Space Jam: a slam-dunk sound­track

Is the 1996 clas­sic fea­tur­ing R Kelly, Seal and Coo­lio, the best sound­track of them all? The cul­tural hoops we’ve been shoot­ing this week

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Dean Van Nguyen

Who could have pre­dicted the lin­ger­ing le­gacy of Space Jam? The film’s out­line reads like a Hol­ly­wood ex­ec­u­tive’s drug-in­duced fever dream when you lay it out in the day­light.

The movie took Michael Jor­dan, a sports megas­tar with no real act­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and su­per­im­posed him play­ing bas­ket­ball with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and some other six-decade old car­toon char­ac­ters. The whole thing was pack­aged with an ex­pen­sive sound­track and, for the hell of it, Bill Mur­ray was thrown into the mixer. If, like me, you were 11-years-old back in 1996, of course you loved this crazy thing. You were pow­er­less to re­sist.

For my gen­er­a­tion, Space Jam is gold-stan­dard nostal­gia. The last­ing af­fec­tion for the film is be­ing reaf­firmed with the reis­sue of its sound­track (you’ll even be able to pick it up on vinyl). De­spite be­ing, for all in­tents and pur­poses, a kids film, Warner Bros threw buck­ets of cash to fund orig­i­nal mu­sic to keep teens and adults bump­ing their Sony Walk­man. Pulling in some of the big­gest stars of the mid-1990s, the re­sult was a rip­pling mix­tape of pop bel­ters, mas­sive bal­lads and steely street rap.

The rise of MTV in the 1980s trail­blazed a mar­riage of mu­sic and vi­su­als that block­busters like Space Jam seemed to feed off. The funky gui­tar licks and smooth vo­cals of Seal’s Fly Like An Ea­gle fit Jor­dan’s grav­i­ty­de­fy­ing dunks as smoothly as His Royal Air­ness once sank jump shots.

The movie’s five “Mon­stars” were rep­re­sented by rap­pers B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coo­lio, LL Cool J and Method Man on the rasp­ing boom-bap of Hit ‘Em High (The Mon­stars An­them). R Kelly’s soar­ing I Be­lieve I Can Fly – a ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence in pop cul­ture when it was re­leased – no doubt in­spired bur­geon­ing bas­ket­ball play­ers to spend ex­tra hours on the court.

Hol­ly­wood tac­tic

It was a com­mon Hol­ly­wood tac­tic back then. Block­buster pop discs were cre­ated to help pro­mote the movies. It was the op­po­site of, say, Hans Zim­mer’s sweep­ing or­ches­tra­tion or Quentin Tar­entino’s dusty crate digging. Th­ese sound­tracks threw up some hid­den clas­sics, indie crossovers and weird col­lab­o­ra­tions. Space Jam fea­tures Bas­ket­ball Jones, a Barry White-Chris Rock col­lab­o­ra­tion that was used to drama­tise the thoughts of bas­ket­ball star Charles Barkley.

Re­leased in 1997, the Bat­man

Hang time: Bill Mur­ray, Bugs Bunny and Michael Jor­dan in Space Jam

For­ever sound­track fea­tured U2, R Kelly, Nick Cave, The Flam­ing Lips and PJ Har­vey. Record la­bel Def Jam loaded The Nutty Pro­fes­sor with its big­gest star. Will Smith per­formed lead sin­gles off his own films. Des­tiny’s Child were in­spired by the Char­lie’s Angels movie to write In­de­pen­dent Woman. Limp Bizkit cov­ered the Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble theme tune. Be­ing forced to shoe­horn in th­ese tracks was prob­a­bly a film­maker’s night­mare. Tim Bur­ton, for ex­am­ple, might have been a Prince fan, but he was pushed by the stu­dio into in­clud­ing Prince’s new mu­sic in Bat­man. It helped that it worked. See­ing the movie and then play­ing the sound­track all sum­mer, made the whole thing feel like an event. It’s a prac­tice you don’t see too much th­ese days.

With Space Jam 2 in devel­op­ment, maybe it’ll pro­duce an­other knock­out sound­track. The film is slated to star cur­rent NBA su­per­star LeBron James, who last week took to In­sta­gram to pre­view his early copy of Ken­drick La­mar’s new al­bum DAMN.. If ex­e­cuted poorly, the film risks an­ger­ing the loyal dis­ci­ples of the orig­i­nal.

Still, if a few Space Jam veterans can be roped into record­ing, and if King James can par­lay his con­nec­tions with the likes of Ken­drick and Lil Wayne to bring them into the fold, it’s tan­talis­ing to think how hard the mu­sic might bang.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.