#mychildhood: PokeMusic Flashback #2: “Pokemon: The First Movie” Soundtrack (1999)
Just as Nintendo had hoped, PokeMania was taking the U.S. by storm in 1999. Just a little over four months after Pokemon 2.B.A. Master came out, another Pokemon soundtrack came out. It was well justified, however: it was the music “from and inspired by” the English-language version of Pokemon: The First Movie, which would hit North American theaters on November 10 (the day after the soundtrack came out.) This soundtrack came out on Atlantic Records, while Koch Records – which put out Pokemon 2.B.A. Master – got the rights to release the CD of Pokemon: The First Movie’s orchestral score.
There are a few distinct differences between the styles of music selected for 2.B.A. Master and this soundtrack. For example, the soundtrack to Pokemon: The First Movie focuses almost entirely on pop (especially teen pop) with no rap and very little rock. While not all of the artists on the roster were “superstars,” it does feature a considerable number of notable names (I recognized at least half when I first saw the track-list as a kid.) Only six of the songs were featured in Pokemon: The First Movie itself; two others appeared in the preceding short Pikachu’s Vacation, and eight songs weren’t featured in either.
1.) “Pokemon Theme Remix” by Billy Crawford
When I first saw the artist’s name, the first thing that came to mind was “Cindy has a brother?” Actually, Billy Crawford is a Filipino-American musician and actor who created this song when he was only 17 (seriously: he was born in 1982.) I don’t consider this a true remix because Crawford does both new vocals and instrumentation, rather than directly manipulating parts of the original recording. In addition to passionate vocals, his cover is loaded with energetic beats and dramatized elements such as orchestra strikes and triumphant bells. The tight, funky bass twanging solo always made me imagine some futuristic hoedown.
2.) “Don’t Say You Love Me” by M2M
This was the soundtrack’s only song to be released as a single, coming out a month before. For those who missed them during their brief existence, M2M was a Norwegian teen pop duo consisting of girls (Marit Larsen and Marion Raven) who sang and played acoustic guitar and piano. “Don’t Say You Love Me” would, unsurprisingly, become their biggest hit single, charting worldwide and getting Gold certification in the U.S. and Australia. The lyrics aren’t exactly Pokemon-related, as they’re directed toward a dating partner who’s trying to push the singer into a relationship too fast. The original version of the song was actually deemed too suggestive for a Pokemon soundtrack, since the date suddenly starts (*gasp*) “kissing” her instead of “loving” her at the movie theater. What, were censors afraid of cooties or something?
3.) “It Was You” by Ashley Ballard with So Plush
Since I’m not a fan of R&B, I was never crazy about this song (it’s pretty-sounding and generally all right, though.) Brand new to Atlantic Records at the time, Ashley Ballard performed this duet with group So Plush, who are probably best known for performing “Damn (Should’ve Treated U Right)” with Ja Rule.
4.) “We’re a Miracle” by Christina Aguilera
Also a new artist at the time, Aguilera crooned this smooth, piano-driven tribute to – what else? – true love. It’s nothing revolutionary, but I think her emotional vocals pay off (I guess I’m a sucker for imagery involving mountains, oceans, angels and Heaven too.) This song was also featured as a bonus track on the Japanese version of her self-titled debut the same year.
5.) “Soda Pop” by Britney Spears
Didn’t she and Aguilera have a feud? It’s kind of amusing to see them back-to-back then. Anyway, this is a colorful, bouncy little tune recycled from Spears’ debut album …Baby One More Time (you know, before she started going naked in music videos.) I remember theorizing that this song actually does have a connection to Pokemon, since soda pop is an available drink (along with fresh water and lemonade) in the handheld games. All right, that’s a stretch. I also had trouble understanding most of what the heavily accented guy is saying: unless I have lyrics handy, I struggle to this day.
6.) “Somewhere Someday” by ‘N Sync
Here’s something I never knew before: this is a cover of a song originally performed by Jennifer Paige, who’s best known for the hit “Crush.” Like “We’re a Miracle,” “Somewhere Someday” is a gentle song with really pretty imagery: “somewhere there’s a field and a river / you can let your soul run free / someday let me be the giver / let me bring you peace.” I don’t know about you, but if I was a downtrodden girl and a guy sang me lyrics like these, I’d totally throw myself into his arms.
7.) “Get Happy” by B*Witched
I’m pretty sure that anyone familiar with the late-90s teen pop explosion heard this Irish girl group at some point (most notably their hit “C’est la Vie.”) As the title suggests, it’s a really upbeat, festive tune with a memorable hook that actually succeeds at raising my mood.
