Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Various Artists: Soundtracks

  • Performance [Warner Bros., 1970] B-
  • Jesus Christ Superstar [Decca, 1970] C-
  • Zabriskie Point [MGM, 1970] B-
  • Rio Grande [RCA Victor, 1971] B
  • Nashville [ABC, 1975] C
  • Saturday Night Fever [RSO, 1977] B+
  • FM [MCA, 1978] B-
  • Grease [RSO, 1978] C+
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [RSO, 1978] D+
  • Working [Columbia, 1978] B+
  • Quadrophenia [Polydor, 1979] B
  • Rock 'n' Roll High School [Sire, 1979] B
  • The Rose [Atlantic, 1979] C
  • Popeye [Boardwalk, 1980] A-
  • Rockers [Mango, 1980] B+
  • The Decline of Western Civilization [Slash, 1981] B-
  • Party Party [A&M, 1982] B+
  • Soup for One [Mirage, 1982] B
  • Flashdance [Casablanca, 1983] B-
  • Get Crazy [Morocco, 1983] C+
  • Starstruck [A&M, 1983] B+
  • Footloose [Columbia, 1984] C
  • Repo Man [San Andreas, 1984] B+
  • Spinal Tap [Polydor, 1984] B+
  • The Woman in Red [Motown, 1984] B+
  • Beverly Hills Cop [MCA, 1985] B-
  • The Breakfast Club [A&M, 1985] D-
  • The Goonies [Epic, 1985] B+
  • Krush Groove [Warner Bros., 1985] B+
  • Vision Quest [Geffen, 1985] C+
  • Crossover Dreams [Elektra, 1986] B
  • Something Wild [MCA, 1986] B+
  • Dirty Dancing [RCA Victor, 1987] D
  • La Bamba [Slash, 1987] B+
  • Less Than Zero [Def Jam, 1987] B+
  • Who's That Girl [Sire, 1987] C-
  • Colors [Warner Bros., 1988] B+
  • School Daze [EMI-Manhattan, 1988] B
  • Hairspray [MCA, 1988] A-
  • Sarafina! [Shanachie, 1988] B
  • Sarafina! The Music of Liberation--Broadway Cast Recording [RCA Victor/Novus, 1988] B-
  • Batman [Warner Bros., 1989] B+
  • Do the Right Thing [Motown, 1989] B+
  • Ghostbusters II [MCA, 1989] B-
  • Women of Africa [CSA, 1990] Choice Cuts
  • New Jack City [Giant, 1991] A-
  • The Commitments [MCA, 1991] C+
  • Songs of Protest [Rhino, 1991] Choice Cuts
  • Honeymoon in Vegas [Epic, 1992] ***
  • Singles [Epic, 1992] **
  • South Central [Hollywood Basic, 1992] **
  • Trespass [Sire/Warner Bros., 1992] *
  • Guys and Dolls [RCA, 1992] A-
  • Boomerang [LaFace, 1992] Neither
  • Juice [Soul, 1992] Neither
  • Naked Lunch [Milan, 1992] Neither
  • The Bodyguard [Arista, 1992] Choice Cuts
  • Judgment Night [Immortal/Epic, 1993] A-
  • CB4 [MCA, 1993] ***
  • Dazed and Confused [Medicine, 1993] A-
  • Philadelphia [Epic Soundtrax, 1993] Choice Cuts
  • Sister Act 2 [Hollywood, 1993] Choice Cuts
  • BackBeat [Virgin, 1994] A-
  • Crooklyn [MCA, 1994] ***
  • Songs from Chippy [Hollywood, 1994] ***
  • The Lion King [Walt Disney, 1994] C
  • The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert [Mother, 1994] Neither
  • Murder Was the Case [Death Row/Interscope, 1994] Choice Cuts
  • Batman Forever [Atlantic, 1995] *
  • Get Shorty [Antilles, 1995] B+
  • Waiting to Exhale [Arista, 1995] A-
  • Dead Man Walking [Columbia, 1995] Neither
  • Passengers: Original Soundtracks I [Island, 1995] Dud
  • Walt Disney Records Presents the Music of Disney's Cinderella [Walt Disney, 1995] Dud
  • My So-Called Life [Atlantic, 1995] Choice Cuts
  • Girls Town [Mercury, 1996] ***
  • Hype! [Sub Pop, 1996] *
  • Rent [DreamWorks, 1996] *
  • Set It Off [Elektra, 1996] **
  • Space Jam [Warner Sunset/Atlantic, 1996] **
  • The Songs of West Side Story [RCA, 1996] **
  • Bring in 'Da Noize, Bring in 'Da Funk [RCA Victor, 1996] D+
  • Floyd Collins [Nonesuch, 1996] Dud
  • The Preacher's Wife [Arista, 1996] Dud
  • I Shot Andy Warhol [Tag Recordings, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • Michael [Revolution, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • Girl 6 [Warner Bros., 1996] Choice Cuts
  • Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation [Mango, 1997] A-
  • City of Industry [Quango, 1997] *
  • Soul Food [LaFace, 1997] **
  • Suburbia [DGC, 1997] **
  • The Jackal [MCA, 1997] ***
  • The Best of Front Row Center [MCA, 1997] Choice Cuts
  • Bulworth: The Soundtrack [Interscope, 1998] B+
  • Excess Baggage [Prophecy, 1998] *
  • Dr. Dolittle: The Album [Atlantic, 1998] Choice Cuts
  • Why Do Fools Fall in Love [EastWest/Warner Sunset, 1998] Choice Cuts
  • Can't Hardly Wait [Elektra, 1998] Choice Cuts
  • I Got the Hook-Up! [No Limit, 1998] Choice Cuts
  • Black Dog [Decca, 1998] Choice Cuts
  • Godzilla: The Album [Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax, 1998] Choice Cuts
  • Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars and Sitars [Motel, 1999] **
  • Drive Me Crazy [Jive, 1999] B+
  • Magnolia [Reprise, 1999] *
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut [Atlantic, 1999] A-
  • The Corruptor [Jive, 1999] B+
  • Austin Powers -- The Spy Who Shagged Me [Maverick, 1999] *
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch [Atlantic, 1999] Neither
  • The Book of Life Soundtrack [Echostatic, 1999] Choice Cuts
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai [Epic/Razor Sharp, 2000] A-
  • High Fidelity [Hollywood, 2000] A-
  • Romeo Must Die [Virgin, 2000] A-
  • Third World Cop [Palm, 2000] A-
  • Bamboozled [Motown, 2000] **
  • Meet the Parents [DreamWorks, 2000] Dud
  • Black and White [Loud, 2000] Choice Cuts
  • Me, Myself & Irene [Elektra, 2000] Choice Cuts
  • Charlie's Angels [Sony Soundtrax, 2000] Choice Cuts
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? [Mercury, 2000] Choice Cuts
  • Sweet and Lowdown [Justin Time, 2001] Choice Cuts
  • Moulin Rouge [20th Century-Fox/Interscope, 2001] ***
  • The Fast and the Furious [Murder Inc./Def Jam, 2001] **
  • Bring It On [Play-Tone/Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax, 2001] Choice Cuts
  • Mark Twin: A Film Directed by Ken Burns [Columbia/Legacy, 2001] Dud
  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific: Music From the ABC Premiere Event [Waveform, 2001] Dud
  • Big Bad Love [Nonesuch, 2002] **
  • Blade II [Immortal, 2002] *
  • Dexter's Laboratory: The Hip-Hop Experiment [Cartoon Network/Rhino EP, 2002] A-
  • Group [Yoyo, 2002] Choice Cuts
  • About a Boy: Original Soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy [XL/Artist Direct, 2002] **
  • 8 Mile [Shady/Interscope, 2002] *
  • Chelsea Walls: Original Music by Jeff Tweedy [Rykodisc, 2002] Choice Cuts
  • Dark Angel [Artemis, 2002] Choice Cuts
  • Eban & Charley [Merge, 2002] Dud
  • Bad Boys II [Bad Boy, 2003] **
  • Borat [Downtown/Atlantic, 2006] ***
  • Across the Universe [Interscope, 2007] Dud
  • Music From the Motion Picture Juno [Fox Music/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Rhino, 2007] Choice Cuts
  • Step Up 2 the Streets [Atlantic, 2008] Choice Cuts
  • American Honey [UMe download, 2016] A
  • Black Panther: The Album [TDE/Aftermath/Interscope, 2018] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Performance [Warner Bros., 1970]
Merry Clayton and Ry Cooder and Buffy Sainte-Marie and composer-producer Jack Nitzsche are pretty good for a soundtrack and pretty forgettable for a record album. The Last Poets are the Last Poets. Randy Newman's version of Nitzsche's metaphor to impotence, "Gone Dead Train," is a white blues landmark. And Mick Jagger's version of Jagger-Richard's scabrous, persona-twisted "Memo From Turner" is his envoi to the '60s. B-

