Whether you’re partial to karaoke or merely bopping around the kitchen while doing the washing up, it takes a lot to beat a cheese-tacular movie rock ballad. You can’t admit to actually listening to or – god forbid – liking any of these songs in polite company, but we bet you still find yourself involuntarily singing along with lyrics that have inveigled their way into your subconscious. But here we thought we’d take a more forensic look at these tub-thumpers: were some really bigger than the movies that spawned them? And do the lyrics bear any relation to the film’s plots?
*The Band: Survivor
**The Movie*: Rocky III (1982)
Top Chart Position: Number one on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as in the UK, Ireland, Australia, although not, conspiciously, in any country with actual tigers.
How did the movie do? Rocky III opened big ($12.5m) and got bigger, eventually matching Rocky’s box-office success and significantly outstripping Rocky II. There was none of the original film’s awards glory, but a purse of $125m kept the franchise up and running.
What’s the story? A few years on and the ‘Rock (Sylvester Stallone) has lost his edge, making the classic boxer’s error of believing the hype and unveiling too many statues of himself. Recognising this, trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) keeps him away from serious contenders, but Rocky, out of shape and seriously undercooked, can't resist the challenge of boxing terminator James ‘Clubber’ Lang - despite the fact that he’s played by the notoriously pitiless Mr T. Things end very badly with Mickey suffering a ringside heart attack and Balboa knocked out inside two rounds. Cue Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), a serious pep-talk and a shot at redemption…
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Well, if you’re being literal Rocky doesn’t actually have the eye of a tiger – way to upset the WWF – but it works pretty well metaphorically. Rocky does rise up to the challenge of his rival, eventually beating him to pulp, and his guts do eventually lead to glory. It’s the kind of tough, gritty path that only an inspiring soft-rock anthem can help with. Warning: will cause shadow boxing in public places.
*The Artists: Jennifer Warnes & Bill Medley
**The Movie*: Dirty Dancing (1987)
Top Chart Position: A US Billboard number one, it only reached number six over this side of the pond, strange considering its now iconic status.
How did the movie do? Insanely, epically, $213 million-ly well. Well enough to have the beancounters swan-diving around the studio carpark. Well enough to inscribe “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” into every movie fan’s phrasebook. Well enough for a sequel too - although that didn’t do so well.
What’s the story? High-achiever Baby (Jennifer Grey) heads to the Catskill Mountains with her affluent family. There she meets beefcake dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and falls hard for him. This comes as a big old shock to her family who've decided that he’s a dodgy match for her, possibly after reading the script for Road House. Heedless to their disapproval, the pair sexy dance their way through fields, across rivers and into movie lore with the most epic final dance in motion picture history.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Yea and thrice yea! Lyrics-wise, the pair are basically having a chat about how much they like each other (a lot), how they’d like to be a little hush-hush about their love affair, presumably so nosey parental types keep their peaks out, but just can’t manage it because “with passion in our eyes, there’s no way we can disguise”. Once again, the headiness is spiced with the odd door metaphor (“I’ve searched through every open door / ‘til I found the truth”), but Warnes and the aptly-named Medley belt out the words out with such gusto that you can’t even hear the clunk of silly similes. We loved it, and we owed it all to them.
*The Band: Simple Minds
**The Movie: The Breakfast Club (1985)
Top Chart Position*: It was a US number one and a UK number seven. It also reached number one in Holland. Just thought we’d share that.
How did the movie do? It made $45.9m in the US in 1985, putting it in 16th place. Since it cost approximately 50p and a packet of crisps to make, however, that’s a huge win.
What’s the story? Five teenagers – unnamed but known by their stereotypes as the Jock, the Brain, the Criminal, the Princess and the Kook – share a Saturday morning detention and open about their lives and the transgressions that landed them there. Before you can say “eat my shorts” they’re re-examining their world view, giving each other makeovers and bonding. And yes, bonding in this case means snogging the faces off each other, apart from the Brain who doesn’t get any.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Wouldn’t a song called Don’t You (Forget About Me) be more appropriate for a film about an old people’s home than a school? “Slow change may pull us apart / When the light gets into your heart, baby,” say the lyrics. We’re not sure what that means at all. But even allowing that, while the skies are cloudy in the film the rain simply doesn’t keep fallin’ down, down, down. Frankly, this barely seems connected at all.
