There was a time long ago when every movie was legally required to have an original pop song on the soundtrack to release as a single.[Citation Needed]
Very few of the songs related to the movie in any way. Most of those songs were terrible. In fact most of the movies they were recorded for were also terrible. That’s the part of the ’80s and ’90s we forget about when we collectively succumb to nostalgia; it was mostly terrible. I mean, budgets were considerably lower than they are now. Not every Lion King could get a Beyonce. Elton John was an absolute coup!
Fortunately for this column’s premise not every ’80s and ’90s movie song was irredeemably bad. Some rose above that to be bad in a memorable, endearing way. These are five of those songs.
Will Smith — “Men in Black” (Men in Black, 1998)
Will Smith was the king of the cash-grab end credits song thanks to mediocre hit singles “Wild Wild West” and “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)” for the end credits of the mediocre movies Wild Wild West and Men in Black II, respectively. In the case of “Wild Wild West,” the song was vastly better than the movie [Gokhman note: True! What do you know, Willis and I agree on this!], because while both were remakes of much better older products it’s hard to screw up Stevie Wonder.
The first and, relatively speaking, best of the cash-grabs was “Men in Black” from the movie of the same name. It was the first single from Will Smith as Will Smith rather than the Fresh Prince, having presumably sealed DJ Jazzy Jeff in an aluminum tube and shot him into space.
As far as anyone knows, Will Smith recorded a song for 2019’s Men in Black: International because literally nobody saw it. You probably didn’t realize it had come out.
Survivor — “Eye of the Tiger” (Rocky III, 1982)
Written at the request of Sylvester Stalone himself when Queen wouldn’t let him use “Another One Bites the Dust,” this one spent nearly four months on the Billboard Top 10 chart. And it’s a good song! It’s brutally, aggressively ’80s, yes, but good nonetheless.
You remember Rocky III, right? Not the one with Ivan Drago, just before that. The one with Mr. T. Yeah, that’s it, where Apollo Creed trains him.
It was also the theme song to a 1986 movies called Eye of the Tiger starring Gary Busey as an ex-con Vietnam vet who murders an entire motorcycle gang and, later, the sheriff. It’s basically a ripoff of Death Wish but worse. So… let’s just remember Rocky III.
Kenny Loggins — “Danger Zone” (Top Gun, 1986)
The most popular recruiting video in Navy history, Top Gun’s popularity spawned not one but two hit singles.
The first, most Archer-approved single was “Danger Zone,” which everyone loves even if they won’t admit it. It’s so earnest and so great. Go ahead and listen to it again, you earned it.
The other is sappy, generic love ballad “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, which… exists. I mean it’s there. It’s more memorable than Men in Black: International, at least. Nobody’s going to make it a running joke or anything, but not every song can reach those lofty heights. Pun intended because this is a Top Gun entry.
Aerosmith — “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” (Armageddon, 1998)
Nineteen ninety-eight was a banner year for songs written for movies that you’re never going to be able to forget as hard as you try, with not just the two entries on this list but the entire soundtrack to the absolutely abysmal Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie. Somehow, despite trying to make Matthew Broderick an action star, the music was one of Godzilla’s lowlights.
Remember the Sean “Puff ‘P “Puffy” Diddy’ Daddy” Combs song that didn’t just sample Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” but paid Jimmy Page to recreate the riff? Or my personal favorite: Rage Against the Machine’s “No Shelter,” a song that actively insults the movie it’s on the soundtrack of with the line, “Godzilla, pure motherfucking filler/ To get your eyes off the real killer” prominently included?
Anyway, on to the song in the entry title: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler recorded vocals for a song that played over his own daughter’s PG-13 sex scene with Ben Affleck. It would be more awkward if she wasn’t already featured as an implied groupie in an Aerosmith video. Famous people, man.
Also I’d like to point out, since if I don’t my illustrious editor Roman will, that U2 was originally supposed to record this song but were replaced by Aerosmith when Liv Tyler was cast. [Gokhman note: Wait, what?] Which means they really dodged a bullet.
Lustra — “Scotty Doesn’t Know” (Eurotrip, 2004)
Yeah, I know, I’m kinda breaking my theme with this one, but it’s a tragically under-appreciated scene from a very funny movie. [Gokhman note: True again! What’s happening?]
The main character’s girlfriend dumps him at his graduation party, then the lead singer of the band hired to play said party performs a song about her prolific cheating with him. And the lead singer is inexplicably played by a tatted-up, pierced and bald-headed Matt Damon. It’s pretty much the best.
Also, I would include Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” from Young Guns II, but I already included it in my 1990 column last year. So you get Matt Damon making out with a young Kristin Kreuk.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.