While these days there’s countless avenues to discover new music, whether it be Spotify, Last.fm, or our very own New Music section, back in the day, if the area where you grew up didn’t have a well-curated record store or you were a bit squeamish about venturing out on your own, cool new music could be hard to come by.
Sometimes, even if you had a pretty solid collection of records at home, there were music machinations going on in the world that you simply weren’t aware of. And sometimes your introduction didn’t come from visiting any record store, but from buying a ticket at your local movie theatre.
Yes, movie soundtracks, while often a movie studio cash grab, have been behind some pretty significant changes in musical trends, both for many music lovers personally and in the charts. Here we salute 12 of the movie soundtracks that shaped a generation’s music tastes.
When Danny Boyle’s 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel detailing the misadventures of a group of Edinburgh junkies came out, it was something of a phenomenon. One of those rare cultural gems that somehow encapsulates a time period without even trying to.
The soundtrack was similar, despite being comprised largely of tracks from preceding decades. That said, the inclusion of ’90s dance hits from the likes of Underworld and Leftfield no doubt funnelled customers into the rave industry for years to come.
10 Things I Hate About You
A coming of age film isn’t complete without the accompanying soundtrack, and none come together more perfectly than 10 Things I Hate About You.
We won’t harp on about the greatness of this film, y’all have seen it and know that it’s full of ’90s gems, including Letters To Cleo dropping some classic covers, to the iconic moment in the film where Air’s ‘Sexy Boy’ plays as invitations to Bogie Lowenstien’s party fly down a staircase, not to mention hits from Spiderbait, Joan Jett, Biggie Smalls, The Cardigans and, erm… The Barenaked Ladies.
Much like Garden State, the soundtrack to this imperishable 2000s TV staple, which recounted the various problems of a bunch of ridiculously good-looking, ridiculously wealthy people living in the ridiculously paradise-like Orange County, introduced many to indie rock.
Through the very particular tastes of Seth Cohen and the subsequent release of a series of popular ‘Music From The Series’ albums, an entire generation of kids were introduced to the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, Rooney, Spoon, Phantom Planet, and countless others.
If there’s one thing Cameron Crowe is good at, it’s putting his finger right on the pulse of what today’s youth is about. He’s so good at it that he managed to do it with 2000’s Almost Famous, a film that was set in the early ’70s.
While the Almost Famous soundtrack likely gave many young moviegoers their first taste of classic rock, it’s the soundtrack to 1992’s Singles that introduced many to Seattle grunge music, kickstarted a wave of ‘Gen X films’, and was arguably the first soundtrack to be more popular than its source material.
The Breakfast Club
Much like Garden State and The O.C., this is a staple for solo pity parties. Much like Cameron Crowe, John Hughes just knew how to talk to kids. And much like Saturday Night Fever, this soundtrack helped catapult a growing musical movement to the tops of the charts.
As SPIN notes, with an unforgettable (see what we did there?) anthem from Simple Minds and cuts from Wang Chung and Giorgio Moroder associate Keith Forsey, the Breakfast Club soundtrack laid the groundwork for the commercial success of Depeche Mode, The Cure, and REM.
Saturday Night Fever
If you’ve ever gone foraging in your parents’ record collection then you’ve definitely seen this baby pop up and with good reason. Believe it or not, in terms of sheer influence, this might be the single most important soundtrack of all time.
The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever took what was an obscure form of danceable R&B music played in gay clubs in Chicago and New York and turned into the phenomenon that was disco. The roots of house music and EDM can be traced back further than this, but Saturday Night Fever played a crucial role.
Lost In Translation
Forgive the rich cliché, but the soundtrack to Lost In Translation is just as important of a character as Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) or Bob (Billy Murray), and is hugely influential in viewers’ then-newfound love for shoegaze, dream pop, and electronica.
Pieced together by My Bloody Valentine mastermind Kevin Shields, the soundtrack plays host to a range of beautifully arranged songs stretching from the ’80s through to the ’00s, with plenty of Shields’ solo efforts as well as MBV, lush electronica from Air, dreamy nu-wave from Phoenix, and of course, the most important moment of all – ‘Just Like Honey’ from proto-shoegaze legends The Jesus And Mary Chain.
This is another case of a soundtrack whose popularity rivalled that of the film, if not outright surpassed it. Sure, it was a charming little flick with some great performances from the cast, but it’s the soundtrack that we’ll remember for years to come.
Featuring multiple cuts from Moldy Peaches member Kimya Dawson, with Juno, yet more Generation Y members were introduced to the majesty of indie rock and an army of girl-boy folk duos were formed, ready to stage an all-out assault on coffee houses worldwide with their cover of ‘Anyone Else But You’.
Yeah, we know, you were already into The Shins before you saw Garden State and that’s totally cool, but a lot of people didn’t. A lot of people also weren’t aware of Iron & Wine or the legendary Nick Drake before they saw Zach Braff’s 2004 film.
What’s most impressive about the Garden State soundtrack isn’t just what impact it had on the music tastes of the people who went to see it, it’s the impact it had on indie rock in general – the soundtrack scaled the Billboard charts, proving modern indie rock had arrived.
Let’s have a show of hands, how many of you honestly knew/loved The Church’s ‘Under The Milky Way’ before you’d seen this film?
Don’t worry, some of us didn’t either, and it’s all good – that’s exactly why this movie’s soundtrack is so damn important.
Introducing a whole new generation to the dark twisted world of post-punk, gothic and alt-rock predominately from the ’80s, this ridiculously good album has everything from Joy Division and INXS to Tears For Fears, and Echo & the Bunnymen.
If your parents didn’t introduce you to ’60s and ’70s classic rock, who did? Cameron Crowe via his film Almost Famous, that’s who.
The exciting story of the fresh-faced William Miller aspiring to be a music journo on the open touring road with Stillwater, a band trying to make it into the big league, has quite possibly the greatest soundtrack ever created, and most definitely played an influential role in people’s music taste.
Touching from just about everything gold the music industry had to offer by the early ’70s, Almost Famous has got heavy rock in Black Sabbath and Zeppelin, punk through The Stooges and MC5, glam moments courtesy of David Bowie and Elton John and folk thanks to Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel, creating pretty much the perfect music education in the form of an entertaining film.
Twilight: New Moon
We kind of have to give props to the filmmakers on this one. This wildly popular soundtrack to a wildly popular film franchise, itself an adaptation of a wildly popular book series, was almost like a veiled attempt at getting the fans to like something that wasn’t, well, trash.
With cuts from the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, Thom Yorke, Lykke Li, Bon Iver and St. Vincent, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Grizzly Bear, and more (really, if you don’t believe us just see for yourself), we’re hoping this put a few R Pats-obsessed tweens onto some quality music.