Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995) should be on everyone’s Top 10 Teen Comedies list. First of all, it might be the best adaptation of a Jane Austen novel (Emma), and second, and most importantly, Clueless is a zeitgeist flick that captures mid-90s pop culture and music to a T.
Clueless covers the fast-paced life of high school diva Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and music plays virtually throughout the entire film. However, tracking doesn’t follow the movie’s plot sequentially. An acoustic version of Radiohead’s gorgeous “Fake Plastic Trees” is followed by the manic pop of “Change” by Lightning Seeds.
The soundtrack is a near schizoid mix of alternative rock, rap and everything in between as if someone were scanning FM radio channels in ’95. It all works together though, possibly because the movie came out in the twilight years of the mix tape.
The soundtrack also features four covers: The Muffs – “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde, Cracker – “Shake Some Action” by The Flamin’ Groovies, Counting Crows – “The Ghost in You (Live)” by Psychedelic Furs and World Party – “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople. With the exception of Cracker’s “Shake Some Action,” which is a bit underwhelming, each cover is fun and fresh, revamped with a power pop accent.
Some tracks are inseparable from their corresponding movie scenes, which is a sign of a well-done soundtrack. Heckerling is no stranger to marrying scenes to music. After all, she was also the creative force behind Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Think of the epic Phoebe Cates slow-motion pool scene with The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo.” In the same steamy, yet softer, vein, Heckerling pairs a passionate movie-ending kiss with General Public’s 1984 single “Tenderness.” The blissful pop chime of of the song acts as a perfect closer for the movie.
In another of the most memorable scenes, Tai (played by the late Brittany Murphy) gets a makeover set to “Supermodel” by Jill Sobule. The girls even attend a live Mighty Mighty Bosstones show complete with the skank-dancing of Ben Carr and the complexities of teenage heart ache of the Clueless cast members.
The fourteen songs on the soundtrack recall the mid-’90s fondly with only a few duds, but more frustrating than the duds are the songs not included on the soundtrack due to supposed licensing issues. There are several like “Away” by The Cranberries and “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa, but three missing songs sting in particular: No Doubt – “Just a Girl,” David Bowie – “Fashion” and the aforementioned “Tenderness.”
No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom was released in October of 1995 with some radio play, but little indication of the band’s pending success. “Just a Girl” is partially responsible for Tragic Kingdom hitting America’s Top Ten a year later. It fits perfectly with the energy of the film and is sorely missed.
“Fashion” is the funkiest single off of David Bowie’s Scary Monsters. The thumping bass-line and snappy guitar riff play in the background as Cher selects her outfit with the aid of a garment-pairing computer program. She models her wardrobe as Bowie sings “Fashion, turn to the left. Fashion, turn to the right.”
The fact that movie contained enough music to release a double album is vexing to those who would have appreciated a total package. Regardless, the Clueless soundtrack is a great slice of 90s music pie, it’s just missing the a la mode.
Various Artists – Clueless Soundtrack tracklist:
- “Kids in America” – The Muffs
- “Shake Some Action” -David Lowery
- “The Ghost in You” – Counting Crows
- “Here” – Luscious Jackson
- “All the Young Dudeds” – World Party
- “Fake Plastic Trees” – Radio Head
- “Change” – Lightening Seeds
- “Need You Around” – Smoking Popes
- “Mullet Head” -Beastie Boys
- “Where’d You Go?” – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
- “Rollin’ With My Homies” – Coolio
- “Alright” – Supergrass
- “My Forgotten Favorite” – Velocity Girl
- “Supermodel” – Jill Sobule