The 8 Best Soundtrack-Exclusive Tracks
Soundtracks were a huge deal in the '90s. It was a chance for us to get all our favorite bands together in one place, like a high class, far more expensive mixtape. They were such an affair that bands would release their best songs and greatest hits on these records, oftentimes sending a soundtrack soaring up the charts far past any one musician's own album.
Photo by Marco Torres R. Kelly, whose biggest hit originally appeared on the Space Jam soundtrack.
For that reason, it's hard to look back at them as the cheap marketing ploys that they could be. When real musicians applied themselves to soundtrack appearances, and Hollywood execs allowed them free reign over the product, it often became a must own, even if the movie sucked.
Here are some of those songs which you could only get on a soundtrack that you just had to buy back then.
Coolio featuring L.V. - "Gangsta's Paradise"
This one was released originally on the Dangerous Minds soundtrack, but it was re-released one month later as the title track of Coolio's second album. Nevertheless, it will forever be associated with the Michelle Pfeiffer film. Pfeiffer even appears in the video which is loosely based on the movie.
Regardless of where you place it, the soundtrack or Coolio's album, it became one of the biggest and most beloved hits of the '90s, and made Coolio a pop culture icon. That Stevie Wonder sample is still instantly recognizable, and its lyrics, which actually carry a pretty powerful message, are ingrained in the brains of almost anyone who grew up in the era.
Nine Inch Nails - "The Perfect Drug"
For some reason, this remains one of front man Trent Reznor's least favorite songs, but it's a fan favorite all the way. It debuted on the soundtrack of David Lynch's Lost Highway, which Reznor produced. It's a completely outside the box song for NIN, sounding like something they would do but featuring some of the songwriting expansion and tracks that Reznor would explore much further on the subsequent album The Fragile.
In that way, it's a transitional track, and maybe easy to see why Reznor doesn't like it. On the other hand, it's just a great song, no matter how poorly it would have fit on a Nails album. Speaking of these things, NIN also put out another great soundtrack exclusive song called "Deep" for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and word has it that Reznor hates that song too. It seems to be trend.
R. Kelly - "I Believe I Can Fly"
Like Coolio, Kelly scooped this one up for his subsequent album when it became a huge hit. Unlike Coolio, it didn't make it to a Kelly album for another two years, so there was a long time where you had to buy the Space Jam soundtrack to hear arguably Kelly's greatest song ever.
Space Jam was big with pretty much everyone under the sun, and the soundtrack rocked. But the definitive highlight was Kelly's inspirational gospel jam which inspires singalongs even to this day. It also happened to be Kelly's biggest hit, and as yet is unmatched in his discography.
U2 - "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"
By the '90s, U2 had gone into their poorly received experimental phase. In retrospect, it was probably their creative peak. In any case, it was great when this song came out because it was U2 rocking again, even if it was for the Batman Forever soundtrack rather than a U2 album.
The Batman soundtracks of the '80s and '90s were all amazing, but this one holds a special place in my heart since it was maybe the first album I ever owned. U2's track, which never appeared elsewhere, is one of my all time favorites from the band and holds up as a classic even now.