As inevitable as tie-in toys and just as disposable, blockbuster soundtrack albums are now merely part of the Hollywood marketing grind. That view, while justified, still sells these records short. Movie soundtracks have become useful educational tools for all facets of the entertainment business — not to mention for life in general! For instance:

Soundtrack as Barometer: Big-budget soundtracks are now as much a marker of success as the Billboard charts. Name the current platinum-plaque holder — the Smashing Pumpkins, Jewel, R. Kelly, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — and you’ll find them on the shamelessly opportunistic Batman & Robin. The Pumpkins’ two tracks have identical lyrics but different moods: ”The End Is the Beginning Is the End” is standard hurricane roar, while ”The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning” is sulky synth pop. R. Kelly outdoes Des’Ree in the feel-good arena with his sumptuous ”Gotham City,” while Jewel contributes an orchestrated remake of her ”Foolish Games.” (Isn’t it curious that she keeps re-recording songs from her weakly produced debut? Maybe she should remake the entire disc, call it Pieces of You Too!, and be done with it.)

Such a multiple-crossover strategy has huge sales potential, but as with many current pop soundtracks, it also results in collections as incoherent as the Batman films themselves. Batman & Robin jams in a symphonic overture, agreeable R&B (Eric Benet), a dash of techno (Underworld), and intentionally clattering alt-rock (Soul Coughing, Arkarna). The whole mess will make you want to head for a cave — without bats. C

Batman & Robin
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