Various Artists – Clueless OST

19 Jul

Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995) should be on everyone’s Top 10 Teen Comedies list.  First of all, it might be the best adaptation of a Jane Austen novel (Emma).  Second, the film is solely responsible for the popularization of phrases like “Whatever!” and “As if!” which (regrettably in hindsight) remained a major part of teenage girl vernacular for the better part of two years.  But most importantly, Clueless is a zeitgeist flick that captures mid-90s pop culture and music to a T.

Clueless covers the fast-paced life of high school diva Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and music plays virtually throughout the entire film. The soundtrack is a near schizoid mix of alternative rock, rap and everything in between as if someone were scanning FM radio channels in ’95.  Tracking seems to have been an afterthought or non-thought; it doesn’t follow the movie’s plot sequentially.  An acoustic version of Radiohead’s gorgeous “Fake Plastic Trees” is followed by the manic pop of “Change” by Lightning Seeds.  It all works together though, possibly because the movie came out in the twilight years of the mix tape.

The soundtrack also features four covers: The Muffs – “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde, Cracker – “Shake Some Action” by The Flamin’ Groovies, Counting Crows – “The Ghost in You (Live)” by Psychedelic Furs and World Party – “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople.  With the exception of Cracker’s “Shake Some Action,” which is a bit underwhelming, each cover is fun and fresh, revamped with a power pop accent.

Some tracks are inseparable from their corresponding movie scenes, a sign of a well-done soundtrack.  Amy Heckerling is no stranger to marrying scenes to music.  After all, she was also the creative force behind Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Think of the epic Phoebe Cates slow-motion pool scene with The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo.”

In Clueless, Supergrass’ “Alright” plays during Cher’s photo shoot of her friends sitting by a fountain.  Coolio’s “Rollin’ With My Homies” is on at the house party before they play the credit card game “suck & blow.”  In one of the most memorable scenes, Tai (played by the late Brittany Murphy) gets a makeover set to “Supermodel” by Jill Sobule.  The girls even attend a live Mighty Mighty Bosstones show complete with the idiotic skank-dancing of Ben Carr.

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The fourteen songs on the soundtrack recall the mid-90s fondly with only a few duds, but the most frustrating thing about the soundtrack is those songs that appeared in the film but aren’t included due to supposed licensing issues.  There are several like “Away” by The Cranberries and “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa, but three missing songs sting in particular: No Doubt – “Just a Girl,” David Bowie – “Fashion” and General Public – “Tenderness.”

No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom was released in October of 1995 and although the band had received some radio play, they hadn’t quite made a name for themselves yet.  “Just a Girl” is one of the singles responsible for Tragic Kingdom hitting America’s Top Ten a year later.  The song fits perfectly with the energy of the film and is sorely missed.

“Fashion” is the funkiest single off of David Bowie’s Scary Monsters.  The thumping bassline and snappy guitar riff play in the background as Cher selects her outfit with the aid of a garment-pairing computer program.  She models her wardrobe as Bowie sings “Fashion, turn to the left.  Fashion, turn to the right.”

The absolute gem in the movie is “Tenderness” by General Public.  “Tenderness” was one of two Top 40 hits in America, the other being “I’ll Take You There” released a year before Clueless in 1994.  The blissful pop chime of “Tenderness” acts as a perfect closer for the movie.

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All in all the soundtrack is a success with no apologies necessary for song selection.  Though, the fact that movie contained enough music to release a double album is vexing to those who would have appreciated a total package.  Regardless, the Clueless soundtrack is a great slice of 90s music pie, it’s just missing the a la mode.

Noteworthy Tracks: “All the Young Dudes,” “Fake Plastic Trees (Acoustic),” “Change,” “Alright,” and “My Forgotten Favorite”

Rating:****

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