Everyone talks about the instability that arrives at the end of a century or millennium. In fact, life in the late ’90s has taken on a comfortable predictability—another White House scandal, another wave of ’70s nostalgia, another batch of summer blockbusters with accompanying blockbuster-oriented soundtracks, such as the following:
>>Godzilla: The Album There’s something fascinating about Puff Daddy’s crass remake of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” here called “Come With Me.” As remakes go, it’s so over-the-top and unexpected that it takes on an audacious appeal—and what better riff to represent mass urban destruction? If only the rest of Godzilla matched it. Lumbering through it is music as murky and joyless as the movie itself, from the likes of silverchair and Days of the New. A perfect match of movie and music, but in all the wrong ways—if there’s a dinosaur here, Godzilla unwittingly reveals that it’s grunge.
Meanwhile, Jamiroquai and Ben Folds Five pay competent homage to Stevie Wonder and Joe Jackson, respectively, while Rage Against the Machine bluster on, this time against “the thin line between entertainment and war” (adding “Godzilla pure motherf — -in’ filler/Get your eyes off the real killa”). That’s as cutting or as edgy as the album gets. It’s telling when the best cut on this mostly pop soundtrack is an orchestral one—David Arnold’s theme, which shivers with monstrous anticipation. D+
>>Armageddon: The Album From all indications, the summer’s second imminent-world-destruction flick continues film producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s merger of noisy, overpowering action with noisy, overpowering music—his trademarks since 1983’s Flashdance and 1986’s Top Gun. Unfortunately, his musical tastes appear to be stuck in that same era. Armageddon‘s soundtrack (out June 23) is dominated by the same pumped, steroid-synthesizer corporate rock of those earlier films: Bob Seger, Journey, and Jon Bon Jovi act as if Reagan’s still President. Perhaps the sensitive-guy power ballads—like Aerosmith’s formulaic, grandly orchestrated “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”—are meant to amplify the movie’s apocalyptic theme. But with accompaniment like this, you almost pray for a deadly asteroid. C
>>Hav Plenty: Music From the Motion Picture The consistent flavor of Babyface-associated soul is enough to make anyone yearn for new ingredients. But there’s no denying that when applied to the soundtracks he’s overseen—Waiting to Exhale, Soul Food—the approach lends the discs a uniformity otherwise lacking in movie collections. Babyface’s steam-bath-soul trademarks (spare, clean grooves and buttery melodies) adorn the tracks of Hav Plenty—from Babyface and Des’ree’s slow-burning remake of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” to newcomer Shya’s luscious “I Can’t Help It.” The ways in which such varied vocalists as Faith Evans, rapper DMX, and Erykah Badu peacefully coexist also recall the Exhale album. Still, Hav Plenty, overstuffed as it is with cliched hip-hop-R&B material like Queen Pen and Tracy Lee’s “Rock the Body” and Blackstreet’s “I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” falls just short of being a true musical feast. B
>>The X-Files: The Album One expects an album connected to television’s most cryptic series to be equally off center, as was the case with 1996’s various-twisted-artists Songs in the Key of X. And about half of the soundtrack to the series’ big-screen debut lives up to those hopes: Noel Gallagher ditches his mouthpiece brother in favor of hip-hop drums, piano, and computer tweaks, conjuring a mood of both spaciousness and foreboding, while Ween envision interplanetary love shacks (“the people all dance with their big long arms and a peach in their pants”) to straight-faced boogie.
Ultimately, The X-Files isn’t eccentric enough. The inclusion of thudding modern rockers like Tonic and Filter (the latter doing a grinding remake of Three Dog Night’s “One”) feels designed more for the charts than for the screen. And Sting and Aswad’s remake of “Invisible Sun”—which turns the Police’s song about Northern Ireland into beachcomber reggae—is twisted in ways even Mulder couldn’t imagine. B
>>Hope Floats: Music From the Motion Picture While executive producer David Was oversaw the X-Files disc, his former Was (Not Was) partner Don Was helms (with director Forest Whitaker) the music for the Texas romance Hope Floats. The comparisons make it easy to hear the origins of Was (Not Was)’s eclectic weirdness. Don has made his name as purveyor of grown-up roots pop, a genre that runs through the album like wild horses. Sometimes it works: Witness Gillian Welch’s “Paper Wings,” which resurrects the dark side of Patsy Cline. Yet Was’ penchant for adult-oriented tastefulness also leads to sop like Bob Seger and Martina McBride’s “Chances Are” (little more than a rewrite of Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonite”) and not one but two vanilla-wafer covers of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” (by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood). Worst offense: the tin whistle on Bryan Adams’ “When You Love Someone,” such a blatant grasp for “My Heart Will Go On” success that it makes you want to throw a hunk of ice at the stereo. B-
>>Can’t Hardly Wait: Music From the Motion Picture Most soundtracks pander to any and every radio demographic that can help sell records; at least the companion disc for this John Hughes wannabe romp is up-front about such calculation. The album is roughly divided into neat thirds: an opening splash of trendy alt-rock (remixes and new tracks by Third Eye Blind, Smash Mouth, and Blink 182, with Brougham’s ska-garage “I Walked In” the best of a mediocre batch). Then comes a slew of hip-hop and R&B (including decent remixes of Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes tracks), followed by a batch of dis-Counting Crows angst rock (Feeder, Black Lab, and Dog’s Eye View). The movie’s title is lifted from the old Replacements song, which is included for a dose of ’80s nostalgia. An astutely programmed soundtrack, yes — but for all the effort, the highlight is still Rhymes sampling the Knight Rider theme. C+
>>Dr. Dolittle: The Album Superficially, the music for Eddie Murphy’s contribution to this summer’s cineplexes is indicative of the contrived nature of so many contemporary soundtracks. Here’s a film about a man who talks to the animals, but instead of songs from the original ’60s musical, we’re treated to lover-man R&B and lascivious party jams, none of which have any apparent connection to the film. The good news is that it may be the summer’s best ready-made party tape. From smooth-talking balladry (Ginuwine’s “Same Ol’ G” to Playa’s “Your Dress”) to a Miami bass workout (69 Boyz’ “Woof Woof”) to a worthy Aretha remake (“Rocksteady,” featuring a powerhouse wail by former En Vogue diva Dawn Robinson), the album makes up for in sultry moves and shameless hooks what it lacks in logic. Dr. Dolittle has an animal magnetism all its own. A-