The Return of the Cheesiest Soundtrack Singles of All Time

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The Return of the Cheesiest Soundtrack Singles of All Time

By Daniel Carlson | Seriously Random Lists | January 7, 2013 | Comments ()

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A few years ago, I put together a list of the cheesiest soundtrack singles of all time. The list was more fun to put together than I let on, mostly because in my mid-20s I was dedicated to kind of reflexively hating things without actually examining them. (I'm amazed Pitchfork never tried to hire me.) The truth is that I've got a soft spot for songs cut just for movies, in part because they remind me of the films of my childhood and in part because they don't happen that much anymore. Movie marketing today is geared more toward in-theater upsells (3-D, IMAX, etc.) or home-video consumption (Blu-rays with free digital downloads). But for a few years, one of the best ways to raise your movie's profile was to attach a corny ballad. It's in the spirit of big-shouldered, hairsprayed nostalgia that I present a modest follow-up of more of the cheesiest soundtrack singles of all time. You're welcome.

"It Must Have Been Love," Roxette (Pretty Woman)
I was a weird kid. I remember borrowing this soundtrack from a friend's parents in middle school. Put away that Metallica disc, man; I'm spinning some Go West. (I did not get a lot of girls.)

"Blaze of Glory (Theme From Young Guns II)," Bon Jovi (Young Guns II)
Bon Jovi's faux-cowboy vibe was the perfect match for the slick 1980s Hollywood version of the Wild West. The song is basically a sequel to "Wanted Dead or Alive," in the best way possible.

"I'll Remember," Madonna (With Honors)
This is a great example of early 1990s adult pop. Bonus: the music video is of the classic "Just show the singer watching clips from the movie" school.

"Let the River Run," Carly Simon (Working Girl)
Working Girl is representative of so much of 1980s Hollywood: sexual hijinks, a Wall Street setting, general themes of empowerment. It's the gender-reversed version of The Secret of My Success, in a way. Carly Simon's upbeat ballad is the perfect fit.

"(I've Had) The Time of My Life," Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (Dirty Dancing)
You know you know all the words.

"Glory of Love," Peter Cetera (The Karate Kid, Part II)
This song also appeared on Cetera's Solitude/Solitaire, which was released three days after the movie opened. The movie's not as good as the first one, but the song's legit.

"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)," Phil Collins (Against All Odds)
I'd put money down that most people have forgotten the 1984 film Against All Odds, or that Phil Collins' ultimate break-up song was originally written for the movie. Interestingly, the soundtrack also featured Peter Gabriel, a reminder that you couldn't do anything in the '80s without bumping into someone from Genesis.

"Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Christopher Cross (Arthur)
A prime example of the lighter-than-air 1980s pop, courtesy of the strangely compelling tenor of the very ordinary-looking Christopher Cross.

"I Believe I Can Fly," R. Kelly (Space Jam)
In the mid-1990s, you could make a movie about Michael Jordan and Bill Murray playing basketball with cartoons and offer the prime soundtrack slot to an unstable nut job who would later get caught peeing on ladies. It was a boom economy, kids.

"Vindicated," Dashboard Confessional (Spider-Man 2)
Dashboard Confessional was popular with a lot of my peers when I was in college. I never got into them, mostly because I was too busy wondering why my goatee-and-muttonchops combination wasn't working for me. Trivia: you can make your own Dashboard song by switching around the words "sidewalk," "moonlight," "contempt," and "prom."

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a member of the Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. You can also find him on Twitter.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • prince_of_montagu

    I thought i was going to see Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" from Mannequin on this list and i was sharpening my knife to cut a bitch. But it's not here so no bitchcutting shall be done.

    Ok, the song is a bit cheesy but it is like crack in audio form. i instantly feel happy whenever i hear it.

  • John W

    Bill and Jennifer are going to live forever just like Coco dammit!

    "...IIIIIII've haaaaaaaad the time of my liiiiiife....I swear it's the truth....."

  • Idrathernotsay

    I also want to stand up for Phil. I love Against All Odds, I'm getting wet eyes just thinking about it. He nails the feeling of being dumped, bringing out the sort of simmering anger underneath that so many soppy songs can't hit. And I also agree that the movie isn't half bad. Jeff Bridges is hot in it, and he gets a few snappy lines.

  • If you ignore everything in the movie besides shirtless Jeff Bridges, no, the movie isn't that bad. Maybe I just hate 1980s film noire throwbacks. I, for one, was relieved why they freeze-framed and started playing Phil's song at the end.

