That no improvements have been made to the content of this album since its 2001 release reveals an ignorance on its distributors’ part as to how ubiquitous the Shrek soundtrack has become.
Please, please, please know this before you buy the reissued Shrek soundtrack on vinyl: these are not the songs you remember. This isn’t the reissue of the Shrek soundtrack as in the music that actually appeared in the film but rather the reissue of something called the Shrek soundtrack that came out in 2001, swapping out many of the film’s best songs for flimsy remixes and covers that presumably cost less for DreamWorks to get their hands on. It’s a shame this reissue didn’t correct this problem, or at least assign its ersatz versions of songs that appeared in the movie to a second LP of odds and ends. I imagine a lot of people buying this thing on vinyl without doing their research will be very pissed off. Consider this review your research.
Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” inspired a young Rico Nasty and, no doubt, countless other kids to seek out punk rock when it played over Shrek’s most entertaining fight scene. Would they have been as curious had the version that appears here—by a band called Halfcocked, which was actually signed to DreamWorks’ label—played instead? The beat is a lifeless karaoke version, and the singer sounds like she’s auditioning to be a pop star, transmogrifying her vocals into awful ballpark embellishments instead of screaming like her mom needs to get out of her room. Halfcocked broke up the year after Shrek came out, maybe because DreamWorks found the rights to “Funkytown” easier to obtain.
Rufus Wainwright sings Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” central to Shrek’s most emotional moment, rather than John Cale. This makes sense: Wainwright was something of a star in 2001, while it’s hard to get people to care about the stodgiest, artsiest member of the Velvet Underground. But Wainwright’s tremulous, slightly overwrought vocal pales next to the stern precision with which Cale sings his. This is where many of us heard “Hallelujah” for the first time, but you’d be hard-pressed to remember who sang it. Though the Cale and Wainwright versions are similar enough that a good number of the people who bought the CD probably thought they were hearing the same thing, Cale’s version is better, and it deserves to be here instead.
But the biggest injustice here is what’s been done to “I’m a Believer.” Smash Mouth’s version is arguably superior to the original recorded by the Monkees. The punchiness of the Smash Mouth arrangement better conveys the song’s central epiphany—“AND THEN I SAW HER FACE!”—than the coy Monkees version. But what’s here is the most hideous remix you can imagine. Its exuberant organs have been replaced with muddy synth horns and its driving beat with a trip-hop drum loop that’d sound cheap in a hair salon. It sounds like leftovers from Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” It’s worthless.
Dana Glover’s “It Is You (I Have Loved)” is intact. So is Eels’ “My Beloved Monster.” And Leslie Carter’s “Like Wow.” And Self’s “Stay Home.” You know, the songs you don’t remember.
I’m giving Shrek: Music from the Original Motion Picture an extra star in celebration of Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” which appears here as fans know and love it. But though it’s the song most people will buy this thing to hear—and the first one we hear in the movie—it’s curiously buried in the middle of the album. Any curator with a lick of taste would shift it to the beginning so its immortal “someBODY” opening would kick the whole thing off and blast us into Shrek-land.
That no improvements have been made to the content of this album since its 2001 release reveals an ignorance on its distributors’ part as to how ubiquitous the Shrek soundtrack has become. “All Star” is all but synonymous with the early 2000s; “Hallelujah” was ubiquitous at school vocal recitals throughout that decade; and I remember Smash Mouth’s “I’m a Believer” blasting from speakers above the gate at Legoland when I went as a 9-year-old. The Shrek soundtrack is an indelible part of the millennial memory bank. It should be treated like one.