By the 1990s, soundtrack albums were not the blockbusters they had been during the ’80s, but several films produced soundtracks that were, shall we say, Titanic.
Here are the best ’90s soundtracks, counted down in reverse order from six to one.
Best 90s Soundtrack #6: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Baz Luhrmann directed Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the young lovers from Shakespeare’s classic tale. The 13-song soundtrack featured primarily alternative rock bands and contained a number of highlights. Among them: Radiohead’s stellar “Talk Show Host,” a sparse, stop-and-start tune that remains one of their most underrated efforts, the Cardigans’ blockbuster “Lovefool,” Garbage’s edgy hit single “#1 Crush,” and Des’ree’s beautiful “Kissing You.”
Best 90s Soundtrack #5: Titanic (1997)
Director James Cameron had intended for the Titanic soundtrack to be an instrumental score, but composer James Horner secretly penned the film’s love theme and invited Celine Dion to sing on the demo. Horner presented the song to Cameron, who liked it and decided to include it. Dion never returned to the studio; her vocals on the track are from the first and only demo take she recorded.
The instrumental tracks were just as moving. “Southampton” even earned significant radio airplay after a remixed version was released featuring audio clips from the film.
Best 90s Soundtrack #4: Empire Records (1995)
The cult classic Empire Records wasn’t a box office success, but its soundtrack included some of the biggest rock bands of the era. The Gin Blossoms had a hit with “Til I Hear it From You,” but the best track here was Scottish rocker Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You,” an Iggy Pop tribute that manages to be dark and weird while also being insanely catchy.
Toad the Wet Sprocket also contributed the gem “Crazy Life,” while the Cranberries, Cracker and Better Than Ezra appeared on the soundtrack as well.
Best 90s Soundtrack #3: The Bodyguard (1992)
Whitney Houston was at her commercial peak with this soundtrack’s release and its career-defining hits “I Will Always Love You,” “I’m Every Woman” and “I Have Nothing.” The second half of the record wasn’t as good, but featured the pleasant Kenny G/Aaron Neville collaboration “Even If My Heart Would Break” and the vastly underrated “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day” by the S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M.
The Bodyguard won Album of the Year at the Grammys and has been certified 17 times platinum, making it one of the biggest-selling soundtrack albums ever.
Best 90s Soundtrack #2: Pulp Fiction (1994)
The soundtrack for Pulp Fiction was an eclectic collage of surf music, R&B and rock oldies. The big pop hit was Urge Overkill’s remake of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” Other interesting selections included Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town.”
Like with an earlier Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack also featured bits of dialogue from the film, such as “Royale With Cheese” and “Bring out the Gimp.”
Best 90s Soundtrack #1: Waiting to Exhale (1997)
Songwriters and producers don’t often have entire albums to showcase their own work, but that was the case for Babyface, who wrote and produced the 16 tracks on Waiting to Exhale, recruiting an all-star cast of African-American women to sing them. Among the soundtrack’s biggest hits were Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” Brandy’s “Sittin’ Up In My Room” and Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry.”
Other highlights included Toni Braxton’s “Let it Flow,” Aretha Franklin’s “It Hurts Like Hell,” and the duet between Houston and CeCe Winans, “Count on Me.” The soundtrack was given its own performance segment on the Grammy Awards broadcast and its songs combined for 10 nominations, including Album of the Year, making it the best ’90s soundtrack of all.
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