  • Atoz15

    I love this list.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I still love that Phil Collins song.

  • jollies

    Eye of the Tiger. Although it wasn't originally released on a soundtrack album, it was re-mixed and re-released -- with actual Tiger Growls, making it that much more awesome -- on the soundtrack for Rocky III. It was also nominated for an Acadamy Award, which says a lot about either the Acadamy or our taste in music in 1983.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    "Blaze of Glory" is still the only song by (Jon) Bon Jovi I can tolerate. It has some unusual harmonies that I quite like.

  • True story about "I Believe I Can Fly": I was substituting at a school for the differently-abled. I took my class of six to music therapy where they were preparing for a performance along with two other classes. Being completely burned out on I Believe, I groaned when I realized it was their finale number. Let me just say, you haven't heard that song until you've heard it performed with pure joy and passion by 18 differently-abled kids at the top of their lungs. I flat out sobbed.

  • mats19

    not to go all emo but vindicated wasn't created solely for the movie but was released on the album as well as the same time as there actual album... high school me is proud to know this... adult me is sad for myself.

  • PDamian

    This list fails without "Looking Through the Eyes of Love," from Ice Castles. Melissa Manchester at her syrupiest. The soundtrack to a thousand million swooning little girls kick-started into puberty. Robbie Benson! Ice skating! Blind ice skater! He gives her a rose! It's okay if she's blind, because she can see through the eyes of looooooooooooove! (Kill me now for knowing all this ...)

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Oh, yes. Making things worse: at the suggestion of my church choir director, I sang it for an 8th grade talent show. In 1990. (instead of my bf's suggestion of Tiffany's "Coulda Been")

  • MissAmynae

    He forgot about the flowers....*sob*

  • rn3

    One night in Bangkok ftw

  • Guest

    If by "cheesy" you mean "delicious."

  • rn3

    ha - cheesy = delicious

  • TheOriginalMRod

    This makes me want to shoot my ears off.

  • firedmyass

    Go ahead. You apparently aren't using them correctly.

  • TheOriginalMRod


  • Slash

    Holy crap, these are terrible songs.

  • SCG

    Wow - hate to show my age here, but I can clearly remember the day I bought the 45 record of "Against All Odds" - I absolutely adored that song - still do, actually!

  • FireLizardQueen

    I loved Roxette then and I will always love them. Where do you think Robyn got her hair inspiration?

    Also, Against All Odds amazing and if you hear it at the right time during a break up it with shred you into tiny little pieces.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I owned Pretty Woman soundtrack on cassette. And now I own it on cd. I refuse to be a shamed. I'm so tanguhuheld. (and Roxette was one of the first artists I started getting cassettes for. You know. All 2.)

  • Gina Rivera

    Wow all these songs are unbelievably bad! Awesome.

  • Mrcreosote

    The entire soundtrack to Streets of Fire. Michael Pare and Willem Dafoe fighting for Diane Lane? "Nowhere Fast"?

    You and me we're goin' nowhere slowly
    And we've gotta get away from the past
    There's nothin' wrong with goin' nowhere, baby
    But we should be goin' nowhere fast

  • Gina Rivera

    Dude still need to see that one!

  • dizzylucy

    I was reading this list and feeling cheesy that I grew up loving all those songs, except for Arthur's Theme, which was a little too mellow even for this 80s kid.
    And then you had to go and list that R. Kelly song. That song is my musical nemesis. And it will now mercilessly be stuck in my head.

  • Gina Rivera

    don't listen to it!

  • lowercase_ryan

    I suggest a similar post: songs that threatened to ruin an Olympic games.

    I nominate Hungry Eyes by Eric Carmen.

  • googergieger

    Why should I worry?! Why should I caaaaaa-aaaaaare? I may not have a dime!

    But I got street savoir faire!

    I may or may not own this.

    Mostly may.

  • duckandcover

    I scrolled all the way up to see if I'd missed that one. Such a good song.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I have a feeling cartoon movies are exempt.

  • JH

    I think a better Phil Collins submission would have been "Separate Lives", a duet he recorded with Marilyn Martin for the long forgotten 80s movie "White Nights." Those of us who are of that era have tried to forget Hollywood trying to make Mikhail Baryshinkov a movie star, and nothing says 80s like a ballet-dancing leading man.

