If there ever was an album to show the growing pains of the ‘80s trying to find its own sound, it’s this one -- the soundtrack to Fame. One of the film’s lead actresses, Irene Cara, pulls a Donna Summer and stars on the soundtrack as well. The first three songs are all by Cara, with varying results. The title track is the one that everyone can sing by heart, but that doesn’t prevent it from falling as flat as a pancake. It’s far too dated and the production is shockingly murky. Things improve slightly with the piano vocal showcase ballad “Out Here On My Own.” My pick, however, as the best track on the album is “Hot Lunch Jam.” Even with its goofy lyrics, it has a revved-up piano hook that is relentless throughout the song. No wonder its scene in the movie is the most memorable.
The slow song “Dogs In The Yard” is performed by cast member Paul McCrane and is a nice, poignant moment that shouldn’t go unnoticed. It is followed up by the dance track “Red Light” by Linda Clifford, which stands out like a sore thumb. Its production is far too polished to fit with the rag-tag feel of the other tracks. Paul McCrane returns with the mediocre acoustic ballad “Is It Okay If I Call You Mine” and while it may not stand out for me, it will likely be pleasing to fans of ‘70s-style folk rock.
The final songs on this soundtrack bring back the nightmares of my own school chorale involvement in all their garish glory. The faux-gospel of “Never Alone” had me laughing unintentionally because it is just so over-the-top. That damn tambourine player needs to be shot. If you think “Never Alone” is bad, wait until you get a load of the closing theme “I Sing The Body Electric.” That song gives me the creeps. Think of it as Hair for the ‘80s. Now do you understand? Eew…
Oh, I know I should go easy on those earnest students of the High School Of The Performing Arts -- but since when is high school supposed to be easy? The “we’re gonna take the world by storm” message that the Fame project is trying to convey is a complete sham! The real world just isn’t going to be as accommodating as these students are taught to believe. It wasn’t in 1980 and it certainly isn’t today. To me all of this adds up to a futile exercise in instilling false hope into naïve, spotty teenagers who were born on the wrong side of the tracks.
Of course, I don’t have children of my own, but if I did, I would be very careful not to sell them a bill of goods by telling them that all of their dreams will come true. Encouragement to find their passion is one thing, but preparing them for the big bad world of brutal competition is another. Sorry, I’ve become too much of a hard-nosed realist to buy what the creators of Fame were peddling, then and now.