Jesus Christ Superstar [Decca, 1970]
Outsiders since Pat Boone have had the dumb idea that rock and roll means projecting the kind of sham intensity that the worst kind of opera lover is a sucker for, and here's more--"rock musical" is too kind. Tommy, in which real rock and rollers pursued a grandiose dramatic concept, was risky enough. But set semiclassical-twice-removed melodies amid received, overrehearsed rock instrumentation and all the verve and spontaneous power which is the music's birthright gets crucified. C-

Zabriskie Point [MGM, 1970]
Includes selections, most of them instrumental, by Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, Kaleidoscope, the Youngbloods, Jerry Garcia, John Fahey, Roscoe Holcomb, and Patti Page. Is considerably deeper and more coherent than the Antonioni film of the same name. B-

Rio Grande [RCA Victor, 1971]
This is a perfectly competent-plus mod-country band which has gone virtually unacknowledged in print, led by a Texas music man named Ronny Weiss whose name you might file. B

Nashville [ABC, 1975]
The only musician of promise here, Ronee Blakley, hasn't righted any of the quirks that unfocused her solo debut three years ago, and she's no more a country singer than Wendy Waldman. If the music makes the movie, as more than one film critic has surmised, then the movie is a lie. Another possibility: the critics are fibbing a little to cover their ignorance. C

Saturday Night Fever [RSO, 1977]
So you've seen the movie--pretty good movie, right?--and decided that this is the disco album you're going to try. Well, I can't blame you. The Bee Gees side is pop music at a new peak of irresistible silliness, with the former Beatle clones singing like mechanical mice with an unnatural sense of rhythm. And the album climaxes on a par-tee even non-discoids can get into, beginning with the best of David Shire's "additional music," then switching almost imperceptibly to something tolerable by MFSB and revving into all 10:52 of the Trammps' magnificent "Disco Inferno." But I find the other two sides unlistenable, mostly because the rest of Shire's additions are real soundtrack-quality stuff--he even discofies Moussorgsky (see Emerson Lake & Palmer) without making a joke on it (compare Walter Murphy on side two). And there's one more problem. While you're deciding to buy this record, so is everyone you know. You're gonna get really sick of it. Maybe you should Surprise Your Friends and seek out Casablanca's Get Down and Boogie instead. B+

FM [MCA, 1978]
An AOR wish fulfillment--Superstar top twenty. I mean, the most mechanistic radio offers an occasional ear-opener, but even though all twenty songs on this soundtrack-compilation are pretty good, including Foreigner's, they're as predictable as cuts on a disc, and (worse still) diminished by their mutual proximity. This is frequency modulation at its blandest, with specific content subjugated to "sound"; it cries out for deprogramming. Typically, Steely Dan contributes a title tune that elucidates this dilemma while reveling in it. Atypically, Linda Ronstadt's live "Tumbling Dice" is so passionate and revelatory that it leaps out of its context and stomps all over the Rolling Stones. B-

Grease [RSO, 1978]
The Sha Na Na cuts document the group's deterioration from an affectionate, phonographically ineffective bunch of copycats into a repellent Vegas oldies act. The Casey-Jacobs stage songs are entertaining and condescending takeoffs on '50s readymades, a little too good for Manhattan Transfer. And the updates provided for the movie by the Stigwood combine--Valli's "Grease" (written by Barry Gibb) and Travolta and Newton-John's "You're the One That I Want"--are two of 1978's better hit singles. That's probably how they should be bought, too, but this is far from a disgrace. C+

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [RSO, 1978]
At first I felt relatively positive about this project. I'm not a religious man, I liked the Aerosmith and Earth, Wind & Fire cuts on the radio, and I figured the Bee Gees qualified as ersatz Beatles if anyone did. Well, let's hope clones aren't like this. From the song selection, you wouldn't even know the originals were once a rock and roll band. Most of the arrangements are lifted whole without benefit of vocal presence (maybe Maurice should try hormones) or rhythmic integrity ("Can't we get a little of that disco feel in there, George?") And what reinterpretations there are are unworthy of Mike Douglas. George Burns I can forgive, even Peter Frampton--but not Diane Steinberg, Sandy Farina, Frankie Howerd. I never thought Alice Cooper would stoop to a Paul Williams imitation. I never thought Steve Martin would do a Nerd imitation. Get back, all of you. Back I say. D+

Working [Columbia, 1978]
Broadway is as obsessed with leisure as any other pop bastion, and I have no doubt that one reason this show failed was its subject, which it does justice to at least half the time. The best lyrics describe a character's own peculiar job, rather than generalizing about his or her line of work; whether it's the luck of the draw, the state of the art, or the mortal superiority of women, the actresses have more touching stories to tell than the actors. All the songs flirt with sentimentality, which means the good ones can make you cry. Worth preserving. B+

Quadrophenia [Polydor, 1979]
Confusing. This (intermittently remixed) "soundtrack" condenses the original two-LP set down to one disc plus one cut (the cut that never quite fit in anyway), and the only song I miss is "The Dirty Jobs" (maybe Peter figured the Clash had him beat on that one). But there's no libretto, and the point of Quadrophenia-the-album wasn't individual songs anyway. The rest comprises previously unreleased new and old Who songs of considerable interest and some quality and a side of good oldies you may or may not own (I didn't have two of them myself). B

Rock 'n' Roll High School [Sire, 1979]
Two excellent new Ramones songs, plus a Richie Valens cover shared by the Ramones and the Paley Brothers, plus a live medley of five familiar Ramones songs, plus P.J. Soles singing one of the new ones poorly. Plus high-quality new-wavish stuff of varying relevance, most of it off albums that people who enjoy the samples would probably enjoy owning. Plus high school songs of varying quality not including the Beach Boys' "Be True to Your School" or (for shame, it was in the movie) the MC5's "High School." B

The Rose [Atlantic, 1979]
The usual soundtrack alibis don't apply to a Paul Rothchild production utilizing studio certified musicians and a dozen tunesmiths hacking out rock songs to order. In fact, all that distinguishes this collection of nine Bette Midler performances from, say, your usual backup-goes-solo bid is that it was recorded live--for "feel," I guess. Although it is true that except for the off-color "Love Me With a Feeling" the high points are the monologue on side one and a prolonged fanfare. C

