One of my favourite movie soundtracks is for the film Office Space. I only discovered that there was an actual soundtrack album about 10 years after I first saw the film. The movie’s closer to 20 years old now. I have always liked the film – and I liked the music as part of the film, obviously. It’s a rather crucial component – several tracks play out boldly over the action and there is clever, ironic use of hip-hop.
But it was a treat to, out of the blue, find the CD on the shelf in a shop. Soundtracks don’t always stick around. They don’t always have the best shelf-life (in all applications of the term). But every now and then you will find a gem, a set of songs that you would normally never listen to if they weren’t linked to a film that in some way or other gives you pleasure. And Office Space is a great example I reckon.
Kicking off with Canibus and Biz Markie’s Shove This Jay-Oh-Be, this is a pretty good after-work/no-work song (sing along with me – and with Canibus and The Biz: “take this job and shove it/take this job/take this job/take this job and shove it”). Empowering stuff. It’s a fun hip-hop song coasting along on a cool beat.
Slum Village’s Get Dis Money slopes in with a slick groove. And then Kool Keith (he’s nearly as mad as Biz Markie) contributes Get Off My Elevator. Keith is a great rapper and this is a cool song. What makes this soundtrack CD really hum for me – and close to transcendent – is that, and I truly believe this, you don’t need to a) have seen the film to appreciate these opening three songs at all and b) you don’t need to like hip-hop. Some would argue that part b) of that statement is not true. I would argue that those that would argue that are cloth-eared, closed-minded fools.
Hip-hop, when done right, draws on a rich tradition of funk, soul, jazz, blues and R’n’B music. And so only the cloth-eared closed-minded fools who have yet to recognise will not appreciate the inclusion of Junior Reid’s Big Bossman.
Lisa Stone remakes 9-5 – this is Dolly Parton with a light skip in her step. And it’s obvious that the song is tied to the titular theme of the film. It’s a song I could normally care less about – but it works, albeit oddly. I guess it pays to have some moments in a soundtrack that hark back to the actual film. Good music is one thing, but context is crucial – even if intermittent.
Ice Cube is great, just don’t let him act. It’s nice to hear the slow-groove, drawled-delivery of Down For Whatever; a reminder that before he phoned-in that stoned-over look for far too many films with Friday in the title, Ice Cube was (and can still be) a great rapper; one of the best.
And then we get back to that idea of context being key. And of music being linked to scenes and moments within films; the ultimate example of which for Office Space is the song Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta by The Geto Boys. I am pretty sure this is the song that made me like this soundtrack. And it is the song that scores the moment in the film that made me love the song (and possibly even made me love the film?) Again, it’s about empowerment. Totally deluded, unrealistic, close to inconceivable, downright unfeasible empowerment; but empowerment, dammit!
For those that haven’t seen the film and/or heard the song and are still reading (both of you!) the song blasts out while a white guy decides he wants to play by his own rules at work and the song slinks along over its cool-charm groove while he takes a drill to the corner-posts of his office cubicle; he drops a “wall” down and puts his feet up on his desk to enjoy a window view. It’s the ultimate feel-good move by and for the downtrodden. We working Joes love watching this. It feels good just to see this – even in a fictional world. It’s symbolic of the change you can’t make but would love to. Yeah, and it’s a damn cool song too. Damn cool. And damn it feels good…
Scarface’s No Tears is another great hip-hop song; but not one that non-hip-hop fans will like. You’d need to be a fan of Ice Cube and/or The Wu-Tang Clan to like this song. But it’s so funny in the film – watching geeky white-boys singing along to very overtly black rap.
The Geto Boys bounce back with Still; not a patch on Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta (but that’s close to impossible, being that that track is one of the greatest songs in the world). And then the album closes out with two cute, novelty Latin-pop songs. Perez Parado’s Mambo 8 and Peanut Vendor. Both pieces are used well as actual score in the film, and are a nice variation from the hip-hop and hip-hop-antecedent vibe of the soundtrack.