The Bodyguard. Above the Rim. New Jack City. Waiting to Exhale.
The ’90s gave us some great films backed by even greater soundtracks. Some of those soundtracks were so good that they even overshadowed the movies themselves.
But sometimes, the soundtracks were the only redeeming qualities for some truly terrible films.
Let’s look back at 10 ’90s soundtracks (in no particular order) that were way better than the films they promoted. The movies may have sucked but the music endured. Thankfully.
Dr. Dolittle (1998)
Film flaws: Eddie Murphy’s stint as The Pet Whisperer wasn’t bad per se, it was just embarrassingly corny beyond belief. It’s basically a live-action version of Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, with fart jokes. It’s guaranteed to rot the minds of anyone over age 6.
But the soundtrack scores: This soundtrack produced (arguably) two of the best songs in the careers of both Aailyah and Ginuwine, mixed veterans acts like Sugar Hill Gang and Jody Whatley with emerging stars like Twista and Playa, and, shockingly, proved even Ray J could record a decent song. Miracles do happen.
Certified bangers: “Are You That Somebody,” Aaliyah; “Same Ol’ G,” Ginuwine; “Let’s Ride,” Montell Jordan featuring Shaunta
High School High (1997)
Film flaws: Spoofs are all the rage these days, so High School High was ahead of its time. And like most parodies, it wound up being a total disaster. The only fun part was figuring out which movie was being parodied at any given moment. This film copied off someone else’s paper, yet still fails. Playa please.
But the soundtrack scores: Playing out like a mixtape of rare or unreleased B-sides, it features some of the biggest names in the game with some of the best songs you’ve never heard.
Certified bangers: “I Got Somebody Else,” Changing Faces; “Wu Wear: The Garment Renaissance,” RZA featuring Method Man and Cappadonna; “Bohemian Rhapsody,” The Braids
Money Talks (1997)
Film flaws: Remember when Chris Tucker was the hottest black comedian in Hollywood? For you young’ns who just put in your orders for you high school class rings, just think of Kevin Hart today. The movie, though, was horrible – just an excuse for Tucker to run around screaming with his eyes bugging out for 90 minutes. Even that album cover set black folks back 30 years. Thankfully things got better for him soon after with Rush Hour.
But the soundtrack scores: Mary J. Blige, Wyclef’s Refugee Camp All-Stars, Puffy’s Bad Boy crew – this album was a who’s who of ’90s hip-hop and R&B. The Bad Boy remix of Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” is still in rotation in the Eddmobile.
Certified bangers: “Things Just Ain’t The Same,” Deborah Cox; “Money Talks,” Lil Kim featuring Andrea Martin; “A Dream,” Mary J. Blige
Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1998)
Film flaws: The freaky tales of singer Frankie Lymon are tailor-made for film but something just didn’t connect here. There were way too many diverging stories that weren’t tied together well. It really needed a more narrow focus.
But the soundtrack scores: Missy Elliott was one of the hottest acts and producers in the industry at this time and her
fingerwaves fingerprints are all over this album. It was the perfect launching pad for her proteges Lil Mo and Nicole Wray, while artists like Destiny’s Child and Melanie B were blessed with that eclectic Missy/Timbaland sound. Everyone wins.
Certified bangers: “Get on the Bus,” Destiny’s Child; “Five Minutes,” Lil Mo and Missy Elliott; “No Fool No More,” En Vogue
New Jersey Drive (1995)
Film flaws: Before The Fast and the Furious, we had New Jersey Drive, a film about dumb kids stealing cars. The film tries hard to examine police brutality and inner city poverty but the characterization is so weak that it’s hard to feel sorry for anyone.
But the soundtrack scores: Decades later, this album is still recognized as R&B group Total’s coming-out party, but the hip hop contributions were just as strong, thanks to the production of greats like Erick Sermon and Easy Mo Bee.
Certified bangers: “Can’t You See,” Total featuring Notorious B.I.G.; “Where Am I?,” Redman; “Benz or Beamer,” OutKast
Film flaws: Now I’m all for women being empowered, but Jada Pinkett-Smith’s title character in Woo was downright insufferable. She’s the woman who has it all – except a man! And that’s not all. There’s a soft-spoken nerd who needs to loosen up! There’s a sassy fat black lady! Stereotypes on parade!
But the soundtrack scores: This soundtrack is often forgotten among the greats of the era but it’s a very solid slice of hip hop and R&B. It’s a diverse collection of music hailing from different regions, with East Coast, West Coast and Southern hip-hop all represented.
Certified bangers: “Money,” Charli Baltimore; “If You Love Me,” Stokley Williams; “T-Shirt and Panties,” Adina Howard and Jamie Foxx
Girl 6 (1996)
Film flaws: Spike Lee had his share of hits and misses in the ’90s. Girl 6 wasn’t just a miss, it was a strike-out. It was hard to tell if the story of phone sex operator Judy was supposed to be a comedy, or satire or social commentary. It probably strived to be all three, which is why it failed so miserably.
But the soundtrack scores: Um, one word. Prince. The soundtrack was essentially a Prince album, so expect greatness. Almost 20 years later, the title song STILL gets stuck in my head from time to time.
Certified bangers: “Girl 6”; “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”; “Pink Cashmere”
Nothing to Lose (1997)
Film flaws: What do you get when you combine straight-laced Tim Robbins with hyperactive psycho Martin Lawrence? Not much, actually. This odd-couple heist film has been done a billion times before and since, and better in most cases. It’s not even that it’s bad, it’s just very uninteresting and forgettable.
But the soundtrack scores: The soundtrack, however, is anything but uninteresting. Both Lil Kim and Coolio produced memorable hits, but the album cuts were even better.
Certified bangers: “Not Tonight,” 8ball & MJG; “Not Tonight (Ladies’ Night Remix),” Lil Kim featuring Angie Martinez, Left Eye, Da Brat and Missy Elliott; “C U When U Get There,” Coolio featuring 40 Thevz
Booty Call (1997)
Film flaws: Oh playa. I know for some of y’all, the ridiculously oversexed Booty Call is a guilty pleasure. But let’s be real – as a film, it’s absolutely awful. It’s basically a couple of idiots looking for condoms. FOR THE ENTIRE MOVIE. Jamie Foxx mummifying himself in saran wrap is still the moment when black people lost.
But the soundtrack scores: Music and sex go together like chocolate and peanut butter, so this soundtrack was destined for success. It was the perfect stage for Lil Kim, Missy Elliott, R. Kelly and Too Short to tell their freaky tales.
Certified bangers: “Can We,” SWV featuring Missy Elliott; “Don’t Wanna Be A Player,” Joe; “Call Me,” Too Short and Lil’ Kim
Film flaws: So much hype, so much disappointment. Hype Williams’ film directing debut was treated like the Second Coming in the late 90s. There was no way the film could live up to the hype. Well, it didn’t even come close to the hype. Nas may be the greatest lyricist alive, but he has the emotive range of a cinderblock in front of the camera. DMX looked like Charlton Heston next to him. And the film’s nonsensical conclusion stands as one of THE WORST in cinema history. It’s all bad.
But the soundtrack scores: This is proof that most rappers need to be behind a microphone, not in front of a camera. The game’s best spitters absolutely went ballistic on many of these track, backed by the era’s strongest producers. It almost makes up for the disaster that was the film.
Certified bangers: “Grand Finale,” DMX, Nas, Ja Rule and Method Man; “Devil’s Pie,” D’Angelo; “Crew Love,” Jay-Z featuring Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel