Thursday, July 5, 2018

"Miami Vice Theme" by Jan Hammer

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2455
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  59
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop, Instrumental, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In the fall of '84, the TV crime drama Miami Vice debuted. Although it wasn't an out-of-the-box smash in its first season, the show would become a cultural phenomenon thanks to its violent themes, expensive cars, flashy 80's clothing, and especially its use of music. The Michael Mann-produced series used tracks like Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues" to good effect in some episodes. Even music stars like Frey made guest appearances on the show. Along with pop/rock music tracks, composer Jan Hammer was hired on to supply the background music to the show and write its theme song. With the series' popularity on the rise and songs heard in the show gaining airplay, it was decided that Hammer's theme should be pushed out as a single. The instrumental caught on and became a multi-chart hit reaching the top spot at Pop, #10 R&B, #16 AC, #23 Dance, and #29 Rock. It was even popular across the pond and made it to #5 in the UK. A soundtrack album from the show would follow and it would end up spending eleven non-consecutive weeks at the top of the chart. This would be Hammer's only charting single in the US. With having a #1-and-done chart career, some called him a one-hit-wonder, but Hammer is typically left off of those lists because he is mainly known as a composer of scores rather than a pop musician reaching out for chart glory. Despite his long list of works for film and TV, when Michael Mann decided to do a film version of Miami Vice in 2006, he didn't ask Hammer to do the music. In fact, Mann didn't even use the theme song, much to the dismay and dislike of the original show's fans.

ReduxReview:  While I like the beginning of this song and Hammer's synth/production work, I never understood why this single was so popular. There's no real melody to it at all and nothing resembling a repetitive chorus. I mean, at least "Axel F" had a hooky, memorable melody. Perhaps it was just the feel of the song combined with the show's popularity that made it take off. Cool guys in t-shirts and pastel Armani sport coats blasting this from their t-top Cameros. Whatever it was, I didn't get it. The tune was a big deal at the time, but it didn't get much of a life after the Miami Vice phenomenon was over. This was probably the first time I'd heard the track since the 80s. It's an oddball curio from the time period that when heard now by some folks makes them go "oh, yeah...I forgot about this!"

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) As the 80s moved forwards, instrumental hits were becoming more rare. A minor few would reach the Top 10 over the years, but none would reach #1. This theme song would be the last #1 instrumental for twenty-eight years! It might have still been the last one except that in 2013, Billboard changed their chart methodology to include streaming. The new rules then allowed a tune called "Harlem Shake" by EDM artist Baauer to debut at #1. It was pushed along thanks to thousands of viral video memes on YouTube that used the song.  2) This song ended up winning two Grammy awards. The track earned Hammer awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition.  3) The success of the soundtrack prompted a second one to be issued late in '86. For it, Hammer beefed up another part of his score for the show into an instrumental track titled "Crockett's Theme." It was pushed out as a single, but it failed to chart at Pop. The best it could do was a #42 showing at AC. However, it was a different story in Europe where the track was a Top 10 hit in many countries. It reached #2 in the UK, which bested the #5 peak of the original theme.


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