Step Up, Borat and the history of movie soundtracks

While it’s common for blockbuster movies and indie-film favorites to have soundtracks to accompany their films, the practice is relatively new. Sure our older movie classics have soundtracks and movie scores that we have come to know and love. The Godfather has one of the most recognizable opening scores ever recorded, and the opening strings of Jaws still scares the lifejackets off of people and keeps them out of the water. The three notes of Close Encounter Of The Third Kind is still recognizable to new movie goers, and the movies scored by John Williams and Danny Elfman are all excellent examples of superior song writing. Henri Mancini has made several movie scores that are immediately recognizable, such as the slinky bass line of the Pink Panther, and the rising horn sections of the Peter Gun theme.

The method of movie soundtrack making, avoids the orchestras and world famous conductors. Instead, they choose custom fitted, radio ready, club hits. Soundtracks may actually out sell the actual movie and possibly be more memorable.


For example, who remembers the terrible movie “High School High” with Jon Lovitz? Now how many of you remember the movie’s soundtrack? If you’re a hip-hop head, not only do you remember it, you might still have it in your collection. I mean it was worth its weight in gold for “Wu Wear” track alone, as you could not get that song on any Wu-Tang Clan album. If you were a fan, you might have avoided the movie but you bought the CD.

Above The Rim stars Tupac Shakur, and is watchable enough, but the soundtrack is still better than the movie with the hip hop classic Afro Puff by Lady Of Rage, as well as some classic joints from some of the best West Coast emcees. New Jack City had the classic “I Wanna Sex You Up”, another song still in rotation on radio today. This phenomenon of releasing soundtracks with A-list music celebrities’ doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.

saturday-night-feverAccording to Wikipedia, Victor Schertzinger recorded the first music to be used in a motion picture, and the practice of commercially releasing songs used in movies became the norm in the 1930’s. Personally, the first movie soundtrack that comes to my mind is “Saturday Night Fever”. The combination of the movie and the music was undeniable, as Saturday Night Fever soundtrack had phenomenal sales and set the mark for future movies.

With songs by K.C & The Sunshine Band, Kool & The Gang, and the inescapable Bee Gees, the soundtrack is still in rotation on dance radio stations worldwide. It continues to earn money for its publishers and provides and excellent template for movie soundtracks today. Find the hottest acts, write a script around whatever is “in” and voila, a star and a million dollar hit is born!

StepUp_200The movie “Step Up’, does just that. It stepped up to take the spot as the new Saturday Night Fever. The soundtrack virtually attacked FM radio, with songs from Ciara, Kelis, Anthony Hamilton, Yung Joc, Chamillionaire and more. The soundtrack went on to chart as high as number 6 spot in Billboard. It generated three Top 10 singles, some of which are still in rotation, with Sean Paul ft. Keyshia Cole’s “Give It Up To Me” leading the way. While I have not seen the movie, the impact of the soundtrack is undeniable.

The songs from the soundtrack continue to promote the film, as it goes to DVD. It’s a perfect opportunity for artist as well, as they now have their name attached to a very visible project. In this case, rappers Dolla, The Clipse, and Youngbloodz are able to expose their music to consumers who may not have heard of them. In this case, it is a perfect situation for all. The more successful the soundtrack becomes, the more money it generates for all. Not bad for contributing one song to an album.

While chart topping success is the norm with such soundtracks, sometimes the producers go the opposite way and still score big. Instead of using the top shelf musicians, they may choose to use obscure or rare songs to fill their scenes. Reservoir Dogs soundtrack was filled with missed hits from the 1970’s, and resurrected the publishing shelf life of Stealers Wheel “Stuck In The Middle With You”. Today, the heavyweight contender for Funniest Movie Of 2006, “Borat”, choose to skip the big names and stick to its roots.

3436_image_1 “Stereophonic Musical Listening That Have Been Origin In Moving Film: Borat Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan” is a sample of the outrageous antics that have made this movie number one. “Step Up” may not have to worry about the Borat soundtrack knocking it off it’s chart position, but I would not be surprised if the CD makes some serious moves up the charts. The Borat CD features video clips from the movie as well as some of the movies most memorable, controversial songs, such as the “In My Country There Is Problem”. This CD comes off like a comedy album mixed with a world music sampler, as the politically incorrect humor is placed between songs exported from Balkan musicians. If you have seen the movie, you may laugh by just listening to song like “Borat’s Theme, “Born To Be Wild”, and O Kazakhstan.The soundtrack may or may not have help pushed the movie to the number one spot. That has yet to be seen. It is one of the most original soundtracks to date, for nothing more than it going against the grain, and making a soundtrack without the major record label help.

However you slice it, movie soundtracks are not only big business, they are a necessary addition to the film. Here’s a short list of some of my personal all time favorite movie soundtracks.

El Q’s Favorite Movie Soundtrack Albums

Dazed & Confused-Stoner 70’s flashback movie with classic rock hits “Slow Ride”, “Tush” and “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo”

Shaft—Watch your mouth. I’m talking about Shaft. You already know how hot this one is. The funky wah wah guitar has never sounded soo good!

Belly—Hip Hop mega movie with a excellent soundtrack Stars Nas, DMX, and Method Man on both the screen and CD.

Purple Rain-This movie help push Prince’s star to the top, and is one of the best selling soundtracks of all time. One of the greats.

Grease-A guilty pleasure of mine, this is one of my favorite albums of all times (don’t tell anyone). “You’re the One That I Want” has one the sickest basslines ever, and the movie let John Travolta get his dance steps in after SNF and before Pulp Fiction.

8 Mile-The Purple Rain of hip-hop, this movie was much better than people ecpected it to be, and so was the soundtrack(s). Run Rabbit Run!

Pulp Fiction- Do you remember the opening credits to this movie? When the radio static comes on and “Jungle Boogie hits, the next scene is Jules and Vincent riding in a car as the stereo shoots static through the Kool & The Gang hit. That’s how you work a song into a movie soundtrack!

Rockers-The reggae classic movie is filled with reggae and ska hits for the Rasta in all of us! Bless up and prepare to nice it up with this one. JAH!
borat cannes

“Movie soundtracks is you know the one funky bussha?”

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