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SoundTRAX: "Napoleon Dynamite"

Cover of the "Napoleon Dynamite" soundtrack.
Lakeshore Records
Fox Searchlight Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

Napoleon Dynamite danced its way into movie theaters 20 years ago this year.

Sporting a virtually unknown cast and unconventional storyline— not to mention inspiring the wearing of many a "Vote For Pedro" shirt— the movie surprised many by not just winning over the critics, but by becoming a box office hit as well.

Jon Heder plays the title character, the celluloid epitome of the socially awkward teen, who has little support at home and even less at school, where doomed romances and humiliations galore naturally reside.

Not even John Hughes ever displayed this level of weird charm— or is it charming weirdness?

And that charm has only grown. This month a special anniversary screening of the film will take place at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, where it first premiered 20 years ago, this time with a new 4K restoration.

But we're here to talk about the film's music, right?

The soundtrack for Napoleon Dynamite featured the original score by composer John Swihart, as well as dialogue from the movie. And even though the film takes place in 2004, the music dips liberally into a lot of tunes from the 80s and 90s, including great choices like "Only You" from Yaz, "Forever Young" by Alphaville, When in Rome's "The Promise," and Bow Wow Wow's famous cover of "I Want Candy."

But it would be criminal to not feature the music from film's most iconic scene, you know, that dance scene, as today's SoundTRAX selection. A dance, by the way, that was completely created by Jon Heder.

He did three versions to two different songs, because as a low budget independent film they had no way of knowing whose music rights they'd be able to obtain.

Two of those tunes were by an English jazz and acid funk band the filmmakers weren't certain they'd be able to afford. Until they did.

From Napoleon Dynamite it's Jamiroquai with "Canned Heat."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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