Graded on a Curve: Various Artists, Footloose: Original Soundtrack of the Paramount Motion Picture

So the kids in Bomont, Oklahoma think they had it bad? In my rural hometown, we weren’t allowed to square dance. Our town elders also banned chewing gum, walking the streets after the 7:30 curfew, the subversive music of John Denver, and the word “squid.” Guess they thought it was an obscenity or something.

So imagine the liberating effect 1985’s Footloose and its accompanying official soundtrack had on us. No longer would we put up with our parents’ dour puritanism. No longer would we stand around at high school dances not dancing. We wanted to dance up a storm, press body to body and sweat up a healthy hard-on. We even created our own dance–a bouncing-like-pinballs variation on square dancing’s “boxing the qnat” we dubbed “moshing.”

The storyline of Footloose goes something like this: Chicago kid Ren moves to small town, falls for small town girl Ariel, wins game of tractor chicken (yes, it’s a thing) against town bully Chuck, and inspires the ire of the town preacher and his dour acolytes. A fist fight with Chuck and some book burning ensue, and Ren finally wins the day by holding the prom at a local grain silo, where everyone dances well past their 10:30 bedtime.

This is why I’ll always love the Footloose soundtrack; it represents sweet teen rebellion to me. Artists include, of course, Kenny Loggins, who contributes both the title track and “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man).” Other artists include the great Deniece Williams, Bonnie Tyler, Sammy Hagar, Shalamar, Moving Pictures, and Mike Reno and Ann Wilson of Heart fame, who duet on the soundtrack’s unforgettable love theme, “Almost Paradise.” Hardly what I’d call a stellar line-up for a dance-oriented movie soundtrack, and the fact that there are only two black acts represented here doesn’t improve matters. But I guess that’s the way it goes in rural Oklahoma.

The killer track, of course, is Loggins’ “Footloose.” The big, propulsive drums, the catchy hook and Kenny’s impassioned invitation to kick off your Sunday shoes make the song a dance mandate. Runner-up honors go to Deniece Williams’ funky, synth-fueled “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” which doubles down on Loggins’ barnyard disco call. “Almost Paradise” is a John Deere-powered ballad and classic raise your lighter moment, but be careful lest you accidentally burn down a cornfield.

Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” is a decent disco thresher, while Shalamar’s excellent “Dancing in the Sheets” adds a shockingly licentious touch to an otherwise PG-13 movie. Unfortunately, both Loggins’ “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” and Karla Bonoff’s “Somebody’s Eyes” aren’t good for much except cow tipping.

What’s Sammy Hagar’s rockin’ “The Girl Gets Around” doing here, you ask? It’s been decades since I’ve watched the movie, but I suspect it plays in the background during the make-or-break moment when Ariel nervously confesses to Ren she’s (gasp!) not a virgin. But outlier or not it’s a dandy rocker, albeit by the guy who sent Van Halen straight to the outhouse. Finally, we have the negligible “Never” by Moving Pictures, who nobody should like because they’re Australians stealing American jobs.

I’m glad the teens of Bomont triumphed over the forces of evangelical sexual repression, but I wish they’d found better music to dance to than the pasty white MOR pap on the soundtrack. But seeing as how Footloose has become a landmark in kitsch, these songs are right at home. So let’s hear it for the boys and the girls in rural communities everywhere, but pray they lay their calloused farmers’ hands on some George Clinton. It’s high time they learned ”Do Fries Come with That Shake?” is more than a question to the kid behind the counter at the local Dairy Queen.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
D+

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