This post kicks off Soundtrack Day on Writer’s Bone. Tune in later this afternoon for our compilation of the best soundtracks of all time.
By Lindsey Wojcik
I was a tween obsessed with 1990s pop music, and some of the grunge-y alternative of the time, when the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy set in 1985 was released in 1998. I could quote “Billy Madison” word-for-word, but “The Wedding Singer” didn't seem to have that sort of silliness; it seemed softer. I most likely saw it in the theater (I really can't recall), but I do know a VHS copy of “The Wedding Singer” was on my birthday gift wish list that year. I wore out that tape—so much so that my parents moaned when I put it in—and as such, I became familiar with the soundtrack. The film hooked me the moment I heard "You Spin Me Round – Like a Record" by Dead Or Alive in the opening sequence.
It was my first real exposure to a mix of 1980s music. Sure, I had heard Madonna and the B-52s before, but as an 11-year-old, I certainly didn't understand Robbie Hart's (Sandler) reference to The Cure. In one scene, a heartbroken Hart tells love interest Julia Guglia (Barrymore), "When I wrote this song, I was listening to The Cure a lot." The Cure didn't even make the soundtrack, though “Boys Don’t Cry” can be heard faintly in the background of another scene.
Once I really listened to the 26-song two-CD compilation, which was among the first few CDs I ever received, (that would be the year my family first owned a CD player—even in fictional 1985 a confused Julia Guglia had one before my family), my love for everything 1980s flourished. It was more than pop; it featured post-punk, new wave bands like The Psychedelic Furs and The Thompson Twins—a sound I had never heard before. Then, I heard the guitar riff on "How Soon is Now?" by The Smiths. From then on, it was exclusively on repeat.
It would be years later during my angsty teen years, after more 1990s and early Aughts pop music distracted me, that I'd rediscover “The Wedding Singer” soundtrack. “How Soon Is Now?” would inevitably lead me to The Smiths’ entire catalogue and elevate their status as one of my favorite bands ever. Sadly, I'd never get the chance to see them live. Though, seeing the group’s lead singer, Morrissey, perform some of the band's songs at Radio City Hall on my 25th birthday is the closest I'll get.
After relistening to the soundtrack in high school, and consequently around the time VH1’s “I Love the 80s” premiered, my 1980s fixation went beyond the music. Researching 1980s pop culture became a hobby. I wanted to learn about and consume the movies, television, fashion, news, and, of course, other music that defined the decade, and I wanted to have a better understanding of references in the movie like “Franky Say Relax” and “New Coke.” I also needed to know how each song on the soundtrack I loved made an impact on the culture.
I finally understood that George’s character embodied Boy George, and I realized why “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by Culture Club was the only song he knew how to sing on his own. And while a granny performing “Rapper’s Delight” was hysterical on screen, I knew it really did not do the historic song justice.
“The ‘80s weren’t that great,” my parents would tell me as my obsession grew. However, “The Wedding Singer” soundtrack made me nostalgic for a time I never experienced but so desperately wish I could have enjoyed. If only I had been born 10 years earlier! The music wasn’t “new,” but it was new to me. I was exposed to a different music genre, and it made me a fan of many of the featured artists. That's what a powerful soundtrack does. It connects a viewer to what’s happening in a film, while creating and evoking emotion that will last long after the credits have rolled. “The Wedding Singer” spun me right round.
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