The Shrek soundtrack might seem like a weird thing to write a think piece about, but trust me, it makes sense. Here’s what a lot of folks don’t realize – that soundtrack was for many folks between the age of 16 to 25’s first introduction to a wide variety of popular music. It was the album that helped propel the Baha Men to popularity and which rocketed Smash Mouth into superstardom. Nowadays we have thousands of dank memes floating around the internet based on the Shrek franchise. Despite being a childrens movie he series had surprisingly long staying power. This is one of those albums that in the early 2000’s was essential listening, it was the Frampton Comes Alive of the millennial generation.
I have always thought that the huge success of the Shrek soundtrack has been because of the depth and variety of the music presented. We get some legitimate punk with Joan Jett, some hyper polished modern rock with Smash Mouth and Self and then even some ballads and pop rockers. This was an album that ha something for just about every occasion, and the songs were perfectly cultivated to flow into each other such that there were thins that little kids of all stripes could connect with. In fact, I think it might be that very simplicity that drove the soundtrack to popularity.
All the songs on the Shrek soundtrack are fairly short and to the point. Few of them bother with bridges and many of the songs are silly. The ones that aren’t are serious in that ‘Oh I’m totally a grownup” way that defined other early 2000s superstars like Avril Lavigne and My Chemical Romance. It (Probably inadvertently) created an album that kids could put on at birthday parties (It certainly defined mine) There is a sense of youthful magic to this album, of the sort that defined many a suburban American childhood. It allowed kids to get lost in a world of epic romances and crazy nights. The kind of thing that ends up drawing people to music in the first place – it’s just that here it was all condensed.
Lyrically too the songs generally seem rather straightforward. I remember being a little kid and being excited about the Shrek soundtrack because it was the first album where I understood almost every lyric. It was one of the first I could sing along to, in large part because the musicians were singing about stuff I understood, rather than my dads favorite blues artists who chronicled their depression, or my moms country pop stars who sang about a Southern lifestyle that I knew even then that I would never know. Sure there were some girly songs about love, or girl power (I’m looking at you Ms. Jett) bu others were about rock stars and having a good time. This was music I could connect to for the first time in my life and my conversations with members of the forementioned 16-25 demographic seem to indicate something similar.
Going back and rewatching the classic first two Shrek films it is fascinating to me how they are both in many ways musicals. They emphasize montages and both end in big musical numbers. They play on something that is largely lost in American culture and make you nostalgic for what some might call a simpler time. They play off the idea of what a movie ‘should’ be and the interlaced music and potent cultural references are a crucial part of that. There is something undeniably fun about the franchise, and Shrek had a much greater emphasis on music than its peer franchises like Ice Age. It never felt too corny, but it incorporated the music to capture the listeners imagination and added a crucial layer to the film. So was Shrek the last great musical? Maybe.
It’s rare in this increasingly fragmented generation that you find a piece of content that we can all look back to. Songs like “Stacy’s Mom” are among the few that really make sense to a large majority of us. After all, if it didn’t, would we be blaring it as we roll through this Midwestern highway? I think that might be why this album holds a truly special place in the hearts of the millennial generation – we have nothing else to bond over so we choose Shrek. Maybe we are just like our caveman ancestors and want something to sing together, or maybe we just think that movie is super dank. We will never know, but we can say this – the Shrek soundtrack is the shit dawg.