Why The Soundtrack to ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ is The Quintessential Anthem of the Eighties
The eighties were a dramatic era that summoned the very best in entertainment that still captivates and inspires decades later. Artists like Taylor Swift and a slew of others have greatly benefited from the influences of high-tempo beats — mixed in with functional verses that stick to your memory like glue.
It was also a time when movies and the soundtracks that accompanied them were virtually inseparable. The standouts of that winning practice include The Big Chill, Footloose, Dirty Dancing and of course the incomparable Purple Rain. Each of those films featured a collection of hits that are just as relevant and endearing today as they were when they stormed the charts.
It’s been about 33 years since the much-heralded release of Beverly Hills Cop, the action comedy blockbuster that certified comedian and former SNL alum — Eddie Murphy’s movie star status — and as hard as it is to believe that it’s been that long — it’s even harder for me to admit that I was old enough to remember the phenomenal impact both the film and the soundtrack had on the cultural front.
Murphy’s Axel Foley was a charismatic, street-wise cop from Detroit who ends up inhabiting the polished streets of Beverly Hills as he investigates the brutal murder of his friend. Every detail of Beverly Hills Cop captures the splendor of the eighties — down to Foley’s signature attire and the tangible trends that are normally associated with the period that is nostalgically referenced as “the decade of excess.”
It’s also worth noting that aside from shattering the box office — the film was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1985.
It didn’t win either of those awards, but it did manage to snag a well-deserved Grammy in 1986 — for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and that victory shouldn’t have come as a surprise — when you consider the immaculately packaged recordings that would still overwhelm anything that’s been produced since its inception.
The soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop is the soulful anthem of the eighties because it synthesizes the sonic delivery of that generation with the wit of irresistibility through the compilation of tracks by artists — who are revered for their contribution to the landscape of a genre that continues to evolve in unexpected ways.
No matter how far we get from the eighties — there’s no way to exist without running back for extra reinforcements as we currently struggle to replicate the effortless pull towards the instinctual — that provided the countless classics that we will enjoy for eternity.
The most jarringly familiar tune has to be Harold Faltermeyer’s delightfully haunting theme aptly titled “Axel F” — which due to it’s immense popularity — has been covered by a plethora of artists. It’s basically all you have to hear to conjure the image of Murphy in his element as he hilariously outsmarts the entire Beverly Hills Police Department.
The other standouts include Glenn Frey’s stunning opener “The Heat Is On” which is basically the cornerstone of the film as it prepares us for what turns out to be a memorable experience — as we watch Axel Foley apply his street smarts to a location that could really use a shit load of that particular brand of ammunition.
It gets even better with The Pointer Sisters as they belt out “Neutron Dance” in the background as we observe Murphy’s Foley dealing with the wretchedness of his challenging surroundings in the city of Detroit as his boss and others in the department react with evidence of his never-ending comedic stunts.
Back when my mother played the hell out of the glossy record — I had no idea who Danny Elfman was — but imagine my surprise when I peeped that the famed composer who works almost exclusively with filmmaker Tim Burton — also provided a catchy song — during his early days. Gratitude is the signature eighties move — complete with the drooling voice and the sounds that heighten the pulse of seductiveness. Another lesser known track — “Rock ‘N Roll Me Again” by The System also supplies a similar experience.
But, the grand dame has to be the stellar hit by national treasure — Patti LaBelle who sings the hell out of “Stir it Up” — as the credits roll after our hero bids a touching a adieu to his charmed cohorts after they manage to overpower the power bad guys against all odds.
The soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop definitely transports me to a different time — and that journey is always a welcomed diversion to what we’re tolerating at the moment. It blazed the cultural landscape with potent vengeance and so far it’s been an effortless run. It’s hard to find anything that comes close to what that album has achieved — and that may have been the overall summation of an era that will alway be cherished and overly-romanticized.
The heat was always on when it came to conceiving back to back masterpieces and whenever the “decade of excess” is resurrected — that’s exactly what they mean.