Space Jam (A New Legacy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Released July 9, 2021
Nostalgia and perspective are wild concepts.
Back in 1996 when the original Space Jam film dropped, 16-year-old Edd thought it was an OK movie. Goofy and gimmicky, sure, but aight at best. I assumed that was pretty much the consensus of the film.
Fast forward to about a decade ago when I moved to Birmingham, Ala., a city that has loose ties to the film. That’s when I learned that for the generation behind me, Space Jam was THEIR sports movie. While I was flashing my learner’s permit for street cred back in 96, they were playing the VHS over and over, captivated by the hijinks and crushing on Lola Bunny.
To them, it was a classic. And I get it. It was a movie for kids. Mission accomplished.
But now that that generation is much older and their thoughts are stuck on paying off crippling college debt instead of balling with cartoon characters, perspectives have changed. And that’s probably why their reaction to the sequel film, Space Jam: A New Legacy hasn’t lived up to their nostalgic expectations.
It’s still a kids movie, y’all just aren’t kids anymore. Welcome to old age, playas. I can’t wait till time and perspective shows y’all how horrible these rappers y’all love today truly are.
Speaking of music, one thing that HAS aged well is the original Space Jam soundtrack. I was a much bigger fan of the soundtrack than the film at the time and I still spin it occasionally today. Hyperactive arena jams from the Quad City DJs, a hard-hitting posse cut from the era’s most impactful MCs, underrated tracks from Monica and Changing Faces, and, of course, “I Believe I Can Fly” – a song so iconic that it got play in every black church in the nation (even though the singer of that track would burst into flames if he ever walked inside one…) It’s a product of an era where soundtracks were often hotter than the movies they represented.
Space Jam: A New Legacy’s soundtrack tries to replicate that magic but that’s a bar even MJ couldn’t reach with his Stretch Armstrong arms.
By far, the biggest standout here is “We Win,” a track so great that after my first listen I said to myself, “huh, I guess I finally like a Lil Baby song.” To be fair, Baby is least effective ingredient this this stew. The real stars are Kirk Franklin (who continues to prove that gospel artists make better R&B than modern R&B artists) and Just Blaze, who concoct a track that’s equal parts pep rally and praise session. Lil Baby’s offbeat babbling doesn’t ruin the track but it’s essentially just window dressing.
It’s not unusual for soundtracks to feature random teamups, and those strange bedfellows often produce mixed results. Chance the Rapper is more fiery and focused than I’ve heard in forever on “See Me Fly,” with John Legend providing a solid hook and Simba being a decent third wheel. Meanwhile, Corade continues his impressive run on “Settle the Score” with DUCKWRTH, elevating a pretty generic synthy beat with solid bars.
Besides those, things get messy.
“Just for Me” has like 8 million streams on Spotify for reasons I can’t understand – SZA and Saint Jhn are like oil and water on this one. Jhn’s android lounge singer act doesn’t mesh well at all with SZA’s performance. “Gametime” is another styles clash – the underrated Amine sounds way more polished than Lil Tecca, who spends the whole time scrambling to stay on beat like a player chasing a loose ball. “Control the World,” with 24Goldn and Lil Wayne, sounds like every “rap sung collaboration” you’ve heard for the past decade.
Oh, and if you’re looking for a sequel to the original soundtrack’s posse cut “Hit Em High,” don’t get your hopes up. Dame D.O.L.L.A., G-Eazy, P-Lo and White Dave’s “About that Time” is pretty lifeless. The ladies fare a little better with “Hoops” – Saweetie and Kash Doll’s efforts are painfully predictable but Salt-N-Pepa bring a MUCH needed intensity to the track. It’s a cool cameo from a group who were also featured on the original soundtrack. Talent is timeless.
The solo tracks are also a mixed bag, ranging from typical (Uzi Vert rapping over “Pump Up the Jam” sounds exactly you’d expect. Spoiler: not good) to forgettable (“Mercy” from the Jonas Bros, “Shoot My Shot” from Joyner Lucas and “MVP” from Brockhampton just sound like discarded album cuts).
The album finally gets a little more life by the set’s end thanks to Big Freedia’s “Goin Looney,” where she rattles off every random Looney Tunes reference she can think of. While nearly everyone else seems to be in cruise control here, she’s actually HAVING FUN – I mean, this is a soundtrack about anthropomorphic animals playing ball in space, should that be whole goal? She’s one of the few folks who understood the assignment.
Like the movie it promotes, this soundtrack too often feels like a nostalgic cash in, and most of the artists here don’t seem all that interested themselves.
But hey, it’s a soundtrack promoting a kids movie – us old heads may be bored to tears, but I’m sure younger fans will have a ball, fueling nostalgic memories for years to come.
But when Space Jam 3 drops in 20 years and this one ages like moldy yogurt, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Best tracks: “We Win,” “Goin Looney,” “See Me Fly”
3 stars out of 5