Original Release Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2001
I’ve never done an album review before, but this is one that I definitely want to take a look at. As the soundtrack to the film of the same name, it was something that I definitely enjoyed – and still enjoy – listening to. I don’t remember if I bought it before or after seeing the movie, but it rocks my socks, so here we go:
Released by Sony Music Soundtrax and Playtone Records and executive-produced by Babyface, this album was recorded in 2000 at Brandon’s Way and Tracken Place (Los Angeles, California), Right Track (New York City, New York), and Q Division (Somerville, Massachusetts).
While Kay Hanley, singer for Letters to Cleo, was the singing voice of Josie (she had actually flown to L.A. to be the voices of the other Pussycats, and Babyface had picked another Josie, but that singer was “too good”, and “no one could see it coming out of Rachael’s mouth”, so “they shit-canned her”, and Kay was able to come in and take it), the three movie Pussycats themselves (Rachael Leigh Cook (who “wasn’t really comfortable with the lead vocals”), Rosario Dawson, and Tara Reid) got in a booth and sang backup vocals on “all the songs” (Reid can also clearly be heard, as Melody, counting on “Spin Around” and “You’re a Star”).
John Stephan and J’son Thomas provided the vocals of boy band DuJour.
Other contributors included Bif Naked, Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy), Dave Gibbs and Steve Hurley (Gigolo Aunts), Jason Falkner (Jellyfish), Matthew Sweet, Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Go’s), Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), Anna Waronker (That Dog), and Michael Eisenstein (Letters to Cleo).
Track 01: “3 Small Words” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, and Dave Gibbs
This is effectively the theme song to the movie. It was used in the promotion, and it got a single release and a music video. Josie wants someone and is telling the love interest to take a chance on her, basically promising hot sex, but the lying and/or cheating love interest is too late with those “three small words” – presumably “I love you” but perhaps “I’m sorry, baby” or “Let’s fuck, baby”. The song features nice puns based on numbers. As much as this song is associated with the movie, it was actually the last one to be written and recorded, when the music editor asked Elfont and Kaplan where the “raw punk” song was.
Fun fact: the Australian single release also included “Pretend to Be Nice” as well as Tara Reid’s performance of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.
Track 02: “Pretend to Be Nice” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writer: Adam Schlesinger
Josie likes a guy, but he’s weird, has secrets, and always puts her down. She’s trying to figure out what his deal is, and she wishes he could “pretend to be nice” to make her life easier.
Track 03: “Spin Around” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Dave Gibbs and Adam Duritz
Josie wants her love interest to come back to her, because she’s lost, and she tries to convince the person that she’s the one.
Track 04: “You Don’t See Me” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Dave Gibbs, Deborah Kaplan, Babyface, Jason Falkner, Steve Hurley, Dee Dee Gipson, Harry Elfont, Jane Wiedlin, and Adam Duritz
This is a slow, melancholy song where Josie likes someone that wants to be just friends.
Track 05: “You’re a Star” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Adam Duritz, Dave Gibbs, Anna Waronker
Josie urges someone to not listen to or care about what others say about them – and also to not “waste your time in shopping malls”. It’s really about just being yourself and doing your own thing.
Track 06: “Shapeshifter” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Kay Hanley and Michael Eisenstein
Josie calls out some perpetually lying guy about how he’s “just all wrong” for another girl.
Track 07: “I Wish You Well” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writer: Anna Waronker
Josie is tired of the “wear and tear” from her “rollercoaster” relationship with a rock star. During the breakup, she wishes the person well and love but also wishes herself “all of the above”.
Track 08: “Real Wild Child” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Johnny O’Keefe, Johnny Greenan, and Dave Owens
This is a rocking cover of the 1958 Johnny O’Keefe song, “Wild One“. Notably, it’s around 39 seconds shorter than the original.
