Just because we nerds keep "Weird Al" Yankovic in fresh Hawaiian shirts doesn't mean we want all the music we listen to to be a total joke. (Are you listening, Rivers Cuomo?) Yet clearly that message hasn't gotten through to the Hollywood studios and major labels when it comes to the soundtracks they select for geek-centric movies. Like a nightmare cross between the mutants in The Hills Have Eyes and the Von Trapp Family Singers, every fresh act of corporate incest they commit breeds hellishly bad musical offspring.
Whether cheesy, syrupy, grating, baffling, or just plain dumb, the 11 songs (and videos) listed below all have two things in common: They come from geektastic flicks, and they stink on ice.
11) Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" from Ghostbusters 2
Hard to believe that the future ex-Mr. Whitney Houston and crack enthusiast was once considered the heir to Michael Jackson, isn't it? Trust us, it'll get even harder once you relive this particular nightmare of dated New Jack Swingery and laughably literal movie-based rap interludes. For real, it's gotta hurt to come a distant second in the Ghostbusters movie theme-song sweepstakes to Ray Parker Jr. The video bites pretty hard too, with various New Yorkers treating special effects meant to simulate the then-fantastical technology of digital billboards like the Apollo 11 moon landing. And its attempt to one-up the awesome celebrity cameos from RPJR's "Ghostbusters" video fails miserably. Where once there were Chevy Chase, John Candy, George Wendt and a slew of other '80s comedy icons, feast your eyes on this line-up: Donald Trump! Christopher Reeve riding a bicycle, depressingly enough! Uh, Sally Kirkland! The fucking Ramones, for some reason! PS: If anyone can track down and YouTube the spectacularly shambolic performance of this song that Brown delivered at that year's MTV VMAs--in which he got so winded he just gave up on the vocals and, in an attempt to get the audience to supply them, held out the mic and yelled "you know the rap!", which they didn't--I've got some naked pictures of Sally Kirkland with your name on 'em. They're too hot to handle, too cold to hold.
10) The Coup de Villes' "Big Trouble in Little China" from Big Trouble in Little China
Like a cult-movie Kraftwerk, writer-director-genius John Carpenter proved himself a master of moody minimalism with his often-imitated, never-duplicated synthesizer scores for Halloween, The Thing, and Escape from New York. But something happened on the way to Lo Pan. As if to provide the titular trouble for his Hong Kong action pastiche Big Trouble in Little China, Carpenter decided to get his full-fledged balls-out rock on with his band the Coupe de Villes, featuring collaborators/hangers-on Nick Castle (writer of Escape from New York and the man behind Michael Myers's mask) and Tommy Lee Wallace (director of Halloween III and Stephen King's It). Displaying the same rock-god gusto that worked magic in Coup de Villes album cuts "Manhole," "Hard On Me," and "On My Knees Again" (I swear I didn't make those up), Carpenter himself takes lead vocal duties on the movie's theme song, thus making this the most horrifying four minutes of film he's ever been involved with. The rolled-up sportjacket sleeves, the impassioned yet bland delivery from a bunch of old white dudes trying to recapture their youth, the gheri curl on Eric Bogosian lookalike Castle--it's all just one key-tar away from convincing me it's actually a parody. If the aliens from They Live really existed, this would be how they'd beat us into complacency.
9) Partnerz in Kryme's "Turtle Power" from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I'm guessing your main problem with this song when you were a kid was that it erroneously referred to Raphael as "the leader of the group." Where's a good fact-checker when Leonardo needs one? But in retrospect, this song fails for the near-total lack of effort put into its nursery-rhyme lyrics, pegging it as a product of people who knew about as much about hip hop as they knew about intra-Turtle hierarchy. Sample rhyme: "Pizza's the food that's sure to please / These ninjas are into pepperoni and cheese." If Chuck D is right and hip hop is "the black CNN," this is like the AbRoller infomerical that airs when CNBC goes off the air at 3am. Keep your eyes peeled for the video's inexplicable drunken Irish-stereotype mayor and panties-flashing cheerleaders. Turtle Power indeed!
8) Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" from Batman Forever
Right from the syrupy strings and twee "ba-da-ba"s that kick off the track, this lugubrious ballad from Joel Schumacher's not-quite-as-abhorrent-as-Batman-and-Robin-but-still-pretty-goddamn-bad Batman Forever drenches your ears in a thick, mucousy coating of pure schmaltz. The icing on the crapcake? Some of the most bafflingly non-sequitur lyrics ever to become a staple of the kind of radio station your mom listens to at the office: "And did you know that when it snows my eyes become large and the light that you shine can't be seen?" No, Seal, I was not aware of that. Nor am I familiar enough with a kiss from a rose on a grave to compare my baby to it. (Who the hell is? Ed Gein?) And not even the luminous presence of a pre-Botox Nicole Kidman—or the fact that the video's footage of Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne makes it feel like an artifact from an alternate universe, since that's clearly the only place where casting Val Kilmer as the lead in your Hollywood blockbuster could possibly make sense—can save the melodramatic, Backstreet-Boys-ballad-worthy video. As a fan of Seal's previous incarnation as the heavily scarred art-dance enigma behind "Crazy" and "Killer," this saccharine monstrosity is almost as offensive to me as Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey's tag-team butchering of Batman's rogues-gallery deep bench. I guess Seal will just have to console himself over my disapproval by going home to his mansion and fucking his supermodel wife Heidi Klum with his apparently massive cock.
7) Margot Kidder's "Can You Read My Mind?" from Superman
Okay, I think enough time has passed: Can we please now agree that the only reason the first Superman movie is fondly remembered is because the mere presence of a superhero on the big screen validated the lonely, loveless childhoods of millions of losers? I mean, with all the goofy powers those first few flicks gave the guy, the answer to this musical question could easily have been "yes." And any movie that interrupts its big romantic wish-fulfillment moment to insert a beat-poetry performance from Margot Kidder--mugging like a vaudeville act and already looking like she'd been rode hard and put away wet, by the by--should probably have been left behind to die on Krypton.