Popeye [Boardwalk, 1980]
The orchestrations are Kurt Weill meeting Lionel Newman at the Firesign Theatre, and the actor-vocals are as overheard as a Robert Altman soundtrack. Composer Harry Nilsson hasn't worked this hard since Schmilsson; arranger Van Dyke Parks hasn't worked this wisely since Song Cycle. So although nothing will appease my hunger for the glorious and inexplicably omitted "Everything Is Food," which I trust Neil Bogart will release as the B side of a disco disc, this beats Xanadu, Flash Gordon, and Urban Cowboy combined--as a movie, and as a piece of vinyl. A-

Rockers [Mango, 1980]
Fine flick--the good guys wear black, and they win--and like the film, the soundtrack follows up The Harder They Come more honorably than is rumored without performing a miracle. First side's a smart reggae compilation, with Jacob Miller, Peter Tosh, Junior Murvin, and the Heptones all living up to the impossible memory of "Pressure Drop" and "Johnny Too Bad," but since their tracks are U.S.-available on good if less than essential albums, there's no shock of revelation. From Bunny Wailer's theme song to Rockers All Stars and Kiddus I to Winston Rodney by the sea to third-world label promo, side two's just honorable soundtrack, with revelation irrelevant. B+

The Decline of Western Civilization [Slash, 1981]
Every big-name L.A. punk this side of Samoa gets soundtracked here. X are the great ones (buy their albums), Black Flag the good ones (keep an ear out for Greg Ginn's axe). After that come Fear, L.A.'s version of the Sic Fucks, tighter musically (big Van Halen fans) but less, er, subtle (spokesperson Lee Ving could be Don Rickles with a botched facelift). Then the Circle Jerks, L.A.'s other version of the Sic Fucks (bet there's more). And in the pits three critics' bands: Catholic Discipline (somebody tell Claude Bessy zat zere is no such thing as French rock and roll), Alice Bag (Craig Lee, call your office), and the Germs (L. Bangs: "Bye, schmuck"). Not bad, but no fun. For docudrama I'll take An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, for social theory I'll take Psychotic Reaction or even Carburetor Dung, and maybe you'd better just see the movie. B-

Party Party [A&M, 1982]
A soundtrack where new-wavers young and old sing rock and roll tunes young and old for dancing pleasure at your party party. Sting covers Little Richard as if he has to and Little Willie John as if he wants to. Modern Romance resuscitates Freda Payne, Dave Edmunds bravely tackles Chuck Berry--why, it's a Moondog Matinee for our time. Pauline Black's "No Woman, No Cry" radiates feeling, Bananarama's "No Feelings" radiates smarts, and Madness's "Driving in My Car" is a worthy "Janie Jones" joke. And oh yeah, the title song is by Elvis Costello. B+

Soup for One [Mirage, 1982]
Hoped this soundtrack might double as a Rodgers & Edwards sampler, but they don't quite mesh with Carly or Teddy, and Sister Sledge's track is a pleasant throwaway. They do better by Fonzi Thornton, who's one of their own, and better still by Chic, on the title tune and a folkish etude called "Tavern on the Green." B

Flashdance [Casablanca, 1983]
Ten different singers collaborate with half a dozen producers to collapse a myriad of pop polarities onto one all-inclusive rock-disco concept soundtrack. Tenors and contraltos, guitars and synthesizers, lust and love, ballads and DOR--all are equal as these mostly undistinguished, mostly quite functional artistes proceed through their mostly undistinguished, mostly quite functional material. Concept: the overinsistent beat, which signifies how compulsively they seek a good time that retains shreds of both meaning and ecstatic release. B-

Get Crazy [Morocco, 1983]
This soundtrack to a barely existent Allan Arkush movie may look tempting in the cheapo bins, so Ramones and Marshall Crenshaw fans should know that these tracks are for completists only. Music fans should know that Lou Reed's "Little Sister" could turn into a forgotten masterpiece if somebody isn't smart enough to put it on a compilation soon--or later, if necessary. C+

Starstruck [A&M, 1983]
Performed mostly by ingenue Jo Kennedy and Split Enz split-off the Swingers and tailored mostly to cinematic concept, these eleven-plus songs not only constitute an unusually disc-effective soundtrack but sound fresher than just about any collection of rock and roll ditties to come off the wall this year. In a moment when spontaneity can be prepared to order, you wonder why authenticity hounds get so exercised about the "real" thing. B+

Footloose [Columbia, 1984]
Since the idea of this deeply cynical movie is to assure teenagers not only that AOR equals youth rebellion but also that they can dance to it, and given AOR's enduring commitment to racial segregation, it seems appropriate to note that the two first-rate songs on this offensively glitzy, offensively hyper soundtrack are by black people. Deniece Williams and Shalamar, in case you didn't know, both available as singles and a good thing too. C

Repo Man [San Andreas, 1984]
Because the movie is zero per cent promotional device, most of the music that goes with it is free to function as barely heard background noise. But separated out as songs on this "soundtrack" disc it complements the film's dryly spaced-out take on L.A. punk. Not until K-Tel goes hardcore will you find Black Flag's "TV Party," Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized," and Fear's "Let Have a War" on the same LP. Iggy Pop's title song is powered by the best of Chequered Past. And Sy Richardson's Shaft parody goes his film bit one better. B+

Spinal Tap [Polydor, 1984]
Sonically, these long-suffering limeys don't pack the priapic overkill that might make their compilation as convincing as the "rockumentary" which finally won them critical acclaim. The problem is physical--neither vocalist David St. Hubbins nor guitarist Nigel Tufnel possesses equipment of HM's gargantuan proportions, although they might have faked it if producers Guest-McKean-Shearer knew recording studios like they do movie sets. Nevertheless, Tap were ahead of their time in 1965 ("Cups and Cakes" is very late '66) and 1973 (that synth on the classic "Big Bottom"), and they're pathfinders today as well--funnier than the Dictators ever were. B+

The Woman in Red [Motown, 1984]
Since Stevie Wonder has become one of those pleasure artists I rarely enjoy of my own free will, I was dubious about this water-treading soundtrack, but after a while the rhythm parts--even the deja entendu synth patterns and bass lines--began to get me. Though Dionne Warwick's solo turn is more Manilow than Bacharach, the two duets are her most winning music since the Spinners. And "Don't Drive Drunk" soars high as a kite. B+

Beverly Hills Cop [MCA, 1985]
Highlights: Patti LaBelle contained, Harold Faltermeyer kisses Herbie Hancock's ass, the System rocks and rolls again, Shalamar writes to order (buy the 12-inch). Redundancy: the Pointer Sisters (buy the album--theirs--if you must). Lowlights: Junior, Rockie Robbins. Lowlifes: Danny Elfman (formerly of Oingo Boingo), Glenn Frey (formerly of the Eagles). B-

The Breakfast Club [A&M, 1985]
Disco domo emeritus Keith Forsey is the great spirit behind this consumer fraud. He even wrote the Simple Minds hit, which in a rare moment of aesthetic perspicuity they've disowned, as well as utterly negligible songs for such artistes as Elizabeth Daily, Karla DeVito, and Wang Chung. Plus one, two, three, four instrumentals. D-

