First posted July 29, 2011. Last updated September 2, 2018.
Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, et al
Released: April 14, 1978
Sales (in millions):
“Grease will always be the word for hopelessly devoted generations of girls who wore out their record players partying with their own Pink Ladies to this soundtrack.” ZS The “high-camp classic” ZS whisked listeners away “to the ‘50s teeny-bopper days” ZS by boasting “summer-loving hits that will be on karaoke playlists until the end of time.” ZS
“The movie is a 1970s take on 1950s musicals, providing all the kitsch anyone could hope for.” AZ “Grease was a huge success as a Broadway musical prior to hitting the big screen in 1978. That was the version that transformed Grease into a phenomenon – it was a runaway box office success, and then became a TV, cable, and video favorite.” AMG
The soundtrack, the sixth best-selling of all time, WK “rivaled its film counterpart as a pop culture perennial, and it’s not hard to see why – its good-natured pastiche of doo wop and early rock & roll is infectious and charming, due in no small part to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s charismatic, engaging performances.” AMG
They actually only appear on 7 of the 24 tracks on the album, but “they sing the majority of the originals… which were the reason why the film and soundtrack became blockbusters.” AMG The pair duet on You’re the One That I Want and sing with the cast on Summer Nights. Both sangs hit #1 in the UK and rank in the 20 best-selling singles of all-time in the UK. WK
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta took solo turns on Hopelessly Devoted to You and Sandy respectively. They were also hugely successful in the UK, both hitting #2. The former was a #3 hit in the US as well.
Songs by other cast members include Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, in which “actress Stockard Channing struts her, um, versatility.” AZ The rest of the soundtrack is filled out by “workmanlike performances” AMG of 1950s’ chestnuts from Sha Na Na. While they are “over-represented,” AZ the soundtrack’s original songs, which “hold up better than the ‘50s tunes,” AMG “are so giddily enjoyable…that everything works.” AMG
‘50s heartthrob Frankie Valli sings the title song, written by Bee Gee Barry Gibb, fresh from his success from Saturday Night Fever. In that movie, Travolta became an internationally-known star strutting his disco white-suit-wearing stuff to four chart-topping songs penned by Gibb. In Grease, Travolta strutted his jeans-and-T-shirt-wearing stuff while dancing with Olivia Newton-John – and four more top five US hits.
This soundtrack bears several interesting connections to that one. Only three weeks after Fever ended its six-month residency at the top of the US charts, the Grease soundtrack moved in for a summer-long stay. Fever was the best-selling album of 1977; Grease held the title for 1978. Both rank in the all-time top 100 worldwide best-selling albums with estimates as high as 40 million. Both soundtracks are also in the DMDB’s list of the top 50 soundtracks and rank amongst the biggest #1 albums in U.S. and U.K. chart history. Both albums are also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/NARM’s Definitive Albums list.
“The sleek pop production the movie’s soundtrack boasts and the cast’s enthusiastic performances go a long way in making this Grease the definitive Grease.” AMG “This has become a touchstone in American culture.” AZ
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