Columbia Records, 1984
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/23/1998
In 1984, I was having a serious problem with top 40 radio. Having been initiated into the heavy metal world courtesy of Van Halen's "Jump", I hoped to hear more songs with some bite to them on the radio. Unfirtunately, the airwaves were either clogged with ballads (anything off Chicago 16 or 17) or synthesizer-driven schlock rock. No wonder I immersed myself into the world of heavy metal like I did. (Yes, there was some good music released in the '80s - save your flame mail.)
The fact of how weak radio was in this period of time was brought back to my attention when Mrs. Pierce pulled out the soundtrack to Footloose for her enjoyment. (I've gotta change the combination to the Pierce Archive.) Despite the number of hits this album produced, these days most of it's as stale as a Twinkie found in Al Capone's vault.
Of the nine songs on this disc, the surprise to my ears comes from Bonnie Tyler - remember when she shredded our eardrums with "It's A Heartache"? Her voice sounded like she gargled with Liquid Plumb'r before she cut her vocal track. On the Jim Steinman-produced "Holding Out For A Hero," however, she gives possibly the performance of her life, and one which is still very enjoyable to listen to. (If memory serves me right, this was Tyler's last big hit in the States - too bad. She was really starting to hit a stride.)
Kenny Loggins had to be short on cash when he agreed to do the two songs on this album. "Footloose" is still one of the most annoying songs I've ever heard. From a sheer songwriting position, it's weak, and no musical or vocal performance could save it after that. The chorus is one thing that kills it - c'mon, Loggins and Dean Pitchford couldn't do better than "Now I gotts cut loose / Footloose / Kick off my Sunday shoes"? Give me a break. "I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)" doesn't help matters any, either. (Loggins obviously didn't learn his lesson with this soundtrack; he contributed "Danger Zone" to Top Gun. Someone wanna give him Jim Messina's phone number?)
Deniece Williams is a similar story. With only one minor hit to her credit - a duet with Johnny Mathis, for Crissakes - she hit the motherlode with "Let's Hear It For The Boy". Six words: let's not and say we did. If I had to name a song that captured the '80s at their worst, this would be at or near the top of my list. Like Williams, Shalamar never hit the level of success they did with their contribution. (I'd like to see a band get away with naming a song "Dancing In The Sheets" today - 'tis a shame Tipper Gore was busy crucifying Frank Zappa and Judas Priest at this time.)
The duet with Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, "Almost Paradise," wants to be a decent track, and it almost succeeds on its own. But the death blow is delivered by synthesized drums, which adds a sterile whack-whack-whack to an otherwise touching song. (To whoever invented the stupid things, you shoulda listened to old Yogi Berra: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.")
The remaining songs are definite throwaways. I don't know what Sammy Hagar was thinking with "The Girl Gets Around" - this had to be a leftover from I Never Said Goodbye. And there's a reason that Karla Bonoff and Moving Pictures didn't become household names - their songs on Footloose show why.
Such a waste of film stock... such a waste of a soundtrack... such a waste of my time. Footloose is an album that trips on its own shoelaces, and is as out of place as breakdancing would be at the Crystal Ballroom. Pass on this dud.