SPACE JAM WEEK: I Believe That It’s Fly (A Deep Dive Into the Soundtrack)

Space Jam, at its heart, is insane. The premise, Michael Jordan plays basketball with the Looney Toons against aliens, is based on an advertising campaign. It’s a sub-90 minute children’s film.

And yet, it’s soundtrack is nearly legendary. It peaked at number 2 on the Billboard charts, and was the 69th best selling album of the 90s. It features songs, production, and appearances by some of the biggest names in music. The deeper you look into it, the lower your jaw drops trying to understand how this music all appeared or was connected to a film as ridiculous as Space Jam.

So that’s what we’ll do here today. Track by track, let’s take a deeper look.

TRACK 1: Fly Like An Eagle, performed by Seal

Right off the bat, we’re in unbelievable territory. The first song on this soundtrack is Seal covering The Steve Miller Band. The music video is half Seal in front of a green screen and half random clips from the movie.

In my research, I discovered that the song (Steve Miller version) was voted the greatest song of all-time by the readers of Birds & Blooms magazine. BIRDS AND BLOOMS MAGAZINE. What a time to be alive.

TRACK 2: The Winner by Coolio

There are two distinct phases of Coolio’s career.

First, he was an actual famous person, and an actual musician who released actual music.

Then, he was king of the B-list celebrity circuit. Since 2008, your man Coolio has appeared on a litany of reality TV shows, most of which you haven’t even heard of. He was on three different iterations of Big Brother. THREE!

TRACK 3: Space Jam by The Quad City DJs

Any breakdown of this soundtrack or this song needs to include the implicit fact that this song right here is incredible. It is perfect for this movie. It is perfect for this soundtrack. It is perfect for most situations. Let’s break some stats and facts:

Uses of the word “Jam”: 20

Uses of the word “Slam”: 10

Uses of the “word” “C’mon”: 21

Cities of origin for the DJs: 4

Are they from the “Quad Cities” of Iowa/Illinois? No.

Is one of the Quad City DJs named “CC Lemonhead”? YES.

Peak on the Billboard 100: #37

Peak on the Billboard Rap Charts: #11

Where it should have peaked: They should have made it #1 forever and stopped even doing the charts

TRACK 4: I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly

Robert Kelly’s music career breaks down into five distinct areas.

  1. Dance jams (See: “Remix, Ignition”)
  2. R&B Slow Jamz (essentially, songs R. Kelly intended to be played in the bedroom)
  3. Multi-part dramatic modern operas (See: “Closet, Trapped In The”)
  4. Inspirational ballads (like this song)
  5. His sordid non-music past

The fifth item on this list makes enjoying the other four above it a bit more difficult. Currently, he seems squarely in the area that Bill Cosby existed before Hannibal Burress and the internet kicked up the past. People may not like R. Kelly as a person, and they may even feel weird about some of his more risque songs, but they will still go nuts when “Ignition (Remix)” comes on at the bar.

Is the anti-R.Kelly movement coming? Maybe. Michael Jackson has been dragged through the mud dozens of times, but people are still playing “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”. Cosby’s shows and routines were still beloved when his wrongdoings were being successfully swept under the rug.

What does any of this mean for “I Believe I Can Fly”? I don’t know. I wanted to say a lot more than “This song is cheesy, corny, and bad”, so I tried to do the right thing and get one or two more people to Google and find out there’s more to R. Kelly’s misdeeds than the story you already probably know. Space Jam Week is an odd time to momentarily hop onto the sopabox, but it’s the least I can do.

TRACK 5: Hit ‘Em High by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man

Yes, you read that right. B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man. Or as they are credited as writers: Louis Freese, Trevor Smith, Artis Ivey Jr., Todd Smith and Clifford Smith.

Your first question is “Do those 5 super white guy names really belong to five hugely popular rappers?”. The answer is yes.

Your second question is “Wait. I thought LL Cool J stood for ‘Ladies Love Cool James’? Why aren’t any of those names James?”. The answer is “I know, what the hell?” Apparently, LL’s real name is James Todd Smith, but for some reason he’s credited here as just Todd Smith. Next year when he weirdly hosts the Grammy’s again like he does every year for no reason, after the 12th time he licks his lips, just think to yourself, “Todd Smith.” Life altering.