The Goonies [Epic, 1985]
As I hope you've figured out, the New Soundtrack is no such thing: it's a cross-promotional concept that permits record bizzers and movie bizzers to exploit each other's distribution. But because the film comes first, the music pros work to order whether or not their songs function thematically or appear in the movie at all. So even when the resulting albums don't suffer from the hodgepodge effect that afflicts all compilations and goes double when music is slotted into vastly disparate moods and locales, they still breed hackwork. Which is why this one is such a relief. First of all, it's no hodgepodge: high-register vocals predominate, dance beats mesh. And not only do Teena Marie, Luther Vandross, and Philip Bailey come in at peak form, but REO Fucking Speedwagon produces an actual anthem. John Williams's scion Joseph contributes a nifty pop-funk tune, and Dave Grusin himself strolls sweetly under the closing credits. Bless music consultant Cyndi Lauper, whose two good-to-excellent tracks almost get lost by comparison. B+

Krush Groove [Warner Bros., 1985]
Whether the ecumenicism is a musical leap forward or a commercial hedge, it does integrate the strong voices of Sheila E., Chaka Khan, and too-long-gone Debbie Harry into Russell Simmons's very male roster, and unlike the Gap Band and the Force M.D.'s, the ladies keep things moving. The krush grooves are two Rick Rubin metal-rap steamrollers. And for some reason the stars of the show only make the credit medley. B+

Vision Quest [Geffen, 1985]
This flick isn't an item on my particular grapevine, but between the sculpted pecs on the back cover and the "Only the Young" kickoff inside, I figure it's about Heroic Youth. They're "Hot Blooded," they're "Hungry for Heaven," they're gonna "Shout to the Top," and their idea of inspirational art is some amalgam of pop metal and dance-oriented schlock. Given the basic idea, these tracks are surprisingly okay, but only one fires my corpuscles: Don Henley's "She's on the Zoom," about a Dumb Chick. C+

Crossover Dreams [Elektra, 1986]
Good flick or no, Rubén Blades is subject to the iron law of soundtracks just like crasser mortals, and though salsa atmospherics beat Dave Grusin by me, this one bogs down in reprises, living-room music, and the song Blades's character sells out with. Nor does featured vocalist Virgilio Marti prove legendary enough to compensate. B

Something Wild [MCA, 1986]
From the oppressive Top Gun to the not unattractive Pretty in Pink, the predictability-in-diversity of the soundtrack album typifies promo's novelty fetishism, and if this one's no different, at least it's better. Not only does Jonathan Demme do right by found exotica like Sonny Okossun, he knows how to special-order it, from a David Byrne-Celia Cruz duet to Sister Carol's saucy reggae "Wild Thing." He even gets songs that don't need pictures from eternal sidemen Steve Jones and Jerry Harrison--though not from Oingo Boingo's indefatigable Danny Elfman, or from eternal once-was Jimmy Cliff. B+

Dirty Dancing [RCA Victor, 1987]
Five pre-Beatle classics plus six postmodern horrors equals the soundtrack to the world's longest rock video, a brutally depressing top-forty apotheosis. The comparisons are torture--revolting as the contempo material is, it sounds even worse in among the Five Satins and Mickey & Sylvia, who are in turn rendered unlistenable by the commercial manipulations that bring them back to commercial life. Even accessory before the fact Phil Spector sounds not just innocent but simple up against the technocratic ardors of Medley & Warnes's Grammy/Oscar-validated "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" or Eric Carmen's merely radio-validated "Hungry Eyes." The new songs epitomize AOR as CHR, turning everything rock and roll taught us about rhythm and emotion into the melodrama that prerock schlock left behind when it abandoned operetta and the drawing-room ballad. They're almost as good a reason to hate mass culture as Ronald Reagan. D

La Bamba [Slash, 1987]
To cover Ritchie Valens's rebel rock for your cultural heritage is neither sentimental self-deception nor desecration of capitalism. It's an inevitable impulse that exploits defiant gestures--which in this case showed small animus against either sentimentality or capitalism--for their enduring value, for the historical connections and intrinsic beauty sure to inhere in any defiant gesture worth remembering. Face it--at his wildest Valens is no longer much of a threat, even as an example. That Los Lobos didn't attempt to reconstitute that threat is unfortunate and no sin. Take the connections and the beauty for what they're worth. B+

Less Than Zero [Def Jam, 1987]
Despite the execrable title song and Poison's attempted "Rock and Roll All Nite," this is one tough and imaginative soundtrack. I love the way the Bangles schlock up "Hazy Shade of Winter" (sounds like the Grass Roots song it should have been) and Slayer revs up "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (a great tune cut down to size). Even better are a debut by the Black Flames, a def and jamming answer to the Force M.D.'s, and a Public Enemy track that finally lives up to their fierce political rep (they like Farrakhan and dis critics, but nobody said you had to agree with them). "Are You My Woman"/"Bring the Noise," the resulting twelve-inch is called. Those who never trust a soundtrack should buy one. B+

Who's That Girl [Sire, 1987]
From Scritti Politti and Coati Mundi you expect trickier spin, but they're outsiders, and outsiders times soundtrack equals contract work. For her own movie, though, the decade's purest pop icon should do better than sloppy seconds. Or neat seconds--worse still. C-

Colors [Warner Bros., 1988]
From Ice-T's horrorshow credo to Eric B.'s mastermix fantasia, the originals and rarities on side one constitute an uncommonly solid rap compilation. Side two's iffier, with a transcendently irritating Roxanne Shante cut, punctuated by whooping gasps uncannily similar to the ones D.J. E-Z Rock stole from house's house, deflated by a crime-does-not-pay ending from M.C. Shan and soulmate Rick James. Bargain-hunters won't pass this chance up, but I still want Roxanne on a 12-inch--keep pretentious people out of the house. B+

School Daze [EMI-Manhattan, 1988]
Any filmmaker who hopes his soundtrack "encompasses the many different idioms of Black music" had better forget da movies and go into record production full time. Even if he can get soundtrack-plus out of E.U. and Stevie Wonder. Even if his daddy can concoct amazing simulations of torch and revue and spiritual at reasonable rates. B

Hairspray [MCA, 1988]
Conceived by collector John Waters rather than some marketing strategist, this is a party record that doubles as proof of a sensibility, refurbishing the pre-Beatles '60s not by polishing girl-group touchstones but by mining the middle of the r&b charts. Dance mania rools, from the swinging popcult ecumenicism of Ray Bryant's "Madison Time" to the "Squish squish" backup of Gene & Wendell's "The Roach." The plot-advancing "Town Without Pity" doesn't quite fit, but by sticking Little Peggy March's "I Wish I Were a Princess" in between the funky-girl touchstone "You'll Lose a Good Thing" and the protosoulful "Nothing Takes the Place of You," Waters points up both its objective laughability and its seriousness in the mind of the behearer. This is camp at its best--giving the ridiculous its due because the ridiculous makes life worth struggling for. A-

Sarafina! [Shanachie, 1988]
Maybe I should lighten up and let this album do what an original-cast album is supposed to--evoke the theatrical experience, which as it happens surpassed any phonographic one to come my way in 1987. But I've always believed evocation should be a side effect, and as a thing-in-itself, this is no South Pacific or West Side Story, not to mention Threepenny Opera or Indestructible Beat. Mbube rubs shoulders with mbaqanga sitting atop Jo'burg jazz giving way to musical-comedy declamation: the guitarist is great, the drummer isn't, and the young singers do what they're told. If you want to know what the show is like, go into hock and check it out. A complete killer. B

