Return to the ’80s Movies Soundtracks: Top Gun

The Return to the ’80s Movies series continues, with a look at one of the best soundtracks of the ’80s. If you’d like, you can go back and check out the review of the Top Gun. Today, Robert is going to discuss the awesome music, which is a vital part of the movie. Take it away, Robert!

Top Gun – Part 2, the Soundtrack

Yesterday we took a look at the blockbuster movie Top Gun; now let me turn your attention to the soundtrack of the same Top Gun. This soundtrack serves as an excellent example of what many ‘80s movie used as a clear, intentional, and clever promotion. It is clear that this combination was and purposeful way to flood the pop culture market through multiple means of exposure.

Top Gun is an excellent soundtrack that works extremely well in enhancing the movie. The songs are used to make the aerial sequences more exciting and the love scenes more romantic. The film only features a few of the songs with more than just snippets or as background music. Unlike Footloose, Top Gun is not music based, therefore does not rely on the songs to represent character’s traits or emotions. The songs in Top Gun also provide no clear connection to the theme of the film. Ultimately though, this is a solid soundtrack with good songs that are easy to listen to. There are no real dips in the quality of the songs and most of them clearly fit the tone of the film.

Like the film, which was the most successful one of 1986, the soundtrack also sold well. It reached the top of Billboard’s album charts for a total of five weeks (although they were not consecutive weeks). During the months of August through October Top Gun battled with the likes of Madonna and Lionel Richie for album supremacy. All told, the soundtrack sold nine million copies, making it not only one of the top albums of 1986, but the twentieth best selling album of the decade. The album also spawned four Top 40 singles, with Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” reaching all the way up to #1.

Track Listing:

Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins (#2)

Yes, Kenny Loggins is back and making another appearance on an ‘80s soundtrack, strengthening his legacy as the soundtrack king. This song was a massive hit on the radio and was in high rotation on MTV. The song is perfectly placed (several times) during the film’s aerial sequences. It has the right amount of guitar and builds nicely. Lyrically the song matches the action of the film as well, “Highway to the danger zone / Gonna take it right into the danger zone.”

Mighty Wings by Cheap Trick

There is never a problem with Cheap Trick making an appearance on any soundtrack. This songs strikes me as being very similar to “Danger Zone” – good energy, driving guitars, and lyrics that sound like planes speeding across the sky. These aerial scenes is exactly where this song is used.

Playing with the Boys by Kenny Loggins (#60)

Here we have yet another appearance by Loggins and the final single released from the soundtrack. This song has been beat up a bit due to it’s placement in the film. It is paired with the volleyball scene where Maverick and Goose take on their rivals in a sand volleyball match. Take the chorus of this song and three very well built men without shirts, and the jibes are easy to figure out. The song is upbeat and fun. It may not be one of Loggins’ best, but it is a good song that has an intensely catchy hook.

Lead Me On by Teena Marie

This is the first track that could be considered more of a dance song. There are some clear rhythm guitars that help connect to the other songs, but it is clearly not a priority. It surfaces in the film during an evening out in the clubs, so it is fitting.

Take My Breath Away by Berlin (#1)

This is easily the biggest hit on the soundtrack, a breakthrough song for Berlin, and one of the best love songs from the ‘80s. Obviously, it is used in the scenes that feature Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. The song is played nearly in it’s entirety the first time, but an instrumental version is used throughout the second half of the film. Berlin had a moderate hit before this song with “No More Words” and would follow with “Like Flames“, but none of their other songs would reach the heights of this one. The most memorable part of this song is that killer bass line – within three or four notes the song is easily recognized and the swaying starts.

Hot Summer Nights by The Miami Sound Machine

– After achieving wild success in Holland, this band was gaining strength here in America. While this song was never released as a single, the Latin influenced rhythms make it recognizable as the same band who hit with “Conga” and “Bad Boy“. This song helped build their reputation and lead the way for future hits like “Rhythm is Gonna Get You“.

Heaven in Your Eyes by Loverboy (#12)

Full disclosure: I am a huge Loverboy fan. This is great song that, I feel, should have been a bigger hit. It is clearly in the shadow of the big love song “Take My Breath Away”, but it does deserve it own recognition. It has the classic Loverboy sound with strong vocals by Mike Reno and solid guitar work by Paul Dean. This song showed up on every mix tape that I made for my girlfriend. It is a simple love song, but it did work, capturing a simple, powerful sentiment, “In your eyes, I want to see your love again / In your eyes, I never want this feeling to end / It took some time to find the light, but now I realize / I can see the heaven in your eyes.”

Through the Fire by Larry Greene

On a strange note: this song was listed in the closing credits, but was never played in the movie – I checked (twice) – and this is a fact. It is a good guitar driven song – too bad they could not find a place for it in the final cut of the movie.

Destination Unknown by Marietta

Another decent song that did not have a major role in the film. It has a catchy chorus and a good beat. It does not really distinguish itself on the soundtrack itself, but is not a bad song.

Top Gun Anthem by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens

I am pretty sure this instrumental has the most film time; it is played in multiple scenes, most of them containing some sort of plane. The song has an excellent guitar based theme and builds to a fantastic climax. It is one of those instrumentals that you hum constantly after hearing it just once.

As a junior in high school I loved both the movie Top Gun and the soundtrack Top Gun. I clearly remember watching the movie over and over after I bought it on VHS. It was one of the first movies to be released on VHS for an affordable price due to a commercial being placed before the feature presentation. I also clearly remember listening to the soundtrack over and over – quickly memorizing it. Now, nearly thirty years later, I think the soundtrack stands up to the test of time as does the film.

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5 thoughts on “Return to the ’80s Movies Soundtracks: Top Gun”

    1. I thought I heard that about each band. The Rolling Stones could probably get away with it because they have so many other songs.
      Berlin doesn’t have as many songs that people know about. They do have some other great music, but Take My Breathe Away is probably their best known song, and I had never heard of them before that.

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  1. Me too.I don’t think I saw the movie until about a year after it came out. I had gotten sick of the song because it got so overplayed back then. But, listening to it again now pumps me up. I loved it when it first came out. But, MTV and radio really overplayed it.

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