More importantly, I love the idea of bringing of five big time rappers to collaborate on the Monstars theme song.  I don’t love the amount of non-basketball clothes worn in that music video. Ski goggles? Eye black? Gloves? They’ve seen basketball before, right?

TRACK 6: I Found My Smile Again by D’Angelo

Never heard this song in my life. No idea when it’s in the movie, but Wikipedia claims it is. This song is nothing. I don’t think it actually exists.

TRACK 7: For You, I Will by Monica

No re-collection of this one either. Is there music quietly playing in the background for the entirety of Space Jam?

TRACK 8: Upside Down (‘Round-N-‘Round) by Salt N Pepa

This one I know. It plays during the scene where Charles Barkley is “killing the Knicks”. I didn’t recognize it for the first several minutes, but when the part that’s in the movie kicks in, I had Jason Bourne flashbacks to that moment.

TRACK 9: Givin’ U All That I’ve Got by Robin S.

I probably would have been able to place this one, but YouTube was kind enough to also have video of the scene…in Spanish. Watching it gives me this weird urge to watch Space Jam in Spanish. I don’t speak a word of Spanish. This just feels like a spiritual experience.

TRACK 10: Basketball Jones by Barry White and Chris Rock

I don’t think I’d ever heard this entire song before writing this post. I’d never heard the Chris Rock parts for sure. I definitely had no idea it was previously written and performed by Cheech and Chong. Forgive me, people born before my time.

The best thing about this song is how the smooth voice of Barry White is almost used like dialogue in the movie. It’s timed perfectly in between certain lines. Patrick Ewing at the psychiatrist in particular.

TRACK 11: I Turn To You by All 4 One

This is another song I can’t place into the movie. I can’t imagine placing this song into any PG rated movie honestly. The amount of smooth R&B on this soundtrack is pretty remarkable. Exclduing Space Jam, Hit Em High, and Basketball Jones, what about the other 8 previous songs says “animated basketball movie”? Not much?

TRACK 12: All of My Days by R. Kelly, featuring Changing Faces and Jay-Z

Woah, woah, woah! I didn’t know Sean Carter was in this picture!

He’s not, techincally. This is one of the few songs that was added to the soundtrack despite not appearing in the film. And it’s not half bad! It opens with a solid verse from Jay-Z and then, well that’s all I really listened to. But hey, it’s Jay-Z!

TRACK 13: That’s The Way (I Like) by The Spin Doctors, featuring Biz Markie

Are there words to describe this mess? Was there something wrong with the original KC and the Sunshine Band version of the song? Did they pay more for The Spin Doctors and Biz Markie to record this version? Why, oh why, would they do such a thing? Did one of the film’s producers have grudge for KC, or perhaps the Sunshine Band?

This song is an assault on the eardrums.

TRACK 14: Buggin’ by Bugs Bunny

I swear this is not attempt to start a Drake-Meek Mill style feed, but BUGS BUNNY DONT WRITE HIS OWN RAPS.

You probably could have guessed that, given that Bugs Bunny ins’t a real person. What you might not guess is who did write the lyrics for Bugs: the aforementioned Jay-Z. And you can kinda tell. The flow and pacing of the verses sounds like Hov. And by that I mean, they sound like 1996 Jay-Z, not Rihanna/Alicia Keys on the hook, getting play on pop stations Jay-Z.

When you hear “Bugs Bunny rap song” you expect Fresh Prince-esque soft hippity hop, but the beat and flow of this song are much more “What if Bugs Bunny grew up in Compton?”. There are lines dissing Mickey Mouse! Halfway through the song I fully expected him to talking about pouring out a 40 for Wile E. Coyote.

Also, if they do make a sequel, and they decide to write and record another Bugs Bunny rap, who do they bring in to write the lyrics? Drake is probably their first call and they could do worst than having Drake’s ghostwriters ghostwrite it. I’m can get on board for that. Even if I am #TeamMeek.

Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.

If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to palestraback@gmail.com.

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