Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks at the silver screen hits from 1984: the Year of the Soundtrack.
It was 30 years ago this week that Prince’s “When Doves Cry” hit number 1 on the Hot 100, helping launch the Purple Rain soundtrack into the stratosphere of both pop music and near, if not to the top of the soundtrack pantheon.
The album was a dominant force as the aforementioned track’s five-week reign atop the Hot 100 would bleed into the first two weeks of the soundtrack’s stay atop the album charts. The album would stay at number one for 24 weeks.
That type of dominance seems ridiculous by today’s standards, but the 1980s were a different time and albums – especially in the early 80s – had that type of staying power. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” spent 37 weeks at number one, ending just under four months prior to Prince’s ascent and hitting number one four separate times between 1983 and 1984. Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA ” had the strange distinction of being both the album Prince dislodged at number one and the album to succeed his purple reign at the top.
The early 80s were a golden age for dominant pop albums, but they were also a golden age for motion picture soundtracks.
Only two other albums reached number one in 1984 beyond the aforementioned trio and only one spent more than one week at number one. Unsurprisingly, it was also a soundtrack, coming in the form of the powerhouse compilation that accompanied Footloose.
The Footloose soundtrack would prove to be another mammoth force on the charts and the airwaves, adding to number one singles to its 10-week run atop the album charts, in the form of Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” (which spent two weeks at number one) and Kenny Loggins’ iconic eponymous theme.
But it was more than just the two huge soundtracks that dominated 1984.
The Best Original Song Oscar winner – a now-regrettable tune from Stevie Wonder – was a number one hit. It fell right in the middle of a run of seven straight Best Song winners to have hit number one on the Hot 100 that started in 1981 and ended with Dirty Dancing’s “Time of My Life” in 1987. That may not sound overly impressive, but factor in that only three songs since the end of that run have won the Oscar and also topped the Hot 100: Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and that Celine Dion song we’d all like to forget.
Furthermore, 1984 marks the only time in history that all the nominees for the Best Song Oscar were all number ones on the Hot 100, including Stevie Wonder, the two Footloose hits, Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” and the theme from Ghostbusters.
That’s right. Five number ones and Prince still got shut out (though he would win an Oscar for “Best Song Score”). It still doesn’t take away from one of the greatest soundtrack summers on record when seven songs from the movies hit number one for a run of 21 out of 31 weeks.
And that doesn’t even factor in Beverly Hills Cop or the fact that 1984 was the year that gave us This is Spinal Tap.
Author’s Note: The original post of this article contained several embedded videos, including a pair by Prince. However, His Purpleness is notoriously protective of copyright, so said videos have been removed instead of having to find new YouTube postings every couple weeks to keep this content active. As an alternative, I would recommend just listening to the Purple Rain Soundtrack while reading this to keep it thematically appropriate. I would also recommend listening to said album repeatedly as a general life strategy.