Sarafina! The Music of Liberation--Broadway Cast Recording [RCA Victor/Novus, 1988]
Though the music isn't much changed, the full original-cast-album points up the virtues of Shanachie's smaller-scale approach. The dialogue and array of extra material do make for a superior document. But not a superior phonograph record. B-

Batman [Warner Bros., 1989]
Packaging this as a soundtrack is as ridiculous as complaining that there's only six minutes of Prince in the movie, because the movie it's designed for exists only in Prince's head--his six minutes of soul are a distraction from Tim Burton's nostalgic ominoso futurism, which Danny Elfman's otherwise useless score expertly evokes. "The Future" is Prince's most visionary piece since "When Doves Cry," and as aural objects, all the others are more than passable. Yet they are really designed for a movie, and all of them--especially the received "Partyman" and the subpoignant "Vicki Waiting"--cry out for the focus of Prince's unrealized alternate version. Hence, what "Batdance" deconstructs is mainly itself. B+

Do the Right Thing [Motown, 1989]
Though Spike Lee may romanticize blackness, neoreactionaries are bullshitting when they claim he romanticizes black rage. On his most coherently contemporary piece of aural upward mobility, he centers Afro-America's great tradition in soul, with Stevie Wonder a key influence; the rage begins and ends with "Fight the Power" and is countered by Take 6's postgospel "Don't Shoot Me" ("I didn't mean to step on your sneakers"). Guy and EU give Spike primo new stuff for the rhythmic-wonderland side, but only Ruben Blades fully transcends the songwriting problems on the vocal-riches side--problems that begin and maybe end with de facto producer Raymond Jones. B+

Ghostbusters II [MCA, 1989]
My daughter having commandeered the thing a hundred times in the past six months, I've come to admire (nay, love) the candor and minimalism of Ray Parker's original "Ghostbusters"--making no bones about its own silliness, it does its job with efficient good humor, where Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" bogs down in plot-hyping talk of proton packs and children's parties. Though not all the entries here are equally egregious, the movie dominates the cross-promotion. It's almost like 10 different versions of "Ben," albeit with better music--and also worse. B-

Women of Africa [CSA, 1990]
Dulce & Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mozambique, "Tsiketa Kuni Barassara" Choice Cuts

New Jack City [Giant, 1991]
So what if the ballads are soul on dry ice, not even prime Sweat/Gill? The fast stuff dances the synthbeat interface between rap and disco in a state-of-the-craft showcase. This is black contempopop without filler or willful stupidity--from Color Me Badd's explicit sex to 2 Live Crew's Afrogangsta pride, the songs are exhibits in a morality play that, like the movie, would lose bite if it didn't flirt with exploitation. A-

The Commitments [MCA, 1991]
Just as it's impossible to make a credible flick about a rock star because no mere actor can play the role, it's impossible to make a credible flick about a bar band because no mere movie fan will sit through the music. So director Alan Parker cheated where novelist Roddy Doyle didn't. Aided by L.A. studio simulacra Dean Parks, Mitchell Froom, and Alex Acuña, his home-grown white-soul cover specialists sacrifice idiosyncrasy for competence--they don't even risk the Dublin version of "Night Train" the novel turns on. Now that's what I call soulful--a cross between The Big Chill and The Blues Brothers. C+

Songs of Protest [Rhino, 1991]
Eric Burdon & the Animals, "Sky Pilot"; Donovan, "Universal Soldier"; Phil Ochs, "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore"; Edwin Starr, "War" Choice Cuts

Honeymoon in Vegas [Epic, 1992]
Elvis impersonators (best Billy Joel, worst Amy Grant) meet Elvis interpreters (best Jeff Beck, worst Bono) ***

Singles [Epic, 1992]
Seattle sampler plus ringer (Paul Westerberg, "Dyslexic Heart," "Waiting for Somebody"; Mudhoney, "Overblown"; Jimi Hendrix, "May This Be Love") **

South Central [Hollywood Basic, 1992]
six timeless "Good Times" rips, five mortal pieces of hard, one pledge of eternal devotion (Vaughan Mason, "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll"; Ronnie Hudson, "West Coast Poplock"; Spectrum City, "Check Out the Radio") **

Trespass [Sire/Warner Bros., 1992]
why hard dies hard (AMG, "Don't Be a 304"; Ice-T and Ice Cube, "Trespass") *

Guys and Dolls [RCA, 1992]
It's a measure of musical comedy's descent into technique that every principal in this revival has more pipes and less style than those in MCA's 1951 original-cast version. And it's a measure of the boundless melody and street cred of Frank Loesser's songs that only a curmudgeon or a critic would make the comparison. The score isn't impregnable--after enduring Debbie Reynolds's New Yawkese in Reprise's Rat Pack version, I remembered why I get paid for doing this. And to give technique its due, only diva wannabe Josie de Guzman (whose insatiable urge to peal out does actually make a kind of sense in "If I Were a Bell") fails to add entertaining details. Forget West Side Story--Damon Runyon's criminal-minded wiseacres and untragic romance are for every rock and roller who prefers Chuck to Elvis and the Stones to the Doors. A-

Boomerang [LaFace, 1992] Neither

Juice [Soul, 1992] Neither

Naked Lunch [Milan, 1992] Neither

The Bodyguard [Arista, 1992]
Whitney Houston: "I'm Every Woman" Choice Cuts

Judgment Night [Immortal/Epic, 1993]
Here's a little something that you've never heard before: mostly black rappers rhyming over the live guitars and drums of mostly white bands, all alternative-identified and only De La Soul helpmates Teenage Fanclub less than hard. This music knows lots of ways to say blunt; if the wordplay is minimal, that fits concept and movie, which ain't about a bobsled competition. Whoomp, there it is--beats the new Motorhead and the new Cypress Hill simultaneously. A-

CB4 [MCA, 1993]
the rap rainbow, from goof-off to off-whitey (Public Enemy: "Livin' in a Zoo," Boogie Down Productions: "Black Cop," CB4: "Straight Out of Locash") ***

Dazed and Confused [Medicine, 1993]
But it's really great junk. Seventies AOR as hard-rock utopia, with all the El Lay wimp-out, boogie dumb-ass, and metal drudge-trudge surreptitiously excised, enabling the escapist to bask in history without actually encountering any Montrose or Outlaws records. A few of the selections are ringers--unjustly, neither the Sweet's "Fox on the Run" (too pop) nor the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" (too chick) ever gained much stoner credibility. Most are by major artists (Skynyrd, War, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top) or indisputable legends (Sabbath, Kiss, Deep Purple, Ted Nugent). But only someone who suffered his first nocturnal emission between 1970 and 1975 will be motivated to collect the catalogue it implies. For the rest of humanity, this is an ideal way to enjoy what for all its high volume, guitar excess, and muddled longueurs remained a pop sensibility that harked back to the '50s. Jim Dandy to the rescue indeed. A-

Philadelphia [Epic Soundtrax, 1993]
Sade: "Please Send Me Someone to Love"; Bruce Springsteen: "Streets of Philadelphia"; Neil Young: "Philadelphia" Choice Cuts

Sister Act 2 [Hollywood, 1993]
Whoopi and the Sisters: "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" Choice Cuts

