Our favourite thing to do as people is to bring up albums and soundtracks we all know and love, and then congratulate ourselves for listening to them when everybody else knew and loved them too. Well guess what: I’m onto us/them/everybody. And there are also already no less than a million “best movie soundtrack ever” lists, and I know this because I am responsible for half. So instead, I offer a celebration of the movie soundtracks we all know, we all love, but never, ever give enough credit to. So here’s to the most underrated!
You’ve had your moment, Reality Bites.
Now and Then (1995)
Everything we needed to know about oldies, we learned from the Now and Then soundtrack. So odds are, if you grew up alongside Roberta, Teeny, Chrissy, and Sam (who will always be 12, I don’t care how many appearances on Girls some of them make), you also memorized the lyrics to “Knock Three Times” and “All Right Now” as much as you did lines like “I’m a little blue today, boys” and anything Dear Johnny. On top of that, the Now and Then soundtrack also gave us a free pass in terms of coolness: oldies traditionally aren’t “cool,” (lies) so instead of worrying about which band or song actually was, this album let us unabashedly sing along and try and recreate moments from one of the best coming-of-age movies, ever. Meanwhile, more than 20 years later I still want to punch someone in the face to Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” (Teach me how, Christina Ricci.)
A League of Their Own (1992)
A soundtrack that starts with Carole King (“Now and Forever”) and ends with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Song is a soundtrack worth cherishing. And like the Now and Then soundtrack, it capitalized on nostalgia over it-bands and top 40 potential. Fun fact: this soundtrack doesn’t even include Madonna’s “This Used To Be My Playground” — despite it being the movie’s official theme, and playing during the closing credits. And when I say “nostalgia,” I mean actual, real, Americana nostalgia: The Manhattan Transfer’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” is in company with “Flying Home” (the song Madonna swung-dance to), and James Taylor makes not one, but two appearances. Ultimately, A League of Their Own‘s soundtrack is as summer appropriate as the movie itself, and it’s the perfect counterpart to the Great American Past Time. Frankly, I dare an MLB player to walk up to swing music. Members of the AAGPB didn’t even have music. And Kit was the worst baseball player in the world! And Dottie dropped the ball on purpose! And wait a minute where are you taking m–
She’s the Man (2006)
Considering She’s the Man is one of the most underrated movies ever, should we really be surprised that its soundtrack has suffered the same fate? (No, of course not. And in turn, we will all suffer because of it.) Like the rest of 2006, She’s the Man was riddled with a unique brand of pop-punk, post-emo music that defined the mid-to-late 2000s. The soundtrack opens with The Faders, closes with a cover of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme, and includes music from The Veronicas and OK Go. It’s energetic, it’s upbeat, and it’s a reminder that while 2006 may still seem too real (hands up if hearing All-American Rejects still triggers memories of folding polo shirts at a part-time job), we still had fun, you guys. Or at least Amanda Bynes probably did, because her costume is a gift to this world. (“I’m allergic to the sun!”)
The Parent Trap (1998)
Say what you will about Mean Girls (but it better be something good or damn it, I will come after you and everyone you know), butThe Parent Trap is truly Lindsay Lohan’s pièce de resistance. If you were around the age she was when she played twins Hallie and Annie, the mandate was simple: you wanted to be them. You wanted Hallie’s wit, and Annie’s accent. You wanted to hang out with Natasha Richardson, and you wanted to ruin Meredith’s life. And thanks to songs like “There She Goes” by The La’s, “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, and “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole (SWOON), you could re-live all of it: the cornbread, the chili, the under-the-stairs phone conversations, the poker tournaments, that weird camp where kids whose parents paid to have them there were sent to an isolation cabin — all of it. The Parent Trap soundtrack is a good example of Disney knowing how to re-evoke feelings associated with something great. And the songs were interesting enough that you didn’t feel ridiculous for listening to anything Disney. (As a teen, that is. As an adult, I don’t care. I’ll listen to the Frozen soundtrack so many times John Travolta will be calling ME Adele Dazeem, you just try me.)
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
I could use thought-out sentences to explain why the Romy and Michele soundtrack is both wonderful and underrated, or I could name drop: The Go-Go’s. Bananarama. Culture Club. Bowowow. Belinda Carlisle. YOU FEEL ME? This album is 1987 rolled into an 11-song masterpiece that’s free of dead weight, and free of pretentiousness. It asks whether you like ’80s music and then, if you say no, it reminds you that you are wrong. Honestly, the only way this soundtrack could get better is with the presence of No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” and La Bouche’s “Be My Lover.” But that’s okay because in 1997, record and movie companies listened and gave us two soundtracks if we asked nicely.
THIS is why the ’90s ruled. (Only reason.)
Save the Last Dance (2000)
I know we don’t necessarily want to remember Julia Stiles wearing Gap to a nightclub, but damn it, we have to. Fortunately, the Save the Last Dance soundtrack gives us this: a chance to prove that we could dance better than Julia Stiles, and that Kerry Washington would want to be our friend (because I said so). That’s where tracks by Montell Jordan, Notorious B.I.G., Q-Tip, Snoop Dogg, Pink, and Ice Cube come into play, working to make this a *~timeless~* soundtrack you can put on even today to instigate a full-blown dance party. This isn’t an album made for emotional monologues a-là Zach Braff in Garden State — Save the Last Dance inspired you to move. (And to cry, thanks to KC and JoJo’s “Crazy,” because duh.) Move, specifically, better than Julia Stiles’ character who had no business being let into Juilliard with that poor excuse for a “routine.”