Track 09: “Come On” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Dave Gibbs, Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Babyface, Jason Falkner, Steve Hurley, Dee Dee Gipson, Jane Wiedlin, Adam Schlesinger, and Kay Hanley
Josie wants her boyfriend to either fuck her or get the fuck out of her life, because he’s totally replaceable with any number of “fully action-poseable” guys. It’s the first of two songs that Archie Comics didn’t provide the lyrics to on their website back in the day.
Track 10: “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford
This is a cool cover (one in a long line) of the original 1959 Barrett Strong song. It runs around 11 seconds shorter.
Track 11: “DuJour Around the World” by DuJour
Writers: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Brainz Dimilo, and Anthony President
Now we come to the first of two songs by DuJour, the fictional boy band in the movie. It actually feels very much like a song that a band that’s so full of themselves would sing. The basic theme is “We’re the greatest, and all the girls wanna fuck us.”
Track 12: “Backdoor Lover” by DuJour
Writers: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Brainz Dimilo, Anthony President, and Guliano Franco
This one. Hoo boy. It’s about anal sex. Yeah, it’s about buttfucking. These guys wanna fuck the listener (probably a young, impressionable girl but also possibly a boy) up the ass. It might seem a bit shocking to hear it in a PG-13 film. It’s the second of two songs that Archie Comics didn’t provide the lyrics to on their website back in the day.
Fun facts: Kaplan and Elfont took inspiration from the Backstreet Boys’ “Backstreet’s Back” for the DuJour songs and ended up writing them in the back of a car service. Rachael Leigh Cook has said “I think the Du Jour songs were my favorite. They were priceless. How did they even get away with them? They were so funny.” She also said “My favorite song to perform was ‘Pretend To Be Nice.’ But my favorite songs on the soundtrack are actually both of the Du Jour songs. I was completely blown away by ‘Back Door Lover.’ I cannot believe they got away with that! I’m still amazed. Maybe I’m old fashioned. But, this nice little PG-13 movie, and you just open with that?! I mean come on. Deb and Harry are geniuses, full stop.”
Track 13: “Josie and the Pussycats” by Josie and the Pussycats
Writers: Joseph Barbera, William Hanna, and Hoyt Curtin
This is a rocking update of the theme song to the original Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. The writer of the updated lyrics is not credited.
Reception and Legacy
The album was certified gold, selling at least 500,000 copies.
Anna Waronker recorded and released “I Wish You Well” on her album Anna, released on June 4, 2002. Her version runs around 40 seconds longer.
Lauren Chapman, Mike Schwitter, and Virginia Cavaliere covered Josie and the Pussycats’ version of “Money (That’s What I Want)” in a live performance at Feinstein’s / 54 Below on December 15, 2015.
“You Don’t See Me” and Josie and the Pussycats were mentioned in The Dark Prophecy, Book Two of The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan, released on May 2, 2017.
On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, from 8:00 PM to 11:59 PM (doors opened at 7:00 PM), a record release party, hosted by Mondo Records and Alamo Drafthouse, was held at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the release of the soundtrack album on vinyl from Mondo Records. At a cost of $45, you got to see Kay Hanley and her band perform songs from the movie live (for the first time), watch the movie on the big screen, and finally attend a Q&A panel that included co-writers and directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont; stars Rachael Leigh Cook (Josie), Tara Reid (Melody), Gabriel Mann (Alan M.), and Missi Pyle (Alexandra); and Kay Hanley. You could also buy the new vinyl soundtrack album at the theater. The album also came with a DuJour single. Dave Gibbs sent Mondo “some unreleased tracks and demos”, but they ended up going unused.
My Closing Thoughts
This album was a very welcome update to the musical sound of Josie and the Pussycats. Gone is the Motown-inspired 1960s bubblegum pop, replaced by an early 2000s alternative power pop / punk rock sound. I enjoy the hell out of this soundtrack, and I encourage all of you to pick it up – or at least check out my Spotify playlist.
If you’re not yet convinced that Josie and the Pussycats is an awesome fictional rock band, just check out this video of their “greatest hits” (“You’re a Star”, “Pretend to Be Nice”, and “Spin Around”), uploaded by Universal Pictures on June 27, 2020: