Why the Charlie's Angels soundtrack is still the fiercest, funkiest girl-power playlist ever
Charlie’s Angels, McG’s film based on the 1970s TV series of the same name, first introduced its holy trinity of Dylan (Drew Barrymore), Alex (Lucy Liu), and Natalie (Cameron Diaz) to the world on Nov. 3, 2000. McG’s background in directing music videos unmistakably informed his work with Charlie’s Angels – his debut feature – and the music is an integral part of the colorful, kinetic movie.
In honor of the film’s anniversary this week, we’re revisiting its 15-song soundtrack, song by song (and, in many cases, disguise by wild disguise). In parts clubby, campy, sexy, and downright weird, here’s what makes the music of Charlie’s Angels the best girl-power mix of all time.
1. “Independent Women, Pt. 1” – Destiny’s Child
“Independent Women, Pt. 1” opens with one fierce female trio calling the names of another, as the introduction name-drops, “Lucy Liu, with my girl Drew / Cameron D., and Destiny / Charlie’s Angels, come on.” Destiny’s Child’s iconic girl-power anthem made its debut in Charlie’s Angels before it was included on the group’s 2001 album, Survivor, and the music video sees Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams training at a Charlie’s Angels boot camp.
2. “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel” – Tavares
Charlie’s Angels is originally from the ‘70s, but these three are ‘90s ladies. The music from the film bounces between the two decades, paying homage to its Jaclyn Smith-ian roots while grounding it (as much as Charlie’s Angels can ever be “grounded”) in the present. Tavares’ bubbly 1976 disco jam provides the soundtrack for Diaz’s first dance scene, a dream sequence — and is the first “Angel”-themed song on the playlist.
3. “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” – Leo Sayer
Sayer’s breezy 1976 song is a pleasant respite from the thumping ‘90s tracks that back up the movie’s action sequences. Appropriately, the song plays in the movie over a brief montage that cuts between all of the Angels having a perfectly lovely evening right before all hell breaks loose.
4. “True” – Spandau Ballet
The smooth 1983 ballad comes across as almost ironically schmaltzy nestled in among the rest of the music, fitting in somewhere between the fizzy throwback pop and the heavy, more contemporary songs. But the Angels’ confident embrace of over-the-top sugary sweetness is part of their charm.
5. “Dot” – Destiny’s Child
Because this is the year 2000, and there is no such thing as too much Destiny’s Child.
6. “Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix-A-Lot
In former EW critic Owen Gleiberman’s B review of Charlie’s Angels, he singles out the scene where Diaz’s effervescent Natalie dances onstage at Soul Train to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 classic as the film’s highlight: “She’s a white girl trying to be ‘funky,’ utterly failing at it, and then, when you look again, succeeding because her radiance has made her as funky as she thinks she is.” And for anyone who still believes that its inclusion in Charlie’s Angels disqualifies the soundtrack from any “girl power” title, please recall that “Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt” does, in fact, pass the Bechdel Test.
7. “Angel’s Eye” – Aerosmith
“Whatcha gonna do when the Angels come?” Steven Tyler growls on this track, written for the film. It plays when Natalie gets into a car chase — driving racecars, naturally, but on a normal highway — with a “creepy thin man” assassin who has a habit of ripping strands of the Angels’ hair out of their heads mid-fight and then stroking his face with the locks. Natalie intimidates him into driving his racecar off a bridge and into a river. So to answer the question: We’re going to rock out to every minute this movie and never, ever look back, Steven Tyler, that’s what we’re gonna do.
8. “Barracuda” – Heart
Heart’s aggressive “Barracuda,” which came out in 1977, plays in the movie when Liu’s Alex storms into an office as a leather-clad “efficiency expert” whose real purpose is little more than an elaborate diversion. Part of the Angels’ unique girl-power equation is how they shamelessly objectify themselves without undermining their power as smart, capable women. As they repeatedly play the male-gaze card and their sexy disguises get more and more outlandish, the movie pokes fun at our cultural obsession with beautiful women while still winkingly playing into it. Because while it’s absurd to see Liu stomp around a sterile white office dressed like a corporate dominatrix as “Barracuda” shrieks over the scene, it’s really the men rendered helpless by her that are made ridiculous.
9. “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors
The film uses the Vapors’ 1980 song for its memorable riff to underscore a culturally insensitive joke that features the Angels posing as a Chinese massage therapists, in geisha costumes with a decidedly ‘80s flair. The song is a bit of a silly novelty here, and while the sequence is problematic, “Turning Japanese” is very much in the spirit of the Angels.
10. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” – Looking Glass (feat. Tom Green)
The welcome inclusion of “Brandy” on the soundtrack is another instance of McG milking the 1970s for every drop of sonic kitsch he could squeeze out of the decade. The rather less pleasant addition of Barrymore’s then-boyfriend Tom Green, who plays Dylan’s eccentric occasional lover, Chad, squealing out the chorus at the top of the track is another instance of Charlie’s Angels’ turn-of-the-millennium wackiness. The Chad was great!
(Side note: Dylan’s character is first introduced as she wakes up in Chad’s houseboat, while he cooks breakfast and sings along to “Angel of the Morning.” Get it? Because she’s an Angel! And it’s the morning!)
11. “Got to Give It Up (Part 1)” – Marvin Gaye
We hardly need sing the praises of Marvin Gaye here; as everybody knows, “Got to Give It Up” is good enough to allegedly plagiarize. It plays in the movie at a critical moment, when [SPOILER ALERT] Sam Rockwell’s nerdy, nervous Eric Knox comes out (in one long, twirly take) as a smooth-talking, tank top-wearing, cigarette-smoking Bad Guy — and one who’s sexy and self-assured enough to put on Marvin Gaye before delivering a villainous monologue, no less.
12. “Ya Mama” – Fatboy Slim
This relentless song is perfect for a fiery, girl-powered action sequence, and McG uses it when the Angels track down Knox for one last showdown, climbing into his helicopter mid-flight to first beat the living heck out of him, then take out the controls, and finally reprogram the missile he’s launching to boomerang back at him. A girl’s got to have an absolutely ferocious song going in the background to get all that done.
13. “Groove Is in the Heart” – Deee-Lite
We dare you to listen to “Groove Is in the Heart,” Deee-Lite’s 1990 dance hit, and resist the urge to bust a move. You have been dared.
14. “Charlie’s Angels 2000” – Apollo 440
For an update on a throwback, Apollo 440 2000-ifies the original Charlie’s Angels theme song in this pounding instrumental track. You should probably tell your spin instructor to add it to her playlist.
15. “Tangerine Speedo” – Caviar
This song actually includes the line “No woman can resist a man who looks good in a Speedo.” The whole thing is weird and summery and silly and so, so 2000. It plays during the movie’s credits, but it’s definitely something the Angels might listen to while they laugh and dance and sip drinks out of coconuts on the beach. Zut alors!
BONUS: “All the Small Things” – Blink-182
The song, which was tragically omitted from the soundtrack album, blasts over the film’s closing credit sequence, which cuts between some very giggly outtakes and the Angels posing as a rockin’ girl band. We can only imagine that audiences, heartbroken that the 98-minute film had come to a close, belted along: “Say it ain’t so / I will not go.”
SUPER BONUS: “Simon Says” – Pharoahe Monch
For reasons that will surely never be understood, this song was also not included on the soundtrack. But here is a very important video of Sam Rockwell dancing to it.