‘Shrek”s soundtrack remains iconic: Celebrate the 20-year-old album
You can tell a lot about a person just from what movie they associate with Smash Mouth’s “All Star”. Are they geeky superhero fans who think of Mystery Men? Or are they part of the mainstream audience who primarily knows “All Star” as the opening song in Shrek? We imagine Smash Mouth doesn’t care – they get royalties whether you buy the Mystery Men or the Shrek soundtrack.
Today, however, it’s all about Shrek. May 18th, 2021 marks twenty years since the movie’s release. Twenty years since Dreamworks started the once-unusual trend of inserting pop-culture references in animated films like they were going out of style (and most of them were). And if you’re referencing pop culture like you’re an episode of SNL, why not go all-in and employ popular needle-drops as well?
The idea of using pop music in an animated feature was revolutionary back in 2001, and it made the Shrek soundtrack stand out from the crowd. Twenty years later, we still think of its musical moments fondly. Let’s go over our favorites!
All that glitters is gold
Here’s what’s funny about Smash Mouth: they weren’t originally meant to be part of the Shrek soundtrack. “All Star” was used as a temp track for the opening while music supervisor Marylata Elton looked for a song that had a similar energy but wasn’t as overplayed as Smash Mouth’s late-90s hit. Mystery Men might’ve been a flop at the box office, but it definitely helped get “All Star” playing everywhere.
When Elton finally found a suitable replacement – “Stay Home”, a song created by Self’s Matt Mahaffey specifically for the opening of the movie – she ran into another problem. Test audiences didn’t seem as enthused by “Stay Home” as they did with “All Star”. No offense to Mahaffey and his song but . . . can you blame them? It’s Smash Mouth’s “All Star”!
The rest is history. Smash Mouth got the show on and got paid. And the Shrek soundtrack broke the mold.
B.S. (Before Snyder)
These days, it’s hard not to think of the song “Hallellujah” without picturing some sort of epic slo-mo set piece taking place courtesy of Zack Snyder. But there was a time when “Hallellujah” was mostly known as the song that played during the saddest sequence in Shrek. You know, when the gang goes their separate ways and Shrek tries to go back to being a grumpy loner.
Unlike “All Star”, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallellujah” wasn’t entrenched in 2001’s pop culture – certainly not to the extent that it is today. Now, if you are a “Hallellujah” connoisseur, you’ve probably noticed the version of the song used in the movie is not the same as the one in the Shrek soundtrack. The movie uses John Cale’s cover, while the soundtrack features a cover by Rufus Wainwright.
The filmmakers were originally working with Cale’s version of the song, but rock legend Robbie Robertson suggested recording a brand new cover, throwing Wainwright’s name into the ring. Wainwright recorded “Hallellujah”, but it turned out to be “almost too full and too rich”, according to an interview directors Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson gave Wired. So they kept Cale’s cover and put Wainwright’s on the soundtrack.
Every great musical requires a closing number that brings the house down. Shrek closes with a raucous rendition of The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” courtesy of Smash Mouth and Eddie Murphy’s Donkey. The idea behind double-dipping in the Smash Mouth pool was to bring the film full circle to its “All Star” opening. Surprisingly, Smash Mouth wasn’t too keen on the idea at first.
The band was in the middle of working on their third studio album and they didn’t want to take time from that project to work on a song for the Shrek soundtrack. But, apparently, according to the Smash Mouth’s manager Robert Hayes, the guys also weren’t crazy about how Dreamworks wanted Eddie Murphy to sing part of the song. Even after watching a rough cut of the movie, the band wasn’t feeling it.
Thankfully, a compromise was reached when Smash Mouth’s record company delayed their new album’s release. The band recorded “I’m a Believer” without Murphy, and was allowed to include it in their upcoming album. Murphy recorded a separate cover of the song, and a mix of his version & Smash Mouth’s is featured in the movie, while both separate covers are included in the Shrek soundtrack.
There are plenty of other great musical moments in Shrek, of course. In fact, we’re rather fond of the “Bad Reputation” fight sequence. How about you? Let us know in the comments!