*The Artist: Carly Simon The Movie: *Working Girl (1988)
Top chart position: It only made it to 49 in the US charts but did pick up the holy trinity of Best Song awards - Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes - so Carly probably wouldn’t have minded too much.
Did the film do well? It was loved by critics (Roger Ebert praised the craftsmanship of the mod-screwball ploting) and grosses just north of $100m were more than respectable box office too.
What’s the story? Staten Island secretary Tess McGill (Melanie Griffiths) emerges from the suburbs like a massive-haired Cloverfield and conquers Wall Street, using cunning, smarts and enough shy charm to melt a human heart at 12 paces. Happily no-one gets eaten, although Sigourney Weaver’s nasty alpha banker gives it a red hot go when she discovers that Tess has pinched back her blue-chip take-over idea. Harrison Ford looks on bemused, possibly wondering if he could still get the film’s name changed to Corporate Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
Do the lyrics fit? Well, Carly Simon wrote the theme song as a hymn to the Big Apple and she definitely lays the religious metaphors on a bit thick, what with those references to walking on water, darkening dawns and a New Jerusalem. If it sounds like the Book of Revelation rewritten by Alan Greenspan, the song does capture the movie’s unashamed celebration of capitalism, back in the days when you could actually celebrate banking without being punched in the face. So while it’s lyrically suspect (unless we missed the bit where Tess is called to work by a siren), it feels just right for the movie.
The Artist: Billy Ocean
The Movie: Jewel Of The Nile (1985)
Top Chart Position: A number one in the UK and number two Stateside.
How did the movie do? The Raiders-meets-Casablanca-meets-Challenge-Anneka premise was getting creaky by the time this sequel to Romancing The Stone was released. Audiences still came flocking back for more, but even with $96m grosses in the bank, negative reviews and legal wrangles put paid to the Fox franchise here.
What’s the story? Joan (Turner) and Jack (Michael Douglas) are living on a boat in the South of France when the ruler of the Arab state of Kadir turns up and persuades Joan to accompany him back to his kingdom to write a piece about his benevolent rule. Not only is he actually a cruel dictator, but he’s also in possession of a ginormous jewel. Jack travels to Kadir to rescue his lady from the despot’s clutches and find the mysterious Jewel of the Nile. Disappointingly, this turns out to be a wise old spiritual leader who can't be encrusted on even the most basic gold chain.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? It’s a straightforward Billy Ocean love song packed with enough travel metaphors to open its own branch of Trailfinders, but the title is fitting enough to have been used as the movie’s tagline. The going does get tough (nasty despot imprisons Joan in a dank cell) and the tough (Jake) gets going (ie battle a tribe of Nubian warriors, before deposing said despot in stirringly fiery climax). In fact, leaving out the “ooooh, du da do da” bit, it’s surprisingly relevant, lyrically speaking.
*The Artist: Kenny Loggins
**The Film:* Footloose (1984)
Top Chart Position: It reached number one in the US, and number six in the UK in 1984. Another single from the soundtrack, Let’s Hear It For The Boy by Deniece Williams, also made number one.
How did the movie do? Pretty darn well: it was seventh in the US end-of-year rankings with $80m, ahead of the likes of Amadeus, Splash and The Terminator. So that’s why they’re remaking it!
What’s the story? Big-city teen Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) moves to a small town with his mother, where it emerges that the local council and its influential Reverend head honcho (John Lithgow) has banned dancing and modern music. Ren is frustrated, so he dances a lot in barns, fields and cattle pens to express his feelings. Finally, he and his mates cunningly use the Bible to persuade the elders that they should be allowed to dance after all. Then they all go off and have unprotected teen sex (probably).
Do the lyrics fit the plot? The lyrics are less angsty than Ren himself – which is probably a good thing, since otherwise they’d be careering off tractors and such. The biggest inaccuracy in the song is the mention that the singer has been “punchin’ my card” – which suggests he’s a working stiff rather than – like Ren – a high-schooler. More worryingly for the plot, however, the movie’s love interest is called Ariel – so who’s this Louise the song keeps talking to? Or Marie? Or Milo? We’d say Ren has some explaining to do.
The Band: Wet Wet Wet
*The Movie:* Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994)
Top Chart Position: This stayed number one for 15 weeks in the UK. 15 weeks! That’s longer than most marriages! "We did everybody's head in the summer of 1994," said Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pellow a decade later. He’s not wrong. It only reached 41 in the US, however, so the members of the band can probably still get served in a pub there.
