Jump to content

Ranking the Dirty Dancing soundtrack songs…

Recommended Posts

I didn’t have to revisit the soundtrack to know its highs and lows. These songs are forever lurking in my mental substrate. Some for better, some for worse. So, here’s my ranking of the album’s tracks, from favored last dance picks to the tracks that belong, eternally, in a corner:

1. “Be My Baby,” The Ronettes

Film trivia: Along with Dirty Dancing, what other American cinema classic has an opening scene set to “Be My Baby?” Mean Streets! It’s hard to think of two more temperamentally opposed films, but the Ronettes put the pedal down on both. And it works beautifully both times. Those opening drum blasts and Ronnie Spector’s booming voice have such a sense of promise and possibility to them — it’s the start of summer, it’s the sun coming up, it’s an exemplary lead-off song.

2. “Overload,” Alfie Zappacosta

“Overload” is ridiculous and I love it. Zappacosta sings in a goofy macho belch, like he’s thinking about absolutely crushing some bicep curls as soon as he’s through with the song. It kills me, and the sparse drum beat and guitar wriggles during the chorus are weirdly cool and minimal. If Rambo-era Sylvester Stallone made music, it’d sound like this.

3. “Love Is Strange,” Mickey & Sylvia 

The opening guitar licks are tersely funky and culminate on an awesome broke-note fill. The song’s spoken duet part (“Hey, Sylvia?”) never stops being adorable either. Sylvia’s delivery has an acid sassiness that keeps the song from getting too sweet.

4. “Hey! Baby,” Bruce Channel 

A No. 1 single in 1961, this song — an amiable Buddy Holly-esque lope — features harmonica so bright and playful and carefree the Grinch could get with it.

5. “Stay,” Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs 

When whichever Zodiac is responsible swoops into his falsetto, it’s impossible not to smile. Even if Williams and Co. intend something lascivious (it’s creepy to convince a girl to hang around by saying her “Mommy” and “Daddy” won’t mind), there’s a buoyancy to the sound that’s irresistable. And the rhythm has a nice lulling Latin lilt.

6. “Hungry Eyes,” Eric Carmen

Eric Carmen’s career is a strange one. In the early ’70s, he fronted beloved power-poppers the Raspberries, who were punchy and tough and clever. Then the group broke-up (they’d later reunite), and in 1975 he had a gloopy hit with “All By Myself.” After that he transformed himself into a total softy. “Hungry Eyes” is MOR-ballad Carmen, but the rasp he gives to the line “I feel the magic between you and I” still gets me. Bro’s a pro.

7. “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes 

Medley and Warnes both have lovely voices, and the melody soars (in a seatbelts-on kind of way), but — and this is a hindsight issue and not the song’s fault — this joint sounds like the blueprint for the music in every erectile dysfunction commercial. Can’t fault the arrangement, though. This song starts limp, then rises, and rises, and climaxes into the chorus. Multiple times.

8. “In the Still of the Night,” The Five Satins 

A go-to for signifying pre-Beatles rock, this is a perfect doo-wop song. The undying backing sho-doop, sho-be doops, the swooning melody, the unexpected string plinks, that cottony saxophone. Pass me a malt soda and let me look at the stars.

9. “Yes,” Merry Clayton

This is bouncy, frothy soul-pop that would’ve been a solid cut on an ’80s Aretha Franklin album. It’s also the second-best thing Clayton ever did. The best? Her wailing backing vocals on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

10. “She’s Like the Wind,” Patrick Swayze 

There’s definitely a soft-core 50 Shades of Grey appeal about the track’s plush ambience, but man oh man, Swayze sings like he’s working through an acting exercise or something. Like someone said to him that he should sing like his loins are on fire, but nobody else is allowed to know because HE IS SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH A RICH GIRL BUT HE’S FROM THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS AND IT’LL NEVER WORK! OH THE SIMMERING PASSION!

11. “Where Are You tonight?” Tom Johnston

Sub-Huey Lewis. Still, you could imagine a normally buttoned-down uncle very much enjoying this song if it was played by a live band at a wedding. But has any genre aged more poorly than ’80s blue-eyed soul?

12. “You Don’t Own Me,” The Blow Monkeys

This song gives me the creeps. The lead singer does a vague Bowie impression, but without any of the Thin White Duke’s sense of desiccated grandeur he just sounds overwrought. The sax honks, but not hard enough. The strings are synthetic and thin; the drums cold. The chorus is catchy, but the production, the attitude, is flimsy and dated — two things that, 25 years later, Dirty Dancing is most definitely not.

David Marchese


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...