It’s hard not to get excited about the upcoming Godzilla reboot, but it’s equally difficult to forget America’s previous botched attempt at remaking the iconic monster. While I have nothing to say about Roland Emmerich’s catastrophic misfire of a film that hasn’t already been said countless times over the last 16 years…
I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane to look at the film’s soundtrack.
Let’s set the scene: the year was 1998. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a commercial, billboard, poster or memorabilia advertising Godzilla. The multi-pronged marketing strategy also included tie-in campaigns with Taco Bell and Edy’s Ice Cream, among others.
It was a time when people still paid for music, as the transition from cassettes to CDs was being made, and movie soundtracks were a big deal. Artists would provide original songs for soundtracks, and you’d have to buy the entire album if you wanted to hear it… unless you were lucky enough to tape it off the radio without any interruptions from the DJ.
The Godzilla soundtrack was released on May 19, 1998 – a mere day prior to the film stomping into theaters. Epic Records did not call the compilation “The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack,” “Music Inspired by the Film” or some such typical title; instead, it was dubbed Godzilla: The Album. Even the soundtrack’s title was pretentious, but that didn’t seem to matter; it went on to be certified platinum.
Godzilla: The Album‘s most well-known hit is “Come with Me” by Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page. In addition to sampling Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” guitarist Page was brought in to give it a fresh coat of paint, while Rage Against the Machine axeman Tom Morello laid down the bass. A hip-hop drum beat provides the foundation with orchestral accompaniment, and Puff Daddy (back when that was still his name) limply raps – and, at one unfortunate point, attempts to sing – over the classic riff. A gloriously cheesy music video in which Puffy confronts Godzilla was released in support of the track, which received a ton of airplay.
Although “Come with Me” was the soundtrack’s biggest success, Rage Against the Machine’s “No Shelter” is, perhaps, its most interesting inclusion. While fans were quick to cry “sell out” as the vocal anti-establishment group associated themselves with a summer blockbuster, the lyrics reveal that they stayed true to their roots. Vocalist Zack de la Rocha rallies against mass media, including a jab at the film to which they were contributing: “Godzilla, pure motherfucking filler / Get your eyes off the real killer.” It also received a music video.
The “Godzilla Remix” of Green Day’s “Brain Stew” is a questionable effort, to say the least. Structurally, it’s essentially the same power chord-fueled punk rock tune, but with some additional electronic instrumentation… and Godzilla’s roar intermittently inserted over the music. It’s entirely unnecessary, distracting from an otherwise great song, but I suppose it’s an honor to have guest vocals from the kaiju king.
The Wallflowers were on the top off their game at the time, still riding the success of their Grammy-winning “One Headlight.” The band tried their hand at a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” which is fine instrumentally, but frontman Jakob Dylan fails to capture Bowie’s unique spirit. The innovative Jamiroquai, on the other hand, provided an original track, “Deeper Underground,” which charted in UK and received a music video of its own.
The Foo Fighters used the soundtrack as an opportunity to experiment. Their slow-burning “A320″ begins as a mid-tempo number before evolving into fuzzy, prog-rock territory. Mastermind Dave Grohl has said that it’s one of his favorite Foo Fighters songs, but he’s just as quick to call Godzilla “the worst movie we’d ever seen in our lives.”
The rest of Godzilla: The Album‘s track listing screams ’90s alt-rock as well, including such radio staples as Silverchair, Fuel, Ben Folds Five, Days of the New and Fuzzbubble (a band best remembered for accompanying P. Diddy on the rock remix of his mega-hit “It’s All About the Benjamins”). The album also features a Beatles-esque track by Michael Penn (brother of Sean Penn) and a strange send-up to “Secret Agent Man” titled “Undercover” by Joey Deluxe. The soundtrack wraps with two cuts from composer David Arnold’s (Independence Day) score. (Arnold’s full score would not be officially released until 2007 via La La Land Records.)
Guilty by association, Godzilla: The Album is often presumed to be awful due to the film and Puff Daddy’s lead single. Yet, if you look past a couple of clunkers, it’s a solid disc for its time. Packed with nearly an hour of ’90s nostalgia, Godzilla: The Album has held up much better than the film that gave it life.
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