How did the movie do*?* The movie made $245.7m worldwide, on a budget of $3.5m or “Mr Bay’s weekly explosions allowance”. That gave it number eight on the worldwide box-office chart for 1994.
What’s the story? Hugh Grant meets Andie MacDowell at a wedding, and falls in love with her enormous hat – but in such a feckless way that they don’t do anything permanent about it. He meets her again at another wedding, only she’s engaged and he’s surrounded by ex-girlfriends. The third wedding is hers, and his mate has a heart attack and dies, and then the fourth wedding is his, only he finds out that now she’s single and he wishes it wasn’t. Cue a ‘happy’ ending that involves abandoning his blameless fiancée at the altar and living in SIN forever after with a woman who doesn’t even notice when it’s raining.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Some do. The idea that Hugh and Andie’s love is “written on the wind” seems appropriate, given that they are both a bit airy about it. When they sing, “I feel it in my fingers / I feel it in my toes” we’re going to assume that’s metaphorical – that, or it’s a bit icky. But the line, “on my love you can depend” seems wildly inappropriate given that they both head to the altar with other people.
*The Artist: Jon Bon Jovi
**The Movie*: Young Guns II (1990)
Top Chart Position: Blaze Of Glory reached number 1 in the US, Jon Bon Jovi’s only chart-topper away from his band, and he got to cameo in the movie too. Double triumph for JBJ!
How did the movie do? Despite a brutal manhandling from the critics, YG2 grossed $44m domestically, almost exactly the same as Young Guns had made a couple of years previously. Nothing to “Ye-haw!” furiously about, but tidy enough.
What’s the story? The movie they should have called ‘Slightly Older Guns’ picks up with an elderly Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) reflecting on his criminal past with a journalist. This, he explains, mostly involved hanging out with Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, while being relently pursued by lawman Pat Garrett (William Petersen). Lincoln County plays host to a giant manhunt, with shoot-outs galore and thigh-slapping obligatory. It’s all a bit Sam Peckinpah, only with Jon Bon Jovi standing in for Bob Dylan and rubbishness standing in for brilliance.
Do the lyrics fit the plot*?* You’d ruddy hope so considering JBJ wrote the song especially for the movie. He’d turned down the request to use his track Wanted Dead Or Alive, presumably worried that its references to “steel horses” and “loaded six-strings” would make Billy the Kid sound like a heavily-armed busker, and crafted this nugget of pure growly gold. The hair was big, but the lyrics were bigger. There’s talk of “drawing first blood”, gospel-like symbolism, and cheeky references to being a “six-gun lover” and “a colt in your stable” bound to make any big-skirted Western beauty go a bit wobbly at the knees. Extra points too for getting the movie title into the song.
*The Band: Starship The Movie:* Mannequin (1987)
Top Chart Position: Best Song nominee at the 1987 Oscars (missing out to that Dirty Dancing ditty), it also made number 1 in the US and UK and was the second biggest-selling single in Blighty that year.
How did the movie do? It made a very decent $42m despite a fierce critical panning and now has full cult status, not least because cult status is automatically bestowed on anything that happened in the ’80s involving the swoonsome Andrew McCarthy.
What’s the story? A frothy romantic-comedy in which a struggling young artist called Jonathan (McCarthy) falls hopelessly in love with an inanimate dummy that looks a lot like Kim Cattrall. She comes alive – literally – only when he’s around, which makes the basics of a day-to-day relationship kinda complex. Things get even worse when the store’s nefarious VP tries to steal the Cattrall-bot and all the other mannequins for good measure. Luckily, he rescues her and the two live happily ever after. We’re not sure how they pitched this one, but it sure sounds creepy written down.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Nope, and in a way we’re glad because there’s no easy way to write an uplifting song about falling in love with a lifeless plastic person. Instead, songwriter Albert Hammond wrote about his impending marriage to the love of his life, lending the romantic shenanigans a punch-the-air ‘80s optimism that might have been missing had the focus fallen on, say, the challenges of dating a shopfront dummy.
*The Band: Aerosmith
**The Film*: Armageddon (1998)
How did the movie do? It made $553m worldwide and was the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide, just beating Saving Private Ryan.
