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Sep 27 2017

Soundtracking: "The Breakfast Club"

The1985 Smackdownis coming,soChrislooks at that year's iconic track fromThe Breakfast Club...

Is there a better era for films defined by a single song (and vice versa) than the 80s,particularly those from John Hughes?Hughes was more than a master of understanding the teenage disposition,and music was always a part of his equation.But the pillar of this kind of definitive relationship of song and subject in his films isThe Breakfast Cluband "Don't You (Forget About Me)"by Simple Minds.You can't separate one from the other: hear the song and suddenly you're monologuing an "athlete,basket case,princess,etc."piece;see its iconic poster and you'll hear a "hey hey hey HEY"in your head.

It's one of those perfect marriages of music and material that are inextricable in their legacies,both unquestionably enhancing the other's impact.Part of the reason why we remember them together isn't just how timeless they both are,but how in sync their insights are.But the song does open the film more like a cool theme song.At the onset it carries so much less baggage than when it finishes the film,like it's more defined by its hipness than its sentiment.In pop music and cinema,catch them with a hook before you surprise them with a message and you register on a whole other level.

Like the best high school films,The Breakfast Clubexists somewhere between painful reality and gilded fantasy.Its anthem is similarly accessible but hyper-produced,filled with relatable feeling but kind of untouchable in its chilly groove - it's consumable but truthful product,so naturally we eat it up like the candy it is even as it affects us deeply.The world isn't real (detention for bringing a gun to school,instant makeovers,etc.) but the emotion is.And when you are this age,the emotion is everything.

The song begins in a burst of bottled rage and has the rhythm of an adolescent tantrum,making it a fitful match to the group therapy session we're watching.It feels like something written by this group both in response to one another and the social strata that forces them into these prescribed roles.If the unfolding day serves to undermine the hierarchy by revealing their individuality,then the song reminds them that there's no going back from showing one's full self or from the seeing."As you walk on by..."the ghost of what was shared remains.

But does the song's questioning of the future reveal the closing commeraderie as bullshit or does it play with the tension of the uncertain future of their new bond?The lyrics ruminate on profound but transient connections and the weight of social promises,complicating what still feels dangerously close to a improbably transformative ending.Maybe we're not led to believe they will all stay besties,but the film certainly dances toward assuredness.Call it youthful optimism or steered by foolish feeling,but this tension is one of the things the film and its song get wholeheartedly right about the high school experience.

However there is something triumphant in the "la-la la-la"chorus as Judd Hirsch throws a first in the air,a certain battle won no matter what happens on Monday.For one brief moment,in this forced oasis away from their outside pressures,they actually were seen.

Previous Soundtracking Favorites:
Across the Universe
Almost Famous
Stop Making Sense
The Big Chill

Young Adult
...all installments can be foundhere!

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Reader Comments (4)

Off Topic but love Simple Minds,Glenn Close's The Wife to open in 2018.

September 27,2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Judd NELSON throws a more teenage fist in the air than Judd Hirsch does,but Judd "did good"by teenage Timothy Hutton just 5 years earlier,so he also might have punched the air in triumph.

As I was 17 when this song and this movie hit,I played this song so endlessly that I am sick of it,and can't listen to it fully.

The movie,however,is one of the best of the decade from a 17 year old's perspective.From a 49 year old's perspective,it still works too.

September 27,2017 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

@forever1267: I'm pretty sure Judd Hirsch is throwing his fist in the air because he realizes walking was better than driving a Taxi,or because he was celebrating another alien-free Independence Day.

September 27,2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

I watched this on TV with my dad when we were on vacation (I forgot where!).I always joke that my parents skipped the '80s.He had never seen it!It was on WE so they edited "eat my shorts"to "eat my socks"and it almost ruined the viewing for me.

September 29,2017 | Unregistered Commenterjakey

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