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  • This or that! Which is better, the soundtrack or the movie: ‘Waiting to Exhale’

    This or that! Which is better, the soundtrack or the movie: ‘Waiting to Exhale’

    OPINION: In a series for Black Music Month, Panama asks one of the all-important questions about Black movies: Which is better: the soundtrack or the movie? 

    Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

    It’s June in Black America, which means that it’s also Black Music Month, or as it’s known more contemporarily for federal celebration and proclamation purposes, African-American Music Appreciation Month. The feds are always watching, stay fresh, y’all. Last week we broke down which was better (or more iconic) Soul Food or the soundtrack to it. The movie won (by a hair). We have a new one up this week: Waiting to Exhale.

    Here’s a quick reminder and breakdown to explain how we’re going to come to our definitive, biblically-sound, scientific conclusion. We will use five different scientifically subjective and anecdotally sound categories; five because we need a potential tiebreaker: 

    When you think of INSERT NAME HERE, do you think of the movie or the soundtrack first? — While this entire exercise could probably start and end here, why would we do such a thing? Plus, people are wrong sometimes. Not me, though. Y’all. 

    What had more impact?—While sales should never be the main determinant of iconic status, a soundtrack can’t be iconic if nobody actually bought the thing. Or spent any time talking about it or there were no videos, etc. A movie can become a cult classic, a soundtrack pretty much needs to bop out the gate. Similarly, if a movie falls in the forest and nobody sees it, well, who in the hell left the gate open? It makes more sense in my head. 

    How many iconic stars are in it?—Is the movie full of stars (or future stars) and does the soundtrack have a plethora of big names and features? Iconic things include iconic people. I’m sure there are exceptions to this. I hope I never get stuck with one.

    What is the biggest moment?—In order for something to be iconic, there has to be something that everybody can remember about it immediately. For a movie, there has to be some kind of scene (or scenes) that folks are like, “YASSSSSSS!” in a Beyoncé-dropped-an-album kind of way. For a soundtrack to be iconic, it has to have a song that had the people talking.

    Which has remained more culturally relevant?—Admittedly, this is mad subjective, but I also objectively feel like this won’t be that hard to determine. Some soundtracks from the ’90s really just killed the game (i.e., The Show soundtrack; I haven’t even been compelled to watch the doc since probably 1999, which is a year I always aim to party like.)

    Are you ready, ready? Good. #ohletsdoit 

    Waiting to Exhale, released in December 1995, is based on the Terry McMillan book of the same name and directed by Forest Whitaker. I think we can all agree that the movie and the soundtrack are iconic. But which one is more iconic? Let’s fight.

    When you think of Waiting to Exhale, do you think of the movie or the soundtrack first?

    This could be the first tie of the series, but I actually think the soundtrack might edge out the movie. The movie was, and is, a joy to watch. But that soundtrack, baby? Whew chile. Listen, the soundtrack did NUMBERS. Which is maybe why this is even up for debate. Because so many people bought the soundtrack and propelled it and its singles to the top of the pop charts, the album kind of overtook the movie as the main takeaway from the film. And I love the movie. I really do. It had so many fun and ridiculous moments, but yeah, I think the soundtrack wins here.

    Winner: Soundtrack

    What had more impact?

    So, according to Box Office Mojo, on a budget of roughly $16 million, the film brought in more than $82 million worldwide, making it an unmitigated success. But um…the soundtrack. Let’s start at the top: it went seven-times platinum. Seven. Sebn. Basically, your mama ‘nem, all had the soundtrack. I definitely had a physical copy of it, as did my parents. And why did everybody and their mama own it? Because Babyface put his whole foot all up and through this soundtrack. The soundtrack spent five weeks at the top of the pop charts. And spent 10 weeks at the top of the R&B charts. It spawned two number one hits, but most importantly, Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” which hit the charts at number one, unseating Mariah Carey. But here is a list of the other songs you know and love (that also charted), Brandy “Sittin’ Up in My Room,” Mary J. Blige “Not Gon’ Cry,” Whitney “Let It Flow,” Whitney “Count On Me,” some of which spent multiple weeks at the top of the R&B charts (“Not Gon’ Cry,” which was also certified platinum).  Look, the point here is that the soundtrack was a MONSTER, and we could go on and on about that. But just to put a non-scientific pin in it: the wikipedia page for the soundtrack is significantly longer than the one for the movie. That says something. 

    Winner: Soundtrack

    How many iconic stars are in it?

    This is where the rubber really hits the road. The movie AND the soundtrack were stacked. But let’s do the movie first: Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine, Leon, Wesley Snipes, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Beach (his second movie for us in this series), Gregory Hines, Mykelti Williamson, among others. That’s a pretty solidly stacked lineup, ESPECIALLY in the mid-90s. 

    But let’s check out this Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, ALSO stacked for the 90s. Whitney Houston, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxon, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Faith Evans, SWV, TLC, CeCe Winans and Chanté Moore, among others. Oh, and all songs written and produced (save for “My Funny Valentine”) by Babyface. It was like Boomerang all over again. 

    The movie has tons of stars. The soundtrack starts hot and never lets off the gas with the star power. 

    Winner: Soundtrack

    What is the biggest moment?

    I think for the soundtrack, it’s easily Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” which was a brilliant marketing move on the title. Had a 16-year-old Panama running around saying, “shoop shoop shoobay doop.” And it opens the soundtrack and just sets the whole thing on fire. Mary’s “Not Gon’ Cry” might as well have been my personal soundtrack for a year even though it didn’t relate to my life one bit. 

    The film had one of the most iconic film scenes in Black cinematic history where Bernie (played by Angela Bassett) gathers all of John’s (Michael Beach) things after he tells her he’s leaving her for a white woman. She takes all of his clothes, shoes, things and puts them in a car and lights that thang on fire. Her monologue alone is worth watching the scene over and over. Then we get one of the most iconic lines of all time: “Get your sh–, get your –, and GET OUT!” And to put the cherry on top, she douses his clothes and car with kerosene, lights a cigarette, drops the lighter on the clothes and then walks away with purpose. Definitely a felony. Definitely iconic and amazing. I think this is where the movie wins. 

    Winner: Movie

    Which has remained more culturally relevant?

    I think the fact that if you say Waiting to Exhale that people think of the soundtrack more means that the soundtrack still stands up as one of the most important and significant soundtracks in movie history. And I don’t even mean that hyperbolically. It is often discussed as maybe being the best Black movie soundtrack, which is always a fun conversation. The movie is still amazing; I watched it recently and forgot how many scenes I truly loved. The Wesley Snipes reveal still works perfectly, and I remember that at the theater (my mother took us all to see this, I believe) and the way the theater clapped and howled when he showed up on screen was legendary. But  yeah, the soundtrack is it. 

    Winner: Soundtrack

    Well it looks like the soundtrack is the far and away winner at 4-1 here. I didn’t expect it to come out this one-sidedly, but such is life. The soundtrack to Waiting to Exhale is legendary, so perhaps that’s how it was supposed to shake it. 

    Shoop shoop. 


    Panama Jackson theGrio.com

    Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

    Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.

    The post This or that! Which is better, the soundtrack or the movie: ‘Waiting to Exhale’ appeared first on TheGrio.

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