The year is 1995. Economic prosperity has reached new heights, as the Dow eclipses the 4,000 point mark for the first time in history. Yet, all is not well.
America sits on the brink of destruction from a bioterrorism attack. What begins as a small, contained endemic quickly escalates into a full blow epidemic that grips the United States. Mass panic and fear of the uncertainty consume the heart of the nation. Outbreaks are reported coast-to-coast, from New York and Philadelphia to Charlotte and Phoenix. The symptoms range from “five-feet nuthin’ girls blocking [one's] shots” to impotence.
Worst of all, there is no recognizable common source of the infection. That is, until creatures from a foreign land reveal the zoonotic cause. The world would call upon its savior – professional minor league baseball player Michael Jordan – one final time, to fight tyranny and oppression.
Chronicled in the 1996 classic, Space Jam, this tale became cemented into cinematic lore to teach our children the valuable lessons of exchanging your life for amusement park imprisonment. Accompanying the $230 million success story was a 14-track ensemble of empowering composition that dominated minivan cassette decks for months to come.
Join me, if you will, on a journey through the most inspiring and eclectic 65 minutes of music that humanity has ever had the privilege of being exposed to.
Track One – “Fly Like an Eagle” by Seal – If you’re going to assemble a masterpiece such as the Space Jam soundtrack, the key to its initial appeal is to kick start the album with an R&B cover of a 1976 classic. While the intro sounds eerily similar to the original, Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel really sends this track into another universe around the 2:58 mark when his voice is layered across several different lyric and tempo variations of the song. While it only lasts for 30 seconds, I’m almost glad it does. If that breakdown lasted any longer, I would start to doubt whether I could ever listen to another Seal song again without feeling a void of “yeah yeahs” and “ohhhhhs”. Unfortunately, “Fly Like an Eagle” would be the 2nd most popular soundtrack single Seal would become know for.
Track Two – “The Winner” by Coolio - The fact that it took us until track two to get a feel-good message to the kids from Coolio is commentary in itself on the misplaced priorities of our society. Rather than provide a verbose analysis of this RIANZ Top 20 hit, I’ll leave it to the bard of the 1990s to reignite the passion you once had for keeping it real:
You can do anything that you want to do. All you got to do is to put your brain into it. Take your time and educate your mind and in the long run I’m sure you’ll find that if you walk the walk you can talk the talk. But don’t wait too long cuz life is short and remember, no matter what they tellin’ you if you try, you can be a winner too
Thanks to the inspiring words of Coolio in 1996, I felt much better about winning my 3rd consecutive “Participant Award” in the Presidential Fitness Challenge.
Track Three – “Space Jam Theme Song” by Quad City DJs - God damnit yes. If you aren’t dancing on your chair in your cubicle right now, shouting “Hey – you! Watcha gonna do?” at your boss right now, you don’t have a pulse. Why is this song not played more often outside of exhibition intergalactic basketball games? If the Wizards started playing this at every game, I guarantee their attendance would triple in one year. I blame Leonsis.
Track Four – “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly - My guess is that the wonderful people at Atlantic Records were worried about the liability of following up the Space Jam theme song with another epic Miami bass instant classic. So they decided it was best for everyone to cool their jets and listen to the soulful R. Kelly’s delusional rants of aeronautic ascent. Side note – can we talk about what’s happening in this video at the 3:00 mark? R. Kelly is actually commanding an all-black choir, while wearing a pre-Blue Tooth headpiece, WHILE WATCHING SPACE JAM ON AN EMPTY BASKETBALL COURT. Bravo.
Track Five – “Hit ‘Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem) by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man - A conversation overheard at Atlantic Records: – “Hey, we need to create a theme song for the rival team in Space Jam. Now, the theme should be edgy enough so it resonates with the inner city kids, but not too edgy, as we don’t offend white suburbia. It’s 1995… who should we call on?” “I know! B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man.”
This song is FUCKING. AWESOME. How do I know it’s fucking awesome? Because my mom would skip it every time it came on in the car. And it’s not like we had the CD of the soundtrack. We had the tape cassette. She had to painstakingly fast-forward, realize she jumped the next track, rewind, realize she rewound into Hit ‘Em High, fast-forward again, rewind again, fast-forward again, and rewind one last time until she couldn’t hear the devil’s music anymore. This should be the walk-out music to every team in the NBA.
Track Six - “I Found My Smile Again” – D’Angelo - Boring filler song. NEXT.
Track Seven – “For You I Will” – Monica - Now, when Space Jam came out in 1996, I was ten years old. Puberty was still a solid seven years away (that’s right – I said it). That being said, I still wish I had lost my virginity to this song. If only it debuted nine years later…
Hearing this song again got me thinking – How many All That appearances did Monica have? The answer: Four – so close to the show’s illustrious “Five Timers Club”. Her number of appearances equal the same number that Celine Deon, Usher, The Spice Girls, and Shaq (yes, Shaq as a musical guest) have combined.
For more analysis on the Space Jam Soundtrack, read part two.