Remember Shrek? Of course you do. The 2001 animated film featuring a Scottish ogre, played and voiced by Mike Myers, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature but more importantly, saturated the internet with countless memes based on it. Shrek is based on the picture book Shrek! by William Steig, and while that laid the groundwork for the film, the soundtrack elevates it to its brilliance. It’s got a diverse listing from solemn hymns like “Hallelujah” to the grooviest of party jams delivered by Baha Men. Here’s why the Shrek soundtrack is so fitting to the film.
“Stay Home” – Self
Shrek is a homebody. He doesn’t want to go out and socialize, mostly because he has no other ogre friends and everybody else is trying to kill him, so it’s no surprise that Shrek tends to keep to himself. A perfect example of Shrek’s personality, “Stay Home” is a song about wanting to stay home and keep to yourself. This song is a little more upbeat than he is, but it’s still fitting because this is a family movie after all.
“I’m a Believer” – Smash Mouth
Written by Neil Diamond and originally recorded by The Monkees, “I’m a Believer” is a perfectly crafted catchy song. The Monkees were one of popular music’s most family-friendly bands, so could there really be a better choice? Yes, because this version is performed by Smash Mouth. The band who also performs “All Star” (which we will definitely detail in-depth later on) gives a perfect, early 2000s alt-rock rendition of this song. The opening line, “I thought love was only true in fairy tales,” is literally Shrek’s plot, so this might as well be the franchise’s official theme song.
“Like Wow!” – Leslie Carter
“Like Wow!” is performed by Leslie Carter, the late sister of pop stars Nick and Aaron Carter. Carter was signed to DreamWorks Records and this track was put into the soundtrack to test the market for her full album, set to release after the film. DreamWorks Records ended up canceling the album release, leaving “Like Wow!” as Carter’s only officially released single in her short-lived music career. This song’s spot on the Shrek soundtrack serves as a tribute to her life.
“Best Years of Our Lives” – Baha Men
That’s right, there’s more to the Baha Men than finding who let the dogs out. They may never have had giant commercial success, but the Baha Men can throw a party song together pretty well. “Best Years of Our Lives” brings a great Bahamian groove to Shrek. The best part about this song is that Baha Men released a Shrek-themed music video with it, so you can you party while you get some Shrek highlights.
“Bad Reputation” – Joan Jett
How do you possibly score a fight between an ogre and a group of knights loyal to the devilishly rambunctious Lord Farquaad? With “Bad Reputation,” of course. It’s edgy, it’s upbeat, and it’s the perfect song for a knight-crushing montage. Not only that, but the song’s lyrics actually match up with Shrek pretty well. Being an ogre, Shrek faces discrimination on a daily basis. He is so hated that the intro to the film shows a mob trying to sack Shrek’s swamp. This fight represents Shrek’s fight with his bad reputation.
“My Beloved Monster” – Eels
So you’re falling in love with a monster and you’re not quite sure how to feel about it? Well, don’t worry, because the same goes for Princess Fiona and there’s actually a song for that. This song appropriately plays in a montage of events where we see Shrek and Fiona falling in love. Shrek and Fiona end up making balloons out of animals for each other and if that isn’t true love then I don’t know what is.
“All Star” – Smash Mouth
Every so often, you come across a pairing of two things that once put together become so much stronger than they were apart. Peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, Shrek and “All Star.” These two are inseparable. For better or for worse, Smash Mouth will always be tied to Shrek. It’s a meme at this point, but at least that allows Shrek to still be relevant 17 years after its release.
“Hallelujah” – Rufus Wainwright
“Hallelujah” is a song that has become big enough that it can’t be tied down to a single musician. Its original rendition by Leonard Cohen introduced it, but following covers by Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright have shown that it can be reinvented time and time again. In Shrek, this song accompanies a heartbreaking montage between Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey as they all go their own ways. The somber tone of this song perfectly sets the mood for the dark time they’re experiencing.
“I’m on My Way” – The Proclaimers
You thought “Send Me On My Way” in Ice Age was the best musical pairing to an animated journey? Well, you thought wrong. With their two most popular songs “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and “I’m on My Way” being about traveling, The Proclaimers are the perfect pick for any adventure.
“I’m a Believer (Reprise)” – Eddie Murphy
Remember how earlier I talked up All Star’s “I’m a Believer” cover being amazing? Well, I found something better for you, an Eddie Murphy cover. It loses the edgier rock sound that “All Star” brings to it, but makes up for it in the comedic act of an animated donkey singing it. Family movies tend to end on feel-good dance moments and while Shrek is no exception, playing this song during the ending gives a little bit of added fun to the cliché.
“True Love’s First Kiss” – Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell
If you haven’t seen the movie (and you still somehow made it to the end of this article about a soundtrack to a movie you’ve never seen) “True Love’s First Kiss” plays during Shrek and Fiona’s wedding during their kiss. Fiona is cursed to look like an ogre until she receives true love’s first kiss and since Shrek is the macho, romantic ogre that he is, the curse is reversed. Shrek and Fiona kiss, this song starts playing, and in the end, Shrek becomes possibly the best ogre-themed love story you’ve ever seen.
The Shrek soundtrack isn’t beautifully composed like the music in Star Wars or packed to the brim with hits like in Guardians of the Galaxy, but this soundtrack makes Shrek into a family-friendly classic. I left out a few tracks from the list; they’re not bad, but don’t impact the story in a great enough effect whereas Smash Mouth does. In my book, this is the best assembly of songs to accompany a story about a Scottish ogre looking for love. Of course, that title could possibly go to Shrek 2, but there’s a whole other time and place for that.