It’s pretty much a given that casting a musician in your movie guarantees they’ll contribute to the film’s soundtrack—and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a hit song to help promote your flick. The most recent example is Taylor Swift’s “Today Was a Fairytale,” the lead single off the soundtrack to Valentine’s Day. The song was on iTunes for a matter of hours before it hit #1. (As for the fate of the movie? It has to compete with The Wolfman V-Day weekend, so we’ll see whether America is in the mood to celebrate romance or, er, not.)
But how does Swift’s “Fairytale” compare to the work of other recording artists who’ve tied in new songs with their big-screen appearances? Let’s take a second to reflect on the good, the bad, and hell yes, Glitter:
Taylor Swift – “Today Was a Fairytale” from Valentine’s Day
It was really just a matter of time before Hollywood cast Taylor Swift in a rom-com, not least because her fairytale references and home-spun charm connected with the masses in a whole new way in 2009. That said, anyone willing to cast Ke$ha in a movie? Anyone?
Madonna – “This Used to be My Playground” from A League of Their Own
Madonna contributed four songs to the Who’s That Girl soundtrack, and I’m Breathless spanned a variety of musical styles with songs inspired by Dick Tracy. But our favorite screen jam was this track from the 1992 Penny Marshall movie about female baseball players, in which Madonna memorably played Mae Mordabito. (We won’t even mention the travesty that was her cover of “American Pie” for the soundtrack to The Next Best Thing. Oh wait… dammit.)
Eminem - “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile
Eminem not only created a monster hit with “Lose Yourself,” but turns out, he’s not such a bad actor, either. Marshall Mathers’ star turn earned critical praise, and the movie did pretty well, too.
Mariah Carey – “Loverboy” from Glitter
The entire Glitter soundtrack, much like the movie, is just Mariah, Mariah, Mariah. What do you expect from a vanity project? Still, listening to “Loverboy” is a joy compared to watching the film (mostly because it’s a lot shorter).
Whitney Houston – “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” from Waiting to Exhale
Whitney is the Soundtrack Queen. She’s all over The Bodyguard and The Preacher’s Wife soundtracks, but she also served up three songs on the Waiting to Exhale album, including “Exhale (Shoop Shoop).”
Cher – “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)” from Mermaids
More shoop-shooping! Cher sang “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)” on the Mermaids soundtrack. She also recorded songs for Mask, Silkwood and Tea with Mussolini. None of them are as fun to sway and shimmy to as this one, though.
Paul McCartney – “No More Lonely Nights” from Give My Regards to Broad Street
Sir Paul wrote and starred in this 1984 film loosely based on his own life. We can forgive him for the horrible, punny title of this vanity project because of the killer soundtrack: mostly all remakes of his classic Beatles songs, and the new tune “No More Lonely Nights.”
Alanis Morissette – “Still” from Dogma
Alanis recorded the Dogma soundtrack. She pretty much had to; Kevin Smith did cast her as God.
Jessica Simpson – “These Boots Are Made For Walking” from The Dukes of Hazzard
For this cover, Jessica shed a lot of weight and all her credibility. (Jess might be able to scrape some of it back, since she reportedly recorded the theme song for her upcoming reality show.)
Vanilla Ice – title track from Cool As Ice
Vanilla Ice (né Robert Van Winkle) co-starred in this 1991 “rap-oriented remake Rebel without a Cause” alongside another highly respected thespian: Naomi Campbell. We don’t know what to giggle at first—the grand ambition of the film itself, his miscast co-star, Vanilla Ice attempting to act or his birth name. We’ll go with the theme song.
Mary J. Blige – title track from I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Mary plays Tanya in this Tyler Perry movie, and she provides the inspirational title track. Classic Mary—strong, fearless and classy. Madea making an appearance in the music video kind of ruins the serious vibe the song’s going for, though.
Norah Jones – “The Story” from My Blueberry Nights
The bluesy chanteuse sang “The Story” from her My Blueberry Nights, her debut as an actress. Unfortunately, the track disappeared from public consciousness as quickly as her movie.
Janet Jackson – “Doesn’t Really Matter” from The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
Janet got back into acting after a seven-year break with this family comedy, and her song “Doesn’t Really Matter” is probably the best thing to come out of that movie’s existence.
Beyoncé – “Work It Out” from Austin Powers in Goldmember
She recorded the title track for The Fighting Temptations, but the delicious slice of funk “Work It Out” struck a bigger chord with us, especially considering it was her debut single as a solo artist.
Mandy Moore – “God Only Knows” from Saved!
She sang a whole batch of songs on the A Walk to Remember soundtrack, including “Only Hope,” but we really enjoyed her cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” (featuring R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe), which accompanied the opening titles of indie comedy Saved!.
Hilary Duff & Haylie Duff – “Our Lips Are Sealed” from A Cinderella Story
Her pipes are all over the Lizzie Maguire soundtrack, but that goes without saying. (Ditto for Miley Cyrus and the Hannah Montana movie, which is why she isn’t on this list.) But outside the realm of Disney, Hilary recorded a completely unnecessary cover of The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” with her sister Haylie for A Cinderella Story.
Overall, there seems to be a direct correlation between how big the song was, and how big the associated movie scored at the box-office. If this holds true, we should expect Valentine’s Day to do pretty damn well.