What’s the story? An asteroid “the size of Texas” is headed straight for Earth. As smaller meteors hit scenic cities worldwide, a team of oil-drillers led by Bruce Willis is recruited by NASA to prepare a special shuttle mission to intercept and destroy the rock. Unable to teach those dim-bulb astronauts all their blue-collar expertise, the team ends up heading into space themselves, there to use good ol’fashioned elbow grease and heroic self-sacrifice in the name of saving the planet for truth, justice, the American way, and Willis’ daughter Liv Tyler.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? When attempting to land a shuttle on a huge asteroid, it’s probably a good idea not to close your eyes or fall asleep, so that’s a good thing. But we missed the section of the film where someone sits and creepily watches his loved one sleeping. Also, if we’re charitable and assume that the whole thing is about Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck’s onscreen love affair, it’s still being sung by her actual real-life dad which is a bit wrong. If it’s meant to be about father/daughter love, the line “Even when I dream of you / The sweetest dream will never do” is also wrong. So it’s not a great fit, no.
*The Artist: Elton John
**The Movie*: The Lion King (1994)
Top Chart Position: This reached number 11 in the UK and number 18 in the US, low numbers out of all proportion to its lingering influence.
How did the movie do? It was the highest grossing movie of 1994, with more than $783m worldwide. It’s the highest-grossing 2D animated film ever, and the biggest non-Pixar Disney hit ever.
What’s the story? Simba is an adorable little lion cub who is tricked, by his conniving uncle Scar, into believing he’s responsible for the death of his father, Mufasa. Simba flees the pride lands and stays away for years (giving him time to grow up) before coming back, confronting Scar and winning back his kingdom after realizing that maybe it wasn’t his fault that Mufasa died after all. Then he gets the girl lion and lives happily ever after.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Wonder of wonders, they actually sort of do! Just one caveat: if life really is a circle, and it really does rule us all, Simba might want to watch his back as his own son gets bigger. While we’re not aware that he has a brother of his own who might be fratricidally inclined, it’s probably best to be wary of all close friends and family.
*The Band: Huey Lewis & The News
**The Movie:* Back To The Future (1985)
Top Chart Position: It was a US number one, and reached number nine in the UK.
How did the movie do? It was the highest-grossing film of 1985 at the US box office and has remained one of the best-loved films of the 1980s, sparking two sequels and legions of devoted but non-geeky fans.
What’s the story? Average teen Marty McFly (Michael J.Fox) enjoys hanging out with mad scientist-type Doc Brown – until he accidentally gets sent 30 years back in time when terrorists interrupt one of the Doc’s experiments with a modified DeLorean. There, Marty has to find the younger Doc and get a way home, ensure that he doesn’t break up his own parents’ marriage and so wipe himself out of existence, and introduce a generation to rock ‘n’ roll.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Not on your nelly. OK, arguably it’s “the power of love” that drives Marty to help unite his parents and save Doc Brown, but it’s equally arguable that it’s the power of self-preservation that’s responsible. The rest of the lyrics are definitely non-related: “Don’t need no credit card to ride this train”? Well of course not; the train doesn’t appear until Part III! “Change a hawk into a little white dove”? If anything, George McFly goes the other way. “That’s the power makes the world go ‘round”? No, that’s gravity, Huey. Dear oh dear: can someone ask Doc Brown to explain a few things?
The Artist:: Tina Turner
The Movie: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Top Chart Position: It reached number two in the US and number three in the UK, making it one of Tina Turner’s biggest global hits - and she had a few.
How did the movie do? The $36m is scooped at the box office was a big rise from Mad Max’s takings of $9m, although with bigger budgets to offset it wasn’t as big a smash as Mel Gibson’s other big ‘80s franchise. You know, the one that rhymes with ‘tethal heapon’.
What’s the story? Road warrior and leather-clad nomad Max (Gibson) arrives in Bartertown, looking for an outpost of civilisation in a post-nuclear wilderness and finding instead pig-fuelled brutality ruled with an ironclad fist by Aunty Entity (Turner). Max is forced into mano-a-mano combat in the Thunderdome – think an episode of Gladiators directed by Randy Couture – where he defeats the ogresome Blaster, only to be exiled by Entity when he refuses to administer the coup de gras. Outcast and dying, he is saved by a group of children who he eventually helps escape the arid hellhole for ‘Tomorrow-morrow land’, a mystical sanctuary that looks a lot like Sydney.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? They actually kinda do, although it does seem a bit rich that Aunty Entity is the one singing about living in fear when she’s the one executing people willy-nilly. It’s the musical equivalent of Hitler complaining that there's "a bit of an atmosphere in the bunker". Also, is she really right about the needing Bartertown not needing a hero? Maybe not from her point of view, but then that would make this the most self-serving movie anthem since time began. Surely any town fuelled by pig poo needs someone heroic.
