Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture Music Poster Image
'50s-style songs still resonate with kids; some iffy lines.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Whereas many of the songs on the Grease soundtrack are fairly innocent 1950s-style