Weekend Listening: Empire Records Soundtrack
Album: Empire Records OST by v/a
Released: August 22, 1995, A&M Records
Recommended if you like: ’80s and ’90s alternative/college rock
Notable Tracks: “Free” by The Martinis, “Here It Comes Again” by Please and “Sugarhigh” by Coyote Shivers (all three of these artists were unsigned prior to this soundtrack)
Being a Teen Music Snob™ in the ’90s was stressful af, y’all. I won’t presume to speak for previous decades since I didn’t have their particular pressures, but let me tell you…keeping eleventy billion popular (and not-so-popular) acts straight without the aid of Google was fucking HARD. Not only were you required to keep up with all the shit you didn’t necessarily listen to so you could answer questions, you had to be on top of soundtracks, too.
I probably never would have paid an ounce of attention to Empire Records, if it weren’t for its soundtrack. On the surface, it seems like it would have totally been my bag, cos it’s about saving an independent record store. I should have been all over that shit. But teen!sj thought it seemed like it was trying too hard and basically said “fuck that pandering noise.”
Gosh, she was so wrong, it hurts.
I’m not saying I love every single song on this soundtrack, but the gems far outshine the turds. I don’t care who you were in the ’90s, if you tell me you never walked around humming a Gin Blossoms song, I’ll call you a goddamn liar (fun fact, “Hey, Jealousy” never broke the Billboard Top 10, but “‘Til I Hear It From You” did). While Dishwalla’s “Counting Blue Cars” is so overplayed it hurts in 2016, at the time, every single person I talked to was in love with that song for about five minutes (and, sadly, this one didn’t even make it on the official soundtrack). Toad the Wet Sprocket? Still fucking love them.
Speaking of songs that aren’t even actually on the soundtrack, there are more than 30 tunes featured in the movie that weren’t collected. This gives me a major sad, cos some of the most iconic moments in the movie are forever associated with these songs, and it was left up to us to collect them all. Collect them all, I did, though. These were the days before DVD players, and I can clearly remember pausing the movie during the end credits and painstakingly forwarding it frame by frame so I could make note of the bands I didn’t already know. And I made my own Empire Records soundtrack.
With blackjack! And hookers! Luckily some lovely person on YouTube did the same thing, so I didn’t have to do it all over again just to share with you.
I’ll grant you that part of my undying adoration for this soundtrack comes from where I was at that point in my life (1995 was one of the few good years teen!sj had), but I can put this on and it’ll never fail to make me smile and dance. If you can somehow refrain from dancing along with Gina to “Sugarhigh,” well…maybe we shouldn’t be friends. [wink]
Happy Rex Manning Day, guys.