The Band: Berlin
The Movie: Top Gun (1986)
Top Chart Position: It made number one on both sides of the Atlantic, and won an Oscar and Golden Globe for writers Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock.
How did the movie do? The biggest movie of 1986, albeit after a knife-edge race with Crocodile Dundee, the Bruckheimer/Simpson blockbuster snaffled a mighty $353m worldwide. That’s ten F-14 Tomcats, in case you were wondering.
What’s the story? The movie that for a time made ‘Somewhere in the Indian Ocean’ the coolest place on the planet, Top Gun was a love story wrapped in a boy’s-own epic, wrapped inside the best-looking recruitment ad ever. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise), all raw talent and shit-eating grin, flies by the seat of his pants all the way to the Top Gun Academy in Fightertown, California, taking co-pilot Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) and some serious daddy issues with him. There, he falls for smoking hot instructor Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), but, weighed down by his guilt for Goose’s accidental death, he loses his edge. To prove the point he gets Tim Robbins as his new co-pilot. Luckily, when the communists starts something near the USS Enterprise, he missile locks his way to redemption.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Yes and no. One of the ultimate popbusters, Berlin’s ballad went toe-to-toe with other ‘80s icons Harold Faltermeyer and Kenny Loggins on the soundtrack, launching synth-shaped missiles at our brains while tickling our earlobes with breathy lyrics about “secret places to hide” and “secret lovers’ games”. Sexy hide-and-seek seemed to be the order of the day lyrically, leaving aviation buffs muttering darkly about the absence of couplets rhyming, say, “alive” with “3G negative dive”. Fight plane boffins may have skipped to the Kenny Loggins, but big-haired romantics had this on repeat until the CD melted.
*The Artist: Glenn Frey
**The Movie:* Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Top Chart Position: Written by the Munich magician, Harold Faltermeyer, and Brit scorer Keith Forsey, and performer by ex-Eagle Glenn Frey, The Heat Is On made it to number two in the US. Sadly a massive outbreak of cloth-ear syndrome kept it from reaching the summits of the UK chart, too – it only oh-wo-ho’ed its way as far as the number 12 spot.
How did the movie do? Another big action movie with a big soundtrack (Axel F, anybody?), Beverly Hills Cop was the biggest smash of 1984, racking up the kind of sums that would make even Victor Maitland’s jaw drop ($316m to you and me).
What’s the story? Wise-cracking Detroit ‘tec Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) takes annual leave and heads to sunny LA to track down the people responsible for the murder of childhood pal Mikey Tandino. Using only his sharp wits, antsy new pals Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), and some handy bananas, he follows the trail right to art dealer Victor Maitland’s (Steven Berkoff) marbled doorstep. There’s car chases, shoot outs, more shoot outs and a nasty herpes simplex 10 scare before the maverick cop finally gets his man.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? While “the heat” (that’s the police, to the newcomer to ‘80s action jargon) were undeniably “on the street” in the movie (look out for the short, bald one and the tall dorky one) and they’re unquestionably “caught up in the action” (getting thrown through windows, thrown out of flash clubs and generally shot at a lot), you have to take serious issue with the “You can make a break, you can win or lose”-bit. Win or lose? Really? Suddenly it sounded like the theme tune to American Idol. Surely this is not what was intended.
The Artist: Whitney Houston
The Movie: The Bodyguard (1992)
Top Chart Position: It reached number one and it stayed there for 14 weeks in the US, and ten weeks in the UK. The song sold over 12 million copies worldwide. The album, meanwhile, is the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time.
How did the movie do? The film only managed third place in its opening weekend in the US, but went on to make $410.9m worldwide, which ain’t pocket change.
What’s the story? Super-duper-star Whitney Houston – sorry, Rachel Marron – has been receiving death threats. She hires Frank Farmer, an ex-Secret Service agent more down with Presidents than popsters, but his draconian security demands and her free-wheelin’ lifestyle soon clash. But then, as you do, they take some time out together, dance to some Dolly Parton and she threatens him with a samurai sword until they make out. Only he’s soon thinking with parts of his anatomy other than his brain, leaving her in danger until a last-minute cabin shoot-out. After that, they go their separate ways for NO REASON AT ALL, and she has a massive hit covering that Dolly song they canoodled to.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Well, sure, they’ll always love each other, but we’re still not clear exactly why they’d be in each other’s way, as the song says. Hell, he could always find her another bodyguard for the times when he’s too busy smooching; she can afford it. Also, we suppose the thought of the man you love killing your homicidal sister might qualify as “bittersweet memories”, but we’d’ve gone with “deeply conflicted, therapy-requiring traumas” ourselves.
