lil Wayne, Shabba Ranks, Kid Cudi and Doja Cat are some of the other guest collaborators on the project.