C'mon and Slam: Remembering the 'Space Jam' Soundtrack

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 16:47
Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan at the Warner Bros. Studio Store in New York City, 1996

Space Jam: A New Legacy is now in theaters and on HBO Max - but 25 years ago, it was "Air meets hare."

The irresistible charms of LeBron James and Don Cheadle aside, it's hard to beat the charm of the original film, in which Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes teamed up to stop a team of basketball-playing aliens. And it's really hard to beat the power of the original Space Jam soundtrack, a 6x platinum album that spun off hit after hit, including three Top 10s in America.

With the soundtrack soon to be released on vinyl, now's the perfect time to revisit some of our favorites from this album.

R. Kelly, "I Believe I Can Fly": While one should not discount the reprehensible behavior of the former R&B superstar who wrote, produced and sang this track, it's hard to deny the popularity of "I Believe I Can Fly" back in the day. It reached No. 2 in the U.S. (kept from the top by Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart"), topped the U.K. charts and received a handful of Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Song. And if you can separate the art from the artist, it's still a pretty uplifting tune.

Quad City DJ's, "Space Jam": The film's blood-pumping opening title sequence - showcasing a highlight reel of Air Jordan's unbelievable record as a basketball star (and that was before the second championship "threepeat") - was scored by this favorite from the Miami bass crew Quad City DJs, who'd already had a smash with "C'mon and Ride It (The Train)." (Members Jay Ski and C.C. Lemonhead also had a Top 10 hit as 95 South with "Whoot, There It Is" - released a month before the more popular Tag Team cover "Whoomp! (There It Is)" - and Quad City DJ's produced the dance smash "Tootsee Roll" for 69 Boyz.) "Space Jam" was among the most modest of the soundtrack's hits, but it's such a fan favorite that A New Legacy's first teaser was cut to a new version of the song.

B Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes, "Hit 'Em High (The Monstars Anthem)": A de facto theme for the villainous aliens who steal the B-ball talents of Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues and others to challenge Bugs Bunny and friends, "Hit 'Em High" brought together a quintet of the hottest rappers in the game - solo stars Coolio, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes plus B Real of Cypress Hill and Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man - for a display of lyrical dexterity. The song was a runaway hit in England, reaching No. 8.

Seal, "Fly Like An Eagle": Here we have a little bit of cool-down rock and soul courtesy of British soul singer Seal, covering the '70s hit by the Steve Miller Band. This version reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, only eight spots lower than Miler's original.

Monica, "For You I Will": While this gentle Diane Warren-penned ballad only played over the end credits of the film, it was a huge hit for Monica. The rising soul singer had already scored three straight Top 10 hits, and "For You I Will" gave her a fourth in 1997. And the biggest were yet to come: in 1998 she and Brandy released the chart-topping duet "The Boy is Mine," and Monica logged two more No. 1s into 1999.

All-4-One, "I Turn to You": The sixth and final single from Space Jam - another Diane Warren ballad, this one produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis - didn't chart anywhere when it was released in the summer of 1997. But it wasn't the last time people heard the song: three years later, a cover by Christina Aguilera off her debut album went to No. 3 on the charts.