Is it just me, or was the Footloose soundtrack really that good?

I finally got around to watching Shrek 2 this weekend. No, I won’t bore you with a review — I can’t imagine anyone else hasn’t seen it yet who actually wants to.

One thing that I did notice was that the pop culture references seemed to either be very recent (Spiderman, Lord of the Rings) or from an era that speaks to my generation (Funkytown/Changes/Holding Out for a Hero/Flashdance). In particular, as I listened to Jennifer Saunders’ version of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero,” I started thinking about the Footloose soundtrack.

When we talk of great soundtracks these days (look at Susan’s post on this subject here), we’re generally talking about collections of songs from other sources put to use in a movie. Sure, you may have two or three original songs, but for the most part, the most popular movie soundtracks are collections of songs written for another purpose.

Footloose was a different beast — all of the music on the soundtrack was written for the movie (to my knowledge, at least). And it was enormously popular, spawning a couple of number 1 hits and some other singles that hit the charts. Which leads me to wonder: since Footloose was released, has there been a movie soundtrack of original music that seen even close to the same kind of popular success? I couldn’t think of any, which is kind of sad. Footloose was a fun movie, but it’s hard to think of it as the greatest in any kind of category, but perhaps it has the most successful soundtrack with original music of the past 20 years. Please prove me wrong.


Most of the music on the soundtrack must have been written for the movie.
Musicals don’t count. Same if the characters in the movie perform the songs.
The songs must have achieved a measure of popular success (critically acclaimed just doesn’t hack it here).


18 thoughts on “Is it just me, or was the Footloose soundtrack really that good?

  1. Interesting post Bryce. I hadn’t ever thought about that before — that there are fewer original soundtracks with hits than compilations of songs already in existence. But somehow I’m thinking and hoping that the music experts among us will be able to come up with something.

  2. I think the Top Gun soundtrack spawned (the correct word for it) two terrible hits even though the rest of the soundtrack was not original.
    The 80’s were the heyday of the movie tie-in cheese theme. It seems film-makers have wisely put that era behind us.
    Never again, Kenny Loggins!

  3. How about Saturday Night Fever? Purple Rain?

    Flashdance! Didn’t Titanic have a hit that was written for the movie?

  4. You’ll find that sometimes the reverse is true. Magnolia is partially based on songs penned by Aimee Mann.

  5. Susan —

    Sadly, none of the shows you list qualify. Saturday Night Fever is too old (1977, seven years before Footloose). Flashdance didn’t have quite the same impact — this might be arguable. I remember two songs from that soundtrack, “Maniac” and “Flashdance..What a Feeling”. Plus it was released the year before Footloose. I haven’t seen Purple Rain, but I’m guessing that the songs are performed by characters in the movie, thus disqualifying it.

    Was Fame ever a movie? I thought it was a TV show. If we’re talking TV shows, Miami Vice has got to be the winner for soundtrack with original songs, hands down.

    Titanic — bleck.

  6. Oh, I didn’t catch your qualifier there of movies since Footloose. I can’t think of any more recent movies that compare then. Fame was a movie before it was a tv show. Irene Cara was in it.

    Diane Warren has basically wrapped up the role of writing big hits for movies, although I’m not sure her songs were written for specific movies or if she just had a song lying around already that fit and so she used it. And I’m not sure either that her songs are even used in the movies they’re attached to. I was thinking of doing a post about her because she’s someone not many people know about. Check out her website here:

    She has a page devoted to songs she’s done for movies and tv shows. You might be surprised to see how many titles you recognize. Like Aerosmith – “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” (That was used for Armageddon, I think?)

  7. Bryce,

    I’m not Eminem fan enough to know, but isn’t most or all of 8 Mile original, for-the-movie music?

  8. Kaimi–

    See the criteria: If the characters in the movie perform the songs, they don’t count. I haven’t seen 8 Mile, but I assume that Eminem performs the songs as a part of the film itself.

    Also, most of the music must be original for a soundtrack to qualify. Again, I haven’t seen Moulin Rouge, but my understanding is that most of the music was not written for the film itself.

  9. That wasn’t really a radio hit, though, was it?

    I’m pretty sure that Moulin Rouge song you’re talking about Kaimi is another Diane Warren song. She also did Bette Midler’s song from Beaches, that goes, “Did I ever tell you you’re my hero.”

  10. Kaimi/Bryce:

    on Eminem/8 mile: the songs on the soundtrack by Eminem were not sung by a character in the movie, so it gets by that criteria. And, it appears that most of the music was either written for, or first appeared on, the soundtrack…so we may have a winner hear.

    on Moulin Rouge: most of the songs used were not written for the movie. Besides, that (awful) Aguilera-and-whoever-else-song was a cover.

  11. I submit the following —

    Dead Man Walking:

    Bruce Springsteen, “Dead Man Walkin'”
    Johnny Cash, “In Your Mind”
    Suzanne Vega, “Woman On The Tier”
    Lyle Lovett, “Promises”
    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with Eddie Vedder, “The Face of Love”
    Tom Waits, “The Fall of Troy”
    Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Dead Man Walking ”
    Tom Waits, “Walk Away”
    Steve Earle, “Ellis Unit One”
    Patti Smith, “Walkin Blind”
    Eddie Vedder with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, “The Long Road”


    Streets of Philadelphia – Bruce Springsteen Lovetown – Peter Gabriel
    Please Send Me Someone to Love – Sade Listen
    Have You Ever Seen the Rain? – Spin Doctors
    I Don’t Wanna Talk About It – Indigo Girls
    Mamma Morta – Maria Callas
    Philadelphia – Neil Young

    This is Spinal Tap:

    Hell Hole
    Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight
    Heavy Duty
    Rock and Roll Creation
    Cups and Cakes
    Big Bottom
    Sex Farm
    Listen To Me (The Flower People)

    The Graduate:

    Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
    Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
    Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Interlude) – Simon & Garfunkel
    April Come She Will – Simon & Garfunkel
    Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine – Simon & Garfunkel
    Whew – Simon & Garfunkel
    Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel

  12. Oops. Spinal Tap flagrantly violates one of Bryce’s criterion. Substitute “Good Will Hunting” in its stead.

  13. Footloose rocks. In fact, I’m going to go watch it right now. That’s all I have to say.

  14. The soundtrack that best fits Bryce’s criteria is Dirty Dancing. The music was original, post-Footloose, and played endlessly on the radio.

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