*The Artist: Ray Parker Jr.
**The Movie*: Ghostbusters (1984)
Top Chart Position: It spent three weeks at number one in the US, and three weeks at number two in the UK. We’re pretty sure there’s a scatological joke to be made there, but we’re going to try not to.
How did the movie do? The film was the second-highest grosser of 1984 in the US, just behind Beverly Hills Cop, and had a final tally just a hair under $300m.
What’s the story? Three paranormal researchers, turfed out of their academic positions after their university funding is cut, turn ghost hunters around New York. But as the number of spooks grows exponentially, it becomes clear that something big is going on. Like, vengeful-gods-from-another-dimension big. And they have skintight suits and Bowie mullets! Run for your lives!
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Like a glove, for the most part, but there are a few creative licences taken all the same. The film includes not a single “invisible man sleeping in your bed”, while the repeated line in the chorus which claims, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” is demonstrably untrue of most of the cast for most of the running time. Still, it’s a nice sentiment.
*The Artist: Trisha Yearwood
**The Movie*: Con Air (1997)
Top Chart Position: This was released more or less simultaneously by Yearwood, who sings it in the film, and LeAnn Rimes, who recorded it first but saw the filmmakers reject her version as overly poppy. Rimes’ take peaked at number two in the US and spent 69 weeks on the chart, also reaching number seven in the UK; record company executives stopped printing Yearwood’s version after she got to number 23, fearing that the sales of one would cannibalise the other.
How did the movie do? It took $101m in the US, putting it 15th for the year, and $224m worldwide for 17th place. That’s a long way behind that year’s number one, Titanic, but still respectable pocket change whatever way you look at it.
What’s the story? Ex-Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) kills a man in a bar fight and is sent to prison for seven years, leaving his pregnant wife and daughter alone. Unfortunately for him his journey home on parole coincides with a prison transfer of dangerous criminals to a new super-max security facility, and once the convicts get loose it’s up to Poe to stop them, with no help but the little that John Cusack’s grounded US Marshal can provide, and a bunny in a box to take care of. Looks like he’s going to need a white vest and a mullet to sort this one out. Luckily, he’s equipped with both.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? The lyrics are a little one-note, basically a long whinge about how one person needs the other person to live. “There’d be no sun in my sky” without them, that sort of thing. Frankly, it seems like the lady doth protest too much to us; Monica Potter (assuming the song’s about her) could soldier on just as she has done for seven years already, and if it’s about Poe, it seems a little girlier than anything he’d admit to.
The Artist: Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito
The Movie: The Karate Kid (1984)
Top Chart Position: The song was released on the movie’s soundtrack, but didn’t show up on the Billboard Top 100. This might explain why, to the best of our knowledge, we’d never heard the verse before.
How did the movie do? The movie made $90.5m at the US box office, ranking fifth for the year. Not bad – although the remake last year took $358m worldwide.
What’s the story? Weedy teen Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves to a new town and immediately becomes a whipping boy – or at least roundhouse-kicking boy – for the local gang of rich, handsome karate jocks (eh?). Janitor and secret martial-arts master Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) trains him up by dint of encouraging him to perform manual labour at his country hideaway, and in between getting his house painted and cars waxed, turns Daniel into a karate machine. Sweeping the legs or no, he’s the best around, and nothin’s gonna ever bring him down.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Bet the verses of this song come as a shock, eh? Empire could swear we’d never heard them before, despite knowing every beat of the chorus. Anyway, if you consider winning a local karate tournament equivalent to being “the best around” they’re not a terrible fit. This was originally written for Rocky III, and considered for Flashdance, which might be why there’s a lyric about “history always repeats itself” even though in Daniel-San’s case it, er, hadn’t yet.
The Artist: Maria McKee
The Movie: Days Of Thunder (1990)
Top Chart Position: This spent four weeks at number one in the UK, but in the US it only managed the number 28 spot in the “Adult Contemporary” section, which sounds a bit risqué if you ask us.
