Does the ‘Do the Right Thing’ Soundtrack Stand the Test of Time?
If you’re a fan of hip-hop culture, there’s a good possibility that you’re more than familiar with Spike Lee‘s groundbreaking 1989 film ‘Do the Right Thing,’ released on June 30, 1989.
Taking place during the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn’s famed Bedford-Stuyvesant section and released during rap’s first golden era, the movie helped to send Spike’s stock through the roof while simultaneously making him the face of black Hollywood. Starring Spike himself as the b-boy everyman “Mookie,” along with an ensemble cast of stars (including Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro and the late Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis) playing memorable characters, the film is one of the most iconic representations of urban culture and remains a hit with viewers of all ages and demographics.
But what about the film’s accompanying soundtrack? Sure, we know all about that song by Public Enemy that is forever linked to the movie, but does the rest of the selections hold up as well or are they just filler material? So, with those questions in mind and the mass celebration of this classic on the 25th anniversary of its release, we take a look to see if the ‘Do the Right Thing’ soundtrack stands the test of time.
‘Fight The Power’
Spike handpicked Public Enemy to contribute a theme that embodied the tone of the film; Chuck D and the Bomb Squad did that and more. The soundtrack’s lead single didn’t just represent the energy of the film it reflected the zeitgeist of the black community at the time and was a rallying cry to activists everywhere.
The New Jack Swing movement was in full effect in ’89 and if you wanted the best the sub-genre had to offer, the man to call was Teddy Riley. The producer, known for his funky jams and his group, Guy, contributed this hot number to the ‘Do the Right Thing’ soundtrack with winning results. Released as a single with an accompanying music video, the song was a hit with the young, hip crowd that the film itself attracted.
Brooklyn is known for hosting some of the best block parties and house parties you can dream up. So, it was only right that Spike tapped legendary D.C. Go-Go band E.U. to deliver a selection with the movers and shakers in mind. While ‘Party Hearty’ is light on lyrics, the musicality of the record carries it over, featuring superb instrumentation that forces you to move your ass, if nothing else.
‘Can’t Stand It’
1989 was a long time ago, but one thing that certainly hasn’t changed since then is the unbearably hot summer days in New York City. Steel Pulse created the perfect soundtrack to any humid day with ‘Can’t Stand It.’ The feel-good reggae rhythm is perfect for showing off a quick shimmy and the addictive hook was made to be randomly chanted while washing dishes in your cramped apartment.
‘Why Don’t We Try’
Crooner Keith John slows down the tempo with his ballad ‘Why Don’t We Try.’ The production sounds ancient when compared to more current stylings, but to a mature ear the song isn’t bad at all. Themed around convincing a reluctant lover to “give it a try,” the track wins with great, albeit mushy lyrics.
‘Feel So Good’
‘Feel So Good’ by The Perri Sisters continues the streak of romantic musings. Featuring a memorable hook and a strong vocal performance, the song is an instant winner and among the better soulful selections featured on the soundtrack.
‘Don’t Shoot Me’
We get a little corner doo-wop treat with Take 6’s ‘Don’t Shoot Me.’ Lyrics like, “Don’t shoot me, I didn’t mean to step on your sneaker,” referencing the iconic moment between “Bugging Out” and an O.G. Brooklyn gentrifier gives the track its own unique twist. The bebop-esque beat is tolerable, but the breakdown during the hook is the real winner.
‘Hard To Say’
We get a dose of some soulful R&B with Lori Perry and Gerald Alston’s ‘Hard To Say.’ Featuring all the staples of a vintage ballad — powerful vocals, precise instrumentation and heartfelt lyrics — this forgotten song may not mesh with the tastes of a majority of kids these days, but still hold its own in a rotation of the better records from that era.
‘Prove To Me’
We get another dose of The Perri Sisters via the lively ‘Prove To Me.’ The vocalists hold up their end of the bargain and deliver a strong performance, but the lyrics are pedestrian at best. Although short of a complete failure, this song does nothing to set itself apart from the pack and pales in comparison to the group’s other offering on the soundtrack.
‘Never Explain Love’
Al Jarreau delivers with the contribution ‘Never Explain Your Love.’ Urging listeners to “never explain your love” and to “let the experience take over you,” this power ballad is dated in terms of production, but is full of substance.
‘Tu Y Yo’
Ruben Blades closes out the proceedings with a little Latin flair via ‘Tu Y Yo.’ Aside from the the song’s musical greatness, it’s also significant due to its symbolic nod to New York City’s large Hispanic community. Being that Spike was also aiming the message behind his film towards that particular community, it’s placement is quite appropriate.