In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: songs from classic movie and T.V. montages.
Deniece Williams, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” (1984)
I had a sheltered upbringing in Chicago, despite growing up in a neighborhood that had views of both the Sears Tower and Cook County Jail. But growing up, nothing was so frightening to me as a small town or rural area. I blame my xenophobia on movies like Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes, which, as a child, had me convinced that any municipality that lacked mass transit or a population over a million wasn’t a place I wanted to be. (And you could forget about going camping.) I’m not sure my unreasonable fear has been completely assuaged by my real-life experiences, but watching Footloose for the first time certainly helped.
The film features Kevin Bacon as Ren, a Chicago teenager stranded in the phonetically spelled small town of Bomont. Okay, so he’s actually moved there to live with his aunt and uncle. Ren butts heads with the town elders over their bans on dancing and rock music. He just wants to dance, and have a good time, so he kicks off his Sunday shoes in the face Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), while also courting the good reverend’s daughter. Eventually, Ren wins over the town council with his dancing (and Bible quotations), and then there’s a glitter bomb of a high school prom. Fin.
Watching Ren find common ground with the Bible thumpers was weirdly comforting to me upon first (and repeat) viewing, as was the sight of Chris Penn flailing about as Willard, Ren’s dancing protégé. Willard’s not a square at heart—he just lacks the moves, so Ren takes him under his wing. Their training montage sees the boys jumping through the air, twisting, and trying to snap their fingers to the beat provided by Deniece Williams’ second number-one hit, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.”
The lyrics for “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” described the scene about as closely as Kenny Loggins’ eponymous track related the events of the film, but it was the perfect benign, synth-pop ditty to score Willard’s training. The song has since made its mark on pop culture; it’s been covered repeatedly, and featured in episodes of popular sitcoms like The Office and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. But it all began with some ostensibly nimble dancing by Bacon and Penn.