How did the movie do? This landed in the 13th spot at both the US box office and worldwide in 1990, which may be unlucky for some but is okay if you make $157.9m worldwide.
What’s the story? The unfortunately named Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) is trying to make his name in NASCAR racing, but his rivalry with champion driver Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker) lands them both in hospital, where Trickle hooks up with his doctor (Nicole Kidman) in complete defiance of medical ethics. Meanwhile Trickle (snigger – sorry, but who came up with these names?) forms a new rivalry with his replacement and- listen, it hardly matters. Big cars go vroom. Tom Cruise grins and gets over his father issues with Robert Duvall’s help. The end.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? The plot is basically Top Gun With Cars, but the song lyrics seem to be a bit more – how shall we put this? – carnally focused. Most of the lines are at least suggestive (“Cover me, leave me breathless”) and McKee’s delivery seems a little – aw heck – orgasmic. So let’s just assume that they fit the romantic subplot with then-Cruise girlfriend Nicole Kidman.
*The Artists: Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
**The Movie*: An Officer And A Gentleman (1982)
Top Chart Position: A big 'ol US number one.
How did the movie do? O&G was the third highest grossing movie of 1982, behind E.T. and Tootsie. Critics loved it too, and it collected a hefty eight Academy Award nominations with two wins, one for this song.
What’s the story? Zach Mayo (Richard Gere), a talented but directionless naval ensign, joins the elite Officer Candidate School hoping to become a pilot and make something of his life. Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Lou Gossett Jr.) spots his talents but pushes him harder than his fellow candidates, believing him to be a big slacker. The two clash and slug it out, metaphorically and in the actual 'slugging-it-out' sense, while Zach tries to find enough time off all the boot polishing to woo factory girl Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger). Despite tragedy and hardship, Zach makes it through and gets the girl, who turns out to be the only thing standing between him and oblivion.
Do the lyrics fit the plot? The song, penned by Jack Nitzsche and folk star Buffy Sainte-Marie, was initially dismissed by Gere and producer Don Simpson as too corny for the movie’s final scene. Happily, director Taylor Hackford insisted they watch the scene – in which a Daz-sponsored Zach carries Paula from the factory in his arms – with the music, and they changed their minds. It was a good call because “Love lift us up where we belong” has to go down as one of the most eye-stingingly poignant lyrics in movie soundtrack history, especially harmonied with the gravelly tones of Joe Cocker and the gentler voice of Jennifer ‘Time Of My Life’ Warnes. Unless we missed a whole lot of flapping and swooping, we’re saying the eagles were a metaphor.
*The Artist: Bryan Adams
**The Movie*: Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)
Top Chart Position: For a time this was so ubiquitous on both sides of the Atlantic that people were spotted cutting their own ears off in the street. Bryan Adams sat atop the UK chart for what seemed like six years but actually turned out to be four months weeks. It was number one just about everywhere else, too. For the Canadian rocker, July and August 1991 were even better than the summer of ’69, six-string and all.
How did the movie do? Quite well. Okay, enormously well. Well enough for the two Kevins, Costner and Reynolds, to buy a fully pimped-up castle of their own. Which they did, only they called it Waterworld. We all know what happened to that.
What’s the story? Costner’s Robin of Locksley returns from the Crusades with new pal Azeem (Morgan Freeman) only to find Olde England in turmoil with a motley crew of huckster bishops, witches and sheriffs running the place into the ground. Making the journey from Dover to Nottingham in record time, Robin favourites Little John, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck on ForestBook, sets up a group of wood-dwelling maniacs called the Merry Men and updates his status to ‘Taking from the rich and giving to the poor’. In between battling the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) and baffling the locals with his accent, he pokes falls for the beautiful Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Evil is vanquished in time for a forest send-off.
Do the lyrics fit plot? Part of the trend of pointless brackets in song titles that reached its nadir with Enrique Iglesias’ Do You Know (Ping Pong Song), Bryan Adams’ Oscar-nominated ballad was unavoidable for several grim months in the summer of 1991. If its chart ubiquity could be attributed to those seriously romantic lyrics about loving someone so much you’d lay down your life for them, and a catchy tune that buried into your brain like a graboid, it’s not just the dodgy parenthesis that raised eyebrows on the soundtrack. C’mon, Robin is supposed to be a man of the people, hero for the downtrodden, totem for the belittled, not a lovelorn teenager with time on his hands. If he everything he does, he's doing for Maid Marian, where does that leave the downtrodden? Just sayin’…
*The Artist: Phil Collins
**The Movie:* Against All Odds (1981)
Top Chart Position: A number one in America and a number two hit in Blighty.
