There are a lot of '80s music compilations out there, just like there are many for every era and genre of pop music that have emerged over the last 50 years. In fact, there are so many that sometimes it's very difficult to distinguish the good from the mediocre and the just plain bad. Interestingly, one of the best and most exhaustive documents of the first half of the '80s just happens to be a two-disc film soundtrack that offers great new wave and pop classics.
A Taste of the Decade - Volume 1
Assuming that the makers of The Wedding Singer planned on only one soundtrack and tacked on a second volume only when capitalistic opportunities inspired the move, the first installment is a good if not great reflection of both the movie and the music it features. One immediate strike against the selection scheme is kicking things off with a cover version of "Video Killed the Radio Star," which is especially strange considering that the Buggles' original version appears in the movie. Anyway, that's not a truly vital '80s song anyway, so let's move on. New wave and early alternative essentials are covered nicely with the inclusion of signature tracks from Culture Club, the Smiths, Psychedelic Furs, Thompson Twins and New Order. Beyond that, songs prominently employed in the film, Billy Idol's "White Wedding" and David Bowie's "China Girl,", are pleasant additions that round out the decade summary with a deft touch. But what really sets the first volume apart actually has little to do with the '80s. Adam Sandler's own composition, "Somebody Kill Me," generates one of the film's funniest moments and is a far better bonus feature than the tired Rappin' Granny track, Ellen Dow's rendition of "Rapper's Delight."
A Sequel Better Than the Original? - Rare Indeed
Despite its rather cynical reason for existing, the supplemental volume of this soundtrack actually ends up exceeding the wholly respectable quality of Volume 1. Once you get past a couple of throwaway novelty tracks that were nonetheless difficult to avoid during the '80s (Kajagoogoo, Flying Lizards & Dead or Alive could muster little staying power, after all), there are some absolutely essential '80s tracks here that really need to be in any viable collection from the era. Spandau Ballet's excellent New Romantic ballad "True" has held up remarkably well over time, and it's really quite a joy to hear it again today. And I don't know if it's deliberate, but the collection has an uncanny knack for picking lesser-known but arguably higher quality tunes from artists unjustly remembered for other, inferior songs. Namely, A Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song," B-52s' "Private Idaho," and Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams" are standout tracks that measure up well next to anything the '80s had to offer. This can also be said for the J. Geils Band's "Love Stinks," featured also wonderfully in the film. But it's really nice to find tracks from these major '80s artists that are just a little off the beaten path.
Go Elsewhere for an '80s Compilation at Your Own Risk
Luckily, through the magic of legal downloading from deep catalogues of music, it's not difficult to track down individual '80s tracks you feel must be added to your collection. But if you're seeking a general '80s compilation that doesn't disappoint you almost every other song, the search can be much more painful and difficult. That's why I recommend this two-volume '80s music collection all the more ardently, because the two discs really do a fine job of hitting the high points without resorting to puzzling choices or dud selections because of licensing snags. For the most part, these two discs may well be the only '80s music compilation you need to purchase.