A soundtrack can do wonders or horrors for its film, boosting it to cult status, or confining it to a mere footnote in cinematic history. While sources differ greatly on the top ten highest grossing soundtracks, the winner is strikingly clear. It might not be what you expected: Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard actually holds the record, with over 45m copies sold. This was largely thanks to the world-dominating classic ‘I Will Always Love You’, which sent sales numbers through the roof. Titanic received a similar boost from its theme song, Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’.
On the contrary, Prince’s 1984 album Purple Rain (not to mention the song itself) is far better known than the film bearing the same title. The fact that the film itself exists might be new to some, despite being iconic to Prince fans. As the soundtrack actually came out before the movie, it managed to make something of a name for itself, spending 24 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and winning Prince an Oscar for Best Original Song Score. The album got a mini-revival following his death, and is guaranteed to be enjoyed for decades to come.
Among the other best-sellers are, unsurprisingly, several 70s and 80s classics like Flashdance and Grease. The latter is still the US’s highest-grossing musical, but its soundtrack is surpassed by a legendary, funky John Travolta-led soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever. The film was a glittery, disco-dancing phenomenon, and The Bee Gees made sure no one would forget its equally era-defining tunes. As the album took disco a step away from its roots in the black and LGBT communities, it has faced a fair share of criticism. Still, its cultural impact is undeniable; it is the record that made disco mainstream.
However, with the Oscars coming up shortly, it seems fitting to make mention of the en
ormously critically-acclaimed La La Land, and its soundtrack which has enjoyed similar praise. Composer Justin Horowitz has collaborated with director Damien Chazelle several times, most recently on the soundtrack for Chazelle’s 2014 feature Whiplash.
As the Oscar nominations recently revealed, La La Land is up for Best Score and twice in Best Song: ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’ and ‘City of Stars’. The soundtrack also triumphed in this year’s Golden Globes, winning Best Original Score and Best Original Song with ‘City of Stars’.
Despite receiving some criticism as a musical soundtrack for lacking earworms, it is undeniably a wonderful list of songs: kicking off with the explosion of joy that is ‘Another Day of Sun’, and offering a lot of warmth throughout. Ryan Gosling – who had to learn the piano from scratch – does a more than impressive job.
The soundtrack may never shine as bright as Whitney, in spite of its success on the Spotify charts. And for my own part, I am eternally grateful for a musical without earworms.