How did the movie do? Whether it was the lack of dazzling white naval threads or the underwhelming reviews, Taylor Hackford’s follow up to the wildly successful An Officer And A Gentleman did a soggy $21m at the box office.
What’s the story? Bad guy Jake (James Wood) cajoles fading football star Terry (Jeff Bridges) into hunting down his girlfriend Jessie (Rachel Ward), who’s pinched his nightclub dosh and headed to Mexico. This being the Dude – albeit younger and not in a robe – he finds her but decides to chill on the beach instead, where they fall for each other and recreate the bit in From Here To Eternity where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster scare off the turtles. Jake, incensed, sends someone else down to find them, but Jessie shoots him before scarpering straight back to... well, Jake. Terry scratches his head, then follows her back. The pair declare their love, but not before the trigger-happy Jessie has shot Jake too. Their affair is ended by plea bargain, with Terry taking a job with the Miami Dolphins and Jessie joining The Expendables (we think).
Do the lyrics fit the plot? Before Mariah Carey and Westlife got their mitts on it, this angsty pre-emo anthem was copyright of Phil Collins’ broken ticker. He wrote it when his first marriage ended and guess what? The lyrics fit the movie perfectly. Terry is wondering how Jessie could just walk a way from him and there is nothing left to remind him of her, especially if you ignore that growing pile of dead bodies. Sure, he doesn’t do any actual crying – this was ‘80s when it was okay for a leading man to cry, but only if he’d been tear-gassed by Kurtwood Smith – but his heart is definitely broken when he and Jessie are forced apart. Collins won an Oscar nom for this effort, and Hackford directed his promo too, presumably as a handy point of reference for this very feature.
*The Artist: Céline Dion
**The Movie:* Titanic (1997)
Top chart position: Number one just about everywhere on Earth, and possibly on other planets too, it gradually shifted from delicately poignant to mildly annoying to ear-loppingly hateful in the space of six long months.
Did the film do well? For 13 years it remained the biggest box-office smash in movie history, bagging nine Oscars along the way. So that’s a giant yes, even if it’s now dwarfed by a certain blue behemoth.
What’s the story? Rich girl Rose (Kate Winslet) meets loveable scamp Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) aboard the biggest ocean liner in the history of the world. Little do they know that watery disaster lies ahead. The girl falls for boy; the boy falls right back; fiddles are played. While Billy Zane is cocking a belligerent eyebrow in boy’s direction, the ship’s captain takes his eye off the ball and a massive iceberg does the rest.
Do the lyrics fit? James Horner’s tune and Will Jennings’ lyrics are pitch-perfect for big-lunged Canadian songstress Céline Dion. James Cameron may have taken some convincing to include it on the movie’s score, but he was eventually seduced by this stirring hymn to undying love and its propensity to defy everything from the ravages of time to serious aquatic catastrophe. With lines like, “Once more you open the door/And you're here in my heart”, we’re not at all surprised, even if hearts don’t technically have doors.
*The Band: Roxette
** The Movie:* Pretty Woman (1990)
Top chart position: A US number one, but not quite as successful in the UK.
Did the film do well? Well, global grosses of nearly $500m weren’t too shabby. Garry Marshall’s movie remains one of the most successful Hollywood romances of all time. Julia Roberts got an Oscar nod, too, doncha know.
What’s the story? Beautiful hooker with a heart meets financier with twinkly grin and a limo so big it can fit other limos in its glove box. What follows involves flirting, fireworks and other things beginning in ‘f’ far too rude to mention here. Heady highs and weepy lows also ensue. Rodeo Drive gets the Mary Portas treatment. Work interrupts romance. Romance interrupts work. Work gives up and goes home, but only after Richard Gere has chinned Jason Alexander and declared undying love for Julia Roberts. Everyone lives happily ever after. We stop sobbing and reluctantly get back to our humdrum lives.
Do the lyrics fit? Hair-product popsters Roxette deliver a break-up ballad that’s pitch perfect for the sobby bits when it looks like the fairy tale ending we’re praying for isn’t going to happen, but the Swedish weather metaphors (“It's where the water flows, it's where the wind blows”) are a little much for the heart-warming denouement. Plus, the film is set in sunny LA where the wind only blows when someone turns on the air-con.