GHOSTBUSTERS: New Versus Old
    • THURSDAY, JULY 14, 2016

    • Posted by: Robert Steiner

    Ghostbusters is one of the most well-known and beloved franchises to come out of the 1980s, with enough witty one-liners, iconic characters, and Bill Murray to make it stand the test of time. So when it was announced that Sony and Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) would be making an all-female reboot, people were confused, to put it extremely mildly. Personally, I'm not really sure how a comedy about ghosts, slime, and giant marshmallow monsters became the catalyst for all-out Internet warfare, but that's a conversation for another day.

    For now, in preparation for the new Ghostbusters premiering this Friday, we thought it would be fun to look at and compare the original and reboots perspective theme songs: The classic by Ray Parker Jr. and the new take on it by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott. Set aside any criticisms or qualms you have about the movies, folks because today were looking solely at the music. Even though anything said about "Ghostbusters" leads to a passionate firestorm these days, I ain't afraid of no internet commenters, so let's do this.

    "GHOSTBUSTERS" by RAY PARKER JR. [1984]



    Ok yeah, the song probably ripped off Huey Lewis. Nonetheless, Ray Parker Jr.s "Ghostbusters" theme is one of the most recognizable movie theme songs in recent memory and played a big role in the franchise's success and widespread appeal. This dance-pop song is very 1980s, with almost all the instruments featured being synths or drum machines, so it hasn't exactly aged seamlessly. However, the added novelty definitely adds to the song's appeal, reminding listeners of a simpler time of shoulder pads, Reaganomics, and perms. The song itself is pretty simple as well, following the verse-chorus pattern with a quick breakdown thrown in the middle, but in this case, it works pretty effectively. It's catchy as hell, which is why even today, people who haven't even seen the movie can hear the opening keyboard riff and know exactly where it's from. While you probably wouldn't break out this track in the car and jam out with full sincerity, the song does exactly what a theme song is supposed to do: Be catchy enough to get stuck in your head, remind you of the movie it's selling, and match the tone of the movie it's selling, which in this case is an upbeat, goofy song for an upbeat, goofy comedy. The song would be an incredibly cheesy fossil from the '80s if it was just a song, but when it's grouped with the movie it was made for, its camp and cheesiness is put into context, and makes the tune a lovable track that tells you exactly who to call, and by extension, what movie to watch.

    GHOSTBUSTERS (IM NOT AFRAID) by FALL OUT BOY feat. MISSY ELLIOTT [2016]



    Hoo boy, where to begin with this one. Here's a start: Why Fall Out Boy? Instead of going with an artist who could probably hit closer to the dance-pop sound of the original while still updating it for modern audiences, (*cough* Pharrell *cough*) Sony went with a former emo-rock band who updated their sound with generic lyrics, half-baked song ideas meshed with samples from much better songs, and a giant middle finger to volume dynamics. Since their 2013 comeback, every Fall Out Boy song can more or less be summed up the same way: Loud, overly repetitive stadium rock for tweens with high-pitched, compressed-to-all-hell vocals, uninspired drumbeats, and guitar riffs, and chorus hooks that get old really fast. Unfortunately, this song is no different, but the flaws sure don't stop there.

    If it's not clear already, I don't like Fall Out Boys music, but at least they're confident in what they do. They know their stuff isn't a profound critique on humanity, and they know exactly whom they're catering for, and I can respect that. But on this song, that confidence is nowhere to be found, so there goes that saving grace. It sounds like FOB took the original themes lyrics and shoved in on top of a song idea they were already working on. Any catchy hooks from the original are either buried in the mix or gone completely, except for the guitar lick at the end that sounds like they were scraping to meet Sonys nostalgia quota. The most memorable line from the original, I ain't afraid of no ghosts, has been reduced to the completely bland, I'm not afraid, and the whole thing feels way too long even though it's almost a minute shorter than the original. The strange inclusion of Missy Elliott rapping about a haunted house only further shows this song has no idea what it's trying to be. It's stuck in this push-and-pull between being the hot new FOB single and being Sony's meal ticket to cash in on their nostalgia card. The result is like putting a shoe on your head and calling it a hat: It's trying too hard to be something it's not, and leaves everyone else confused and unimpressed.

    Now, I know that some may argue that I'm comparing it too much to the original; that its supposed to be a completely new theme song for a new generation and whatnot. Okay sure, ignore the original theme, but even as a singular product, it fails as a movie theme song. It doesn't sound like a song that's selling a comedy, it's instantly forgettable, it definitely doesn't make me want to see the movie it's selling, and even though it does remind you of Ghostbusters, it also reminds you of the other, much better theme song for Ghostbusters. And if it wanted to be completely new and be seen as a different song than the original, then it should've done that. Instead, it gets stuck between trying to be new and trying to be nostalgic, which unfortunately almost always happens to reboots, remakes, or sequels.

    CONCLUSION

    I think it's safe to assume that despite their efforts, FOBs theme won't be dethroning Parker Jr.s in the hearts and minds of Ghostbusters fans anytime soon. I should make it clear that I don't blame FOB; they stuck to what they are good at and did what they were told to do. Nor do I think the new song is a reflection of the new movie, whether or not its good will be determined on Friday. But like the rest of Sonys horrendous marketing campaign supporting this movie, the new theme song is proof that the studio has no idea whether to sell this film on the coattails of its predecessor or as its own stand-alone product. As a result, most people will already be going into this movie knowing exactly how they feel about it, which going by the online response, may not play into the film's favor. I personally have very little stakes in this whole thing: If the movies good, great, if it's not, that's fine too. I'll go watch the original if that's the case. Let's just hope the movie has a little more confidence in what it wants to be than its confused title track.
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