  • Amanda

    UM no that movie is awesome. Features some excellent dancing and frigging Gregory Hines! Isabella Rosellini was luminous! Ranks right up there with Cutting Edge for my formative movies.

  • catagisreading

    I LOVED Young Guns and Young Guns 2. Young Keifer YUM. I was obsessed, as only a teenage girl can be.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Cause we're in the spirit world asshole.

    Never gets old.

  • Brown

    Despite my love for the song, I submit "What Does It Take" by Honeymoon Suite from One Crazy Summer.

  • Brown

    Also, "Man in Motion" from St. Elmo's Fire.

  • dizzylucy

    I LOVED that song. I have no idea why, but I did.

  • Brown

    It's like a musical energy drink.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    that is a perfect description.

  • Blake


    500 miles - Betty & Joon (and most recently Pitch Perfect)
    The Power of Love - BTTF
    Get Out Of My Dreams - License to Drive


    “It Must Have Been Love,” Roxette (Pretty Woman) - The whole soundtrack is pretty much fromage...

    Sadly all of the songs above can be found daily on your typical soft rock station.

    This all reminds me of:

    "What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

    Rob Gordon - High Fidelity.

  • Enrique del Castillo

    The first time I heard Glory of Love I was watching TV at 3am with my girlfriend. It became our "ironic song" (we had an indie folk song as our "unironic song"...yeah I was kind of dumb in college)

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    No Will Smith? Or does he have his own category all his own. He raps happy!

  • duckandcover
  • InternetMagpie

    I legitimately love Against All Odds and I think I will listen to it now and imagine a young, shirtless Jeff Bridges willing to throw it all away for me.

  • pajiba

    Anyone that loves Phil Collins and esp. "Against All Odds," should listen to what is the greatest episode of "This American Life" of ALL TIME. http://www.thisamericanlife.or...

    EDIT: Oh sh*t: I see that Pajiba_Pragmatist has already linked to it. DITTO.

  • Bert_McGurt

    If it makes you feel any better Dan, I'm betting the guys with the Metallica disc weren't getting a lot of girls either.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    OK, I'm going to stand up for ol' Phil. While a lot of his music was so polished that it had a waxy finish, the man does know how to write a hook.

    And with the particular song you quote here, it wasn't written for the movie in the abstract, Collins wrote it in response to the end of his marriage.

    There's a fascinating segment on "This American Life" where he talked about the song, but also what goes into a great breakup song. Here's a link to the transcript - http://www.thisamericanlife.or...

    Beyond that, the movie itself is actually decent. a healthy amount of intrigue, skin and moral ambiguity.

  • BierceAmbrose

    Well, now that one's bleeding again.


  • Guest

    All good, but what I'm really interested in is your latest set of business cards. Please to show me how ecru they are.

    (Sorry, couldn't resist...IT JUST HAPPENED!)

  • logan

    C'mon old Charlie Brown wrote "sussudio" and no one can defend that.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Let's see, the Beatles did "Octopus's Garden" and worse, that weird yoko and john sound melange at the beginning of one of the albums, Elvis had "Where do you come from" where he pretended to be an Opera singer, Bob Dylan had "All the tired horses" and his weird attempt at rapping on a Kurtis Blow album, Bruce Springsteen has "Queen of the Supermarket" and U2... well let's just agree that U2 has as many disasters as amazements.

    So yeah, Phil has some total disasters, and yeah, a lot of his stuff was the nadir of overproduced 80's crap. But the man can write a hook.

  • I've got two ears and a heart, don't I?

  • KatSings

    First, when I saw what this post was, I immediately thought of Glory of Love. My husband and I just re-watched that movie, and so it was on my mind.

    Second, I could not hate Let the River Run more. I had to direct first graders singing this (and maybe signing? my memory is hazy) at a performing arts camp. So this song was especially evil. But the main reason why? IT'S THE ONLY DAMN SONG IN THE MOVIE. Seriously. They play about 8 variations on it, but the vast majority of Working Girl is scored exclusively to this song. By the end of it, you want to punch Carly Simon in the face and yell "BAD" at her like she was a puppy who peed on your carpet.

  • Hey man, Against All Odds ain't cheesy. It's a damn excellent song!

  • No mention of Bryan Adams??? The man is the cheesy soundtrack king!

  • Gina Rivera

    oh yeah huh? Everything I Do (I Do It For You)...?

  • Bert_McGurt

    Don't worry, he's on the first list.

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