Around the world, people have been grooving to the latest single by Pharrell Williams, “Happy”. The 40-year-old’s new jam has now been to #1 in ten countries including Australia and the United Kingdom. However, the song has a long history, one that’s especially surprising considering the performer’s been red hot as both a singer and producer over the past year.
You may not know that “Happy” was first released on the soundtrack to the film Despicable Me 2, out last July. A radio edit was serviced at the time, but wasn’t heavily pushed. Several months went by and then a “24-hour” music video for it was made available in November, meant to promote the song rather than the movie (although there are scenes with characters from it dancing along to the music.) Now, with a Beats By Dre ad all over TV, it’s being serviced again to U.S. radio next week as the first single from Williams’s upcoming solo album with no further tie-ins to the film. Confusing, yes?
This isn’t the first time this kind of thing’s happened, but it’s not often that it does. In fact, in some cases, it takes years for a song originally found on a soundtrack to become a hit in its own right. Here are some notable examples from the past:
“Another Part Of Me”, Michael Jackson (1986-1988)
Captain EO, a science fiction movie starring Jackson in the lead role, premiered at both Disney World and Disneyland in September 1986 and featured this song at the end of it. A year later, it was on Jackson’s hit album Bad, and as the sixth single to be released from the effort, it went as high as #11 in September 1988. “Part” was the only top ten miss of that era.
“Lily Was Here”, David A. Stewart featuring Candy Dulfer (1989-1991)
“Lily” was used in the 1989 Dutch film De Kassière, which was released during that summer. It took until November to hit #1 on the Dutch Singles Chart, spending six weeks in the position, and it took until the spring of 1991 to see a single release in the U.S., eventually peaking at #11 on the Hot 100 in July. It remains one of the last instrumentals to reach the top 40.
“Thank You”, Dido (1998-2001)
Back in 1998, “Thank You” was included on the soundtrack to Sliding Doors, which featured several other charting singles at the time from Aqua (“Turn Back Time”) and Blair (“Have Fun, Go Mad”). It wasn’t until it was sampled on Eminem‘s “Stan” that the song was given a release in the U.S., going to #3 on both CHR radio and the Hot 100 in the spring of 2001.
“Cups (When I’m Gone)”, Anna Kendrick (2012-2013)
From the successful Pitch Perfect, which opened in September 2012, the lyrics for “Cups” date back to the 1930’s when it was written as a bluegrass composition. The song originally went for adds in February 2013, a few months after the movie was out on DVD, but it wasn’t until August that it slowly rose to #6 on the Hot 100 (#8 CHR). A sequel is now in the works.
There are also several songs that didn’t break the charts until after being awarded (or their respective film being awarded) at ceremonies such as the Academy Awards. These instances mostly took place in the 70’s and include “The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern (from The Poseidon Adventure) and “The Rose” by Bette Midler (from The Rose). One of the longer waits was by “I’m Easy” by Keith Carradine, named Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, which didn’t peak until August 1976 at #17, over a year after Nashville opened. Another is “Chariots Of Fire” by Vangelis from the film of the same name, the winner for Best Score; it first premiered in March 1981, but didn’t reach #1 until May 1982.
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