BackBeat [Virgin, 1994]
Not to blame the staunchly soul-effacing Greg Dulli and Dave Pirner for bodies they don't have, but all that stops this experiment in multiconscious neoprimitivism from approximating the freedom it aspires to is that the lead voices don't fly high enough--Pirner's McCartney is too gravelly, Dulli's Lennon devoid of falsetto. Instrumentally, soundtrack honcho Don Was has detonated a miracle of postmodernist disguise, inducing a supergroup cum pickup band comprising Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Nirvana's Dave Grohl, R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, and Gumball's Don Fleming to enter the spirits of the Beatles in Hamburg, where they made their living covering Motown and Chuck Berry before anyone thought the '60s needed heralding. To the puny alternative mind-set, the Beatles have long seemed too pop and the rock and roll that "preceded" them too quaint, but forced to confront history, these present-day musicians play both halves of the synthesis as raw, fast, and unscientific as they actually were. At 12 songs in 27 minutes, the formal result is the great punk album Live! at the Star-Club never was--and yes, technical sophistication matters, sonically and musically. Meaningwise, of course, it's a Chinese box. Talk about constructing a subject--what would Lacan make of this? A-

Crooklyn [MCA, 1994]
the young person's guide to '70s soul (the Chi-Lites, "Oh Girl"; Joe Cuba, "El Pito [I'll Never Go Back to Georgia]"); ***

Songs from Chippy [Hollywood, 1994]
generics implanted in the history that produced them (Wayne Hancock, "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs"; Joe Ely and Jo Harvey Allen, "Cup of Tea"; Robert Earl Keen and Butch Hancock, "Morning Goodness") ***

The Lion King [Walt Disney, 1994]
The Afropop Fund has less of a beef than do parents and plain old pop fans--better secondhand mbube jive (Mbongemi Ngema simulating pan-Africana) than thirdhand razzmatazz (Elton John and Tim Rice dusting off the big themes, dull hooks, and Jungle Book shtick). With half an exception for Nathan Lane's meerkat, the voices are even more negligible than the songs, which number five in all--it takes three Elton versions plus four Eurocentric instrumentals to bring a lousy EP up to 12 tracks. C

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert [Mother, 1994] Neither

Murder Was the Case [Death Row/Interscope, 1994]
Dr. Dre & Ice Cube: "Natural Born Killaz"; Nate Dogg: "One More Day" Choice Cuts

Batman Forever [Atlantic, 1995]
the class of cross-promotional new wave songbooks (PJ Harvey, "One Time Too Many"; Massive Attack With Tracey Thorn, "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game") *

Get Shorty [Antilles, 1995]
Two new compositions perform the postmodern miracle of updating the Booker T. template "Green Onions," which is included for comparison. Especially in the five-minute version featuring his happy vocal interjections, soundtrack designer John Lurie's "Stink" melds jumpy funk to Casio kalimba with fine postneoprimitivist brio. And Us3's "Chilli Hot" hot-wires both action and music with the drop-dead snap and self-referential sass they cry out for. Too bad so much of the rest merely does its job--by declining to develop snatches like the matched pair "Bo at Airport" and "Romantic Walk," Lurie aspires to atmosphere rather than the redefinition of r&b. Too bad--better him than such well-modulated helpmates as Morphine and Medeski Martin & Wood. B+

Waiting to Exhale [Arista, 1995]
With the shining exception of Aretha Franklin and the dim one of Chaka Khan, none of this amazing array of divas is funny, honest, introspective, or original enough to sustain an entire album--not matriarch Patti LaBelle or B-girl Mary J. Blige or new jills SWV or sexpots TLC, not Toni or Brandy or Whitney herself. And since producer-songwriter Babyface has always been kind of soft as well, it's not as if they suddenly equal Billie Holiday, singly or collectively. But because they're enough like each other to flow and enough unlike each other to put the music through some changes, this stands as a stirring showcase for a sensibility. Proudly pliant, mucous membranes at the ready, the one woman they fuse into isn't quite a virtuoso even when she has the chops, because that would distract from her business, which is pleasure. Anyway, it's her skills that count, not her chops. A-

Dead Man Walking [Columbia, 1995] Neither

Passengers: Original Soundtracks I [Island, 1995] Dud

Walt Disney Records Presents the Music of Disney's Cinderella [Walt Disney, 1995] Dud

My So-Called Life [Atlantic, 1995]
"Come See Me Tonight" Choice Cuts

Girls Town [Mercury, 1996]
strong womanism from Yo Yo, Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa--and that's just the stuff you know (Roxanne Shanté, "Thin Line"; Suga, "And I Say"; Tyte, "Sista"; PJ Harvey, "Maniac") ***

Hype! [Sub Pop, 1996]
the dream is over, long live the dream(Mudhoney, "Touch Me I'm Sick"; Nirvana, "Negative Creep") *

Rent [DreamWorks, 1996]
pretty funny for art-rock ("La Vie Boheme," "Tango: Maureen," "Happy New Year B") *

Set It Off [Elektra, 1996]
hard r&b epitomized (Queen Latifah, "Name Callin'"; En Vogue, "Don't Let Go [Love]"; Organized Noize [Featuring Queen Latifah], "Set It Off") **

Space Jam [Warner Sunset/Atlantic, 1996]
black pop '97, with more tunes (Seal, "Fly Like an Eagle"; Coolio, "The Winner") **

The Songs of West Side Story [RCA, 1996]
bet they couldn't organize soul-pop meistersingers behind Hair (All-4-One, "Something's Coming"; Aretha Franklin, "Somewhere") **

Bring in 'Da Noize, Bring in 'Da Funk [RCA Victor, 1996]
No matter how many of the owners have been in bands, the voices of Rent epitomize that anonymous synthesis of "talk `street'" and "project, my dear, e-nun-ci-ate" with which Broadway has fended off "rock" since Hair. But the second time I braved the two-CD original-cast monster, I noticed something strange--not only did I remember half the songs a month later, some of them made me feel something. That the singing is better on its African American counterpart is no surprise, but the catch sure is: for all practical purposes, there is none. This is an album of people banging their feet on the floor while a PBS narrator talks about oppression. No noize, no funk, OK--what do you expect of the musical theayter? But no songs? Call 'da po-lice. D+

Floyd Collins [Nonesuch, 1996] Dud

The Preacher's Wife [Arista, 1996] Dud

I Shot Andy Warhol [Tag Recordings, 1996]
Bettie Serveert: "I'll Keep It with Mine"; Luna: "Season of the Witch" Choice Cuts

Michael [Revolution, 1996]
Al Green: "Love God (And Everybody Else)"; Randy Newman: "Heaven Is My Home" Choice Cuts

Girl 6 [Warner Bros., 1996]
Prince: "Don't Talk 2 Strangers"; Prince: "Girl 6" Choice Cuts

Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation [Mango, 1997]
The heart of this soundtrack is eight pieces of ebulliently sophisticated '50s pop from South Africa's swing era, before the cultural genocide that was the razing of Sophiatown. Their lilt is like no other pop groove, a diasporan dream apartheid would soon destroy, and I pray Jumbo Vanrenen won't resist putting out a whole album of it now that he's gotten started. But while the rest is typical soundtrack hodgepodge, it's a hodgepodge of quality--from the African National Congress Choir to Johnny Clegg, from predub poet Lesoko Rampolokeng to pop queen Brenda Fassie. Perhaps most important, the "original score" interludes recognize that South Africa's classic tradition is choral, not symphonic. And the Choir Gauteng A Team has the chops to tell Mambazo the news. A-

City of Industry [Quango, 1997]
pop noir turns soundtrack noir (Bomb the Bass Featuring Justin Warfield, "Bug Powder Dust [UK Album Version]"; Lush, "Last Night [Darkest Hour Mix]"; Massive Attack, "Three") *