8.) “(Hey You) Free Up Your Mind” by Emma Bunton
The previous act was sometimes criticized as a Spice Girls knock-off, but here’s a song that features one Spice Girl! She’s credited as “Emma Bunton p/k/a Baby Spice” – I guess she was trying to get away from that association. Anyway, the song is a pretty enticing blend of electric guitar and a disco-type beat. It’s not the most thrilling song since it pretty much just lingers in place, but it’s still all right.
9.) “Fly with Me” by 98°
Here’s yet another boy band song with gorgeous imagery and lyrics about letting a girl feel free: in this case, “mending” her “broken wings.” Again, if I were a girl, I’d certainly fall for guys who want to fly with me to “touch the moon and kiss the sky.” I later learned that this song was recycled from their 1998 sophomore album 98 Degrees and Rising, but since I didn’t have that album, it was new to me.
10.) “Lullaby” by Mandah
Here’s one of the soundtrack’s few songs that makes direct references to Pokemon: in this case, Jigglypuff, who’s sampled in both the intro and outro. Mandah (a new artist who changed her stage name to Willa Ford shortly after) sings about being the small “siren you can’t fight,” which was of course inspired by Jigglypuff making people sleep with its singing. The busy instrumentation and mood is tough to describe: it’s very nocturnal-sounding with bubble-pop sound effects, low-pitched synth and spooky backing vocals.
11.) “Vacation” by Vitamin C
This was always one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack: it’s a varied, energetic, and incredibly catchy piece of surf-pop-rock. There’s groovy bass, crashing beats, aquatic synth and more, so it easily stands out as one of the most distinctly unique songs in the mix.
12.) “Makin’ My Way (Any Way That I Can)” by Billie
Though I hadn’t heard of this English singer-actor (full name Billie Piper) before, it looks like she’s made quite a name for herself in the U.K.: she was the youngest singer to have a number-one single debut there (“Because We Want To”) and she later scored the role of Doctor Who’s companion Rose Tyler. As for this song, I’ve always considered a compelling ode to always persevering through challenges.
13.) “Catch Me If You Can” by Angela Via
This incredibly cute, fast-paced song was a perfect fit for the water race scene in the Pikachu’s Vacation short (especially since it’s one of the soundtrack’s few songs to mention Pokemon.) The tune was the first major-label release from Via: a Texan-born singer-songwriter who performs Latin pop and reggaeton.
14.) “(Have Some) Fun With The Funk” by Aaron Carter
Anyone who followed turn-of-the-millennium teen pop should be familiar with the party-obsessed younger brother of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter. I never cared much for his high-pitched voice, but it’s a pretty decent party tune nonetheless. Some things about the music always confused me, though: for example, the intro is kind of weird, apparently consisting of an older man saying “oot-doot-doo” while a Bulbasaur is yapping in the background (at least that’s what I thought it sounded like.) I also have no idea how they created that weird metallic sound in the verses, reminding me of a tin can lid being pulled.
15.) “If Only Tears Could Bring You Back” by Midnight Sons
Wow… how do I even begin talking about this incredible song? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s joined “Wind Beneath My Wings” on funeral playlists: it’s one of the most devastatingly tear-jerking, direct-hit-right-in-the-feels songs I’ve ever heard. It’s absolutely flooded with emotion, complete with piano, strings and lyrics like these:
“I’d cry you an ocean if you’d sail on home again
Waves of emotion will carry you, I know they can
Just let love guide you and your heart will chart the course
Soon you’ll be drifting into the arms of your true north…”
And of course, for reasons I can’t find out, this was the first and last Midnight Sons song that the U.S. would hear. I checked Discogs and found only two other songs featured on Norwegian releases, with one being a sampler compilation track and the other being backing vocals on a Christmas single. I don’t know why they apparently dropped off the face of the earth: researching Midnight Sons is a pain considering how frequently their name pops up (most notably as a Marvel superhero team.) Talk about dropping the ball on great potential.
16.) “Brother My Brother” by Blessid Union of Souls
For a mostly-pop soundtrack, this is a surprisingly rich acoustic rock song to close with. The Ohio alt-rock band provides a soothing pro-peace song, which of course doesn’t quite fit the Pokemon universe’s norm of battling. Still, it’s a nice song about taking the initiative to realize that it’s wrong to fight for the wrong reasons, such as pride or old conflicts that you can’t even remember the origin of.
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