Various - 13 Going On 30

Amongst the casual violence and gang signs thrown about Ronin Ro's excellent book about Death Row Records, Have Gun Will Travel, there's a great story about Vanilla Ice. Turns out that Robbie van Winkle, having just adopted the nom de rap of Vanilla Ice, got his manager to call in some songwriting favours from Chocolate and DJ Chocolate in return for credits on Vanilla's album but although Vanilla delivered on the credits, he was a little more slack with paying for the use of seven songs written for II The Extreme by Chocolate and Earthquake.

Of course, once Suge Knight, later the head of Death Row, moved in to guarantee Chocolate's share of Vanilla's revenues, everything was sorted...by Knight taking Vanilla out onto the balcony of his hotel room and suggesting that he take a long look at the fifteen-floor drop and consider paying Chocolate what he was owed. And how did van Winkle, a self-confessed gang member and street criminal who'd claimed of having a past filled with guns and gangs, repond to this? By, uh, saying, "I needed to wear a diaper on that day, I was very scared."

None of which is relevant to the soundtrack to 13 Going On 30 other than it features Ice Ice Baby, which bumps up against Madonna's Crazy For You as easily as a nude Vanilla Ice did against Madonna in the latter's Sex. The song, unlike many that you can revisit when ten or fifteen years have passed from their original chart placing, doesn't actually sound any better and whilst much old-school rap - Eric B And Rakim's Paid In Full, Run DMC's XXX or Public Enemy's Yo! Bum Rush The Show - now sounds naive, Vanilla Ice's rapping over the steal from Another One Bites The Dust is as lumpen and obvious as it ever was.

But, as with so many soundtrack albums, there are gems in the mix if they're given a chance. The Go-Go's fizz/punk of Head Over Heels is a pop wonder whilst Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl is as curious a pop song now as it was then given the lack of chart hits in the intervening years that used obsessional love as their subject. In the light of both of those songs, Pat Benatar's Love Is A Battlefield almost picks itself but in case you're thinking this is an early-eighties soft-rock album, Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) crashes in to the sound of tight-assed electro funk with a tinny synth, a bad haircut and a polyester suit and is as welcome as lightining whilst kite-flying. There is, however, the welcome inclusion of Madonna's wonderful Crazy For You, which is amongst her very best songs, and Liz Phair's Why Can't I, both of which are from female singers often and rightfully accused of being sassy and who are almost perfectly suited to 13 Going On 30. Liz Phair's song, in particular, was one of the best tracks on her eponymous last album and shimmers in this company. Phair is certainly not the best singer here nor does she offer the best song but her twisting melody, knowing vocal style and overt sexuality makes this the standout performance on the album, even better than Soft Cell's Tainted Love and Talking Heads' stunning Burning Down The House. Almost as good is Lillix's charge through the punk/pop of What I Like About You that is the song Republica would have given Saffron's red streaks for.

The sweet cover art and the overt pink design makes this album look like something that you'd find on the front cover of Marie Claire with even the music suggesting as much but amongst everything that you expect - Soft Cell, Belinda Carlisle and The Go-Go's - there are the songs that surprise. Whilst never an outstanding album, there is just the right mix of great songs and duds to make the soundtrack of 13 Going On 30 the sort of album that will be enjoyed when discovered amongst a row of albums having almost been forgotten about.

Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:20:49

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