Soul Food [LaFace, 1997]
Babyface for boys--his genius, his fallibility (Total, "What About Us"; Milestone, "I Care 'Bout You" **

Suburbia [DGC, 1997]
alternative as new wave, its lost moment a movie nobody noticed (Elastica With Stephen Malkmus, "Unheard Music"; Boss Hog, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else") **

The Jackal [MCA, 1997]
the electropop moment, from spiritual jokes to fabricated enlightenment (Goldie, "Sunray 2"; Black Grape, "Get Higher") ***

The Best of Front Row Center [MCA, 1997]
Mary Martin, "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"; Ray Bolger, "Once in Love With Amy" Choice Cuts

Bulworth: The Soundtrack [Interscope, 1998]
This makes room for too much mere soundtrack, I suppose--only that means not just honorable filler but utterly infectious party-scene beatbombs like "Zoom" and "Freak Out" and album picks and outtakes from B-Real, Cappadonna, Witchdoctor, Public Enemy. Canibus's "How Come" is a quizzical billow in the millenarian tidal wave. And Ol' Dirty Bastard's girly backup bits on "Ghetto Supastar" are pure Dennis Rodman postmacho. B+

Excess Baggage [Prophecy, 1998]
John Lurie Entertainment presents . . . movie music for people who don't like movie music--not to mention television music. *

Dr. Dolittle: The Album [Atlantic, 1998]
Aaliyah: "Are You That Somebody"; All Saints: "Lady Marmalade (Timbaland Remix)" Choice Cuts

Why Do Fools Fall in Love [EastWest/Warner Sunset, 1998]
Melanie B.: "I Want You Back" Choice Cuts

Can't Hardly Wait [Elektra, 1998]
Blink 182: "Dammit"; Smash Mouth: "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" Choice Cuts

I Got the Hook-Up! [No Limit, 1998]
Ice Cube: "Ghetto Vet" Choice Cuts

Black Dog [Decca, 1998]
Patty Loveless: "On Down the Line" Choice Cuts

Godzilla: The Album [Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax, 1998]
Puff Daddy Featuring Jimmy Page: "Come With Me" Choice Cuts

Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars and Sitars [Motel, 1999]
slightly hyped-up (and camped-up) Bollywood orchestrations by Kalyanji and Anandji V. Shah ("The Good, the Bad and the Chutney," "Swami Safari") **

Drive Me Crazy [Jive, 1999]
The time was right, so here it is--a concept album about teenpop. You get shameless, obvious, brilliant remixes on Britney (new jack title track) and BSB ("I Want It That Way" as cheese house). You get two excellent songs about how prefab teenpop is (by Barenaked Ladies and Silage, which means--I looked it up--"fodder converted into succulent feed"). You get an "I Want You Back" rip that reaffirms teenpop's inimitability. You get the Donnas proving they're whores by playing wholesome teenagers. You get Matthew Sweet sounding like an old man. You get Jive's next big push, Steps, who I hope trip, and great lost tracks by Plumb (?) and Mukala (not African, I don't think). And of course you get filler. B+

Magnolia [Reprise, 1999]
Aimee Mann's most flattering setting to date, not to mention Supertramp's (Aimee Mann, "One," "You Do"). *

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut [Atlantic, 1999]
In which a cartoonist and a soundtrack hack compose classic postmodern musical-comedy songs, so indiscriminate in their incorrectness that they keep sneaking up on you. Since Eric Cartman can outsing Saddam Hussein and Big Gay Al through a glory hole, only the full-chorus versions of "Mountain Town" can compete with "Kyle's Mom's a B**ch." But the all-around quality of the movie performances is brought into relief by the CD-only "interpretations," where only Joe C. and the Violent Femmes do the material justice; as a writer, Isaac Hayes doesn't get it, and Trey Parker has trouble finding certified gangsta rappers willing to utter the words "uncle fucka." In short, the original cast's greatest hits, undercut by the kind of stoned, wouldn't-it-be-funny-if? fizzles that make the show so dumb sometimes. A-

The Corruptor [Jive, 1999]
Obsessed with death, declaring 1985 the Golden Age, counterbalancing two pieces of pimp shit with two pieces of ho fuck you, these tough, articulate third-generation voices document a gangsta myth innocent of all hope. Nostalgic credo: "When niggaz keep their weapons concealed it's all real." Guys, that much could happen. Maybe it's already started. B+

Austin Powers -- The Spy Who Shagged Me [Maverick, 1999]
genuine simulated psychedoolic Velveeta (Madonna, "Beautiful Stranger"; Dr. Evil, "Just the Two of Us") *

Hedwig and the Angry Inch [Atlantic, 1999] Neither

The Book of Life Soundtrack [Echostatic, 1999]
Joey Sweeney: "My Name Is Rich" Choice Cuts

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai [Epic/Razor Sharp, 2000]
After years of expressing his spiritual aspirations in the language of cinematic pseudosymphony, RZA's own soundtrack proves pure r&b--less strung up than Curtis Mayfield's (and Johnny Pate's) Superfly, less underdeveloped than John Lurie's Get Shorty, and topping both in the essential soundtrack service of consistent background listenability. Ranging beyond the Wu to rope in Jeru and Kool G Rap, fine femme crooners and a dead ringer for Burning Spear, he deploys voices for texture and structure-verbal content, suitable enough when you tune in, is irrelevant. Hip-hop as mystery, beauty, pleasure--as idealized aural environment. A-

High Fidelity [Hollywood, 2000]
The best mix tapes are made by guys with good ears, crammed shelves, and tastes that don't quite match up with yours, so they're full of surprises. Roky Erikson's greatest hit undiminished by Ray Davies's lesser one, say. Classic Costello from a subclassic album, classic Dylan ditto, Doug Yule as Lou Reed (twice), Arthur Lee on earth. Eight minutes of obscure Stereolab just when you need a change of pace. Memorable Smog and notable Royal Trux and intriguing Beta Band and acceptable John Wesley Harding and now they can all go back where they came from. Stevie Wonder pledging his obvious love. Cinematic compromises that almost fit in. We want more movies about record geeks because we want more soundtracks like this one. A-

Romeo Must Die [Virgin, 2000]
I'm not beatwise enough to swear that Timbaland is the first cause of all these tracks, but for sure all articulate a genrewide reaction to the textural overkill of the Wu-Tang imperium--a reaction that's now gone on so long I bet something else replaces it soon. So rather than a key to the future, take this boldly amelodic soundtrack as a summing up and Timbaland's titular executive production as an ascension into the noble realm of middle management. Note that all the lead voices and subproducers strutting their stuff add indispensable variety, and that it's singers rather than rappers--executive producer Aaliyah, Playa hiding the best cut in the 13 slot, the well-monikered Destiny's Child--who provide the high points. Are their half-tunes the future? Or is it possible that the earnest meaning mongers of the putatively old-school underground will pick up on a minimalism every bit as spare and considerably more meaningful than the retreads they're riding? A-

Third World Cop [Palm, 2000]
Not a darn good dancehall comp in disguise, as I first believed, or, on the other hand, quite the soundtrack it says it is. More the best Sly & Robbie album since, to be precise, 1987's Rhythm Killers, aided materially in this achievement by the soundtrack-style addition of three S&R-less tracks toward the end--each dancehall, each very different from the others and everything else here. My favorite is by the saucy Lady G, who takes the verse on "Man a Bad Man." Anybody have an ID on the bad man who growls the title? A-

Bamboozled [Motown, 2000]
Ain't nobody here but we chickens (Prince, "2045 Radical Man"; Stevie Wonder, "Misrepresented People"). **

Meet the Parents [DreamWorks, 2000] Dud

Black and White [Loud, 2000]
Everlast: "Life's a Bitch" Choice Cuts

Me, Myself & Irene [Elektra, 2000]
Smash Mouth: "Do It Again"; Ivy: "Only a Fool Would Say That"; Brian Setzer Orchestra: "Boddhisattva" Choice Cuts

Charlie's Angels [Sony Soundtrax, 2000]
Destiny's Child: "Independent Women Part I" Choice Cuts

O Brother, Where Art Thou? [Mercury, 2000]
The Soggy Bottom Boys: "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow (Second Version)" Choice Cuts

Sweet and Lowdown [Justin Time, 2001]
Dave Van Ronk, "Puttin' on the Ritz," "I'd Rather Charleston" Choice Cuts

Moulin Rouge [20th Century-Fox/Interscope, 2001]
the direct link between Toulouse-Lautrec and Phil Collins, and right--seeing the movie helps (Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and Jamie Allen, "Elephant Love Medley"; Ewan MacGregor and Alexandra Safina, "Your Song") ***

The Fast and the Furious [Murder Inc./Def Jam, 2001]
hip hop on acceleration fuel (Ja Rule, "Furious"; Funkmaster Flex, "Tudunn Tudunn Tudunn [Make You Jump]") **

Bring It On [Play-Tone/Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax, 2001]
Blaque Featuring Joe Fatone, Jr.: "As If"; Daphne & Celeste: "U.G.L.Y." Choice Cuts

Mark Twin: A Film Directed by Ken Burns [Columbia/Legacy, 2001] Dud

Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific: Music From the ABC Premiere Event [Waveform, 2001] Dud

Big Bad Love [Nonesuch, 2002]
when it's sleepy time down Delta way (R.L. Burnside, "Everything Is Broken"; T-Model Ford, "She Asked Me So I Told Her") **

Blade II [Immortal, 2002]
hip hop meets techno, which rises to an occasion that never quite materializes (Redman & Gorillaz, "Gorillaz on My Mind"; Cypress Hill & Roni Size, "Child of the West") *

Dexter's Laboratory: The Hip-Hop Experiment [Cartoon Network/Rhino EP, 2002]
With sci-fi a linchpin of hip-hop's nerd underground, a kiddie show gets it right for the ideal length of one EP. De La Soul are grownups who could have sent up "Sibling Rivalries" on their own, but both Coolio and a Black Eyed Pea to be spelled later benefit mightily from what Kool Moe Dee used to call sticking to themes. Also from cultivating what Kool Moe Dee didn't know enough to call innocence. A-

Group [Yoyo, 2002]
Sleater-Kinney, "Maraca" Choice Cuts

About a Boy: Original Soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy [XL/Artist Direct, 2002]
creams ebullient tune and irrelevant song onto Nick and Hugh's well-groomed movie ("A Peak You Reach," "File Me Away") **

8 Mile [Shady/Interscope, 2002]
Obie Trice, who doesn't make the movie, is all over the soundtrack album--unlike Rabbit's freestyles, which make the movie (Eminem, "Rabbit Run," "Lose Yourself") *

Chelsea Walls: Original Music by Jeff Tweedy [Rykodisc, 2002]
Jimmy Scott, "Jealous Guy" Choice Cuts

Dark Angel [Artemis, 2002]
Khia, "My Neck, My Back"; Public Enemy and MC Lyte, "Dark Angel Theme"; Samantha Cole, "Bring It to Me" Choice Cuts

Eban & Charley [Merge, 2002] Dud

Bad Boys II [Bad Boy, 2003]
Bodyguards or producers, Sean Combs hires the best (P. Diddy, Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams, Loon, "Show Me Your Soul"; Jay-Z, "La-La-La"). **

Borat [Downtown/Atlantic, 2006]
Raw Gypsy, cooked Gypsy, drowned Jew, wife with new vagine (Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines, "In My Country There Is Problem [Throw the Jew Down the Well]"; Esma Redzepova, "Chaje Shukarije"). ***

Across the Universe [Interscope, 2007] Dud

Music From the Motion Picture Juno [Fox Music/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Rhino, 2007]
Barry Louis Polisar, "All I Want Is You" Choice Cuts

Step Up 2 the Streets [Atlantic, 2008]
Flo Rida (Featuring T-Pain), "Low"; Missy Elliott, "Ching-A-Ling," "Shake Your Pom Pom" Choice Cuts

American Honey [UMe download, 2016]
I elected to purchase this DL-only soundtrack in tribute to a rambling, music-drenched rollercoaster of a two-and-a-half-hour film that transfixed me and made my stomach flip simultaneously. But if you prefer, Spotify's stream lacks only Bonnie "Prince" Billy, who adds nothing to a musical gestalt that conjures magic from the cross-genre sequencing that gums up so many soundtracks. Here the Southern hip-hop of half the tracks, which gets the semiprofessional young cast moving countless times with Oaklandite E-40's "Choices" the theme song, absorbs the country and mostly female indie-rock stuff. Sam Hunt's smash "Take Your Time" and Steve Earle's ancient "Copperhead Road" are highlights, and just as Mazzy Star are gauzy and the Raveonettes are buzzy, Hunt is comfy rapping and Earle has never allowed consonants to impede his flow. So call flyover drawl the sonic concept. Many of the artists were unknown to me--Quigley? MadeinTYO? Låpsly? Og Maco? Carnage? Raury? Razzy Bailey? Carnage again? But their personal bests share a lazy, hedonistic ease designed to make the most of limited options. One charm of a film that traverses Middle American landscapes bicoastalists never lay eyes on is that the misfit kids it follows around peddle not drugs but magazines, doing only incidental damage as they lie and steal. Another is that they dance goofily whenever they get the chance. Not to Mazzy Star, of course. Although hell, why not? A

Black Panther: The Album [TDE/Aftermath/Interscope, 2018]
Shrewdly, Kendrick Lamar conceived this not-actually-a-soundtrack as a relief from the burden of remaking himself album to album to album. Credited on only four tracks, he's all over it vocally anyway, marking every one of the nine remaining songs with a verse or chorus or hook defined by the least regal of the great rap flows, unassumingly slurred while making every word count. Throughout Lamar delivers star-studded, hooky-to-jingly, sneakily experimental pop-rap product tinged with the flick's racialized broad-stroke humanitarianism; whatever sketchy plot references some exegete may imagine, "I Am" is a stand-alone love song, "Paramedic!" a street-ready gangsta metaphor. As in the film, the music's African tinge bears down on electronic decibelizations of the ensemble percussion to which Americans of all races still reduce the continent's many musics, but with the saving grace that the wealth of cameos doesn't stop with the multiple star turns. Room is made not just for the phlegmy young Vallejo spitters Slimmy B and DaBoii unfazed by Top Dawg godfather Jay Rock, for UK ingenue Jorja Smith standing tall next to Top Dawg seeker SZA, but for five South Africans, one of whom rams home the most arresting verse on the record: seasoned "Jo-Burg Femcee" Yugen Blakrok, who tops "Opps" off with a deep-voiced rhyme that only begins by assonating "millipede" and "Millie Jackson." Blakrok has her own album coming. What a blow for Wakanda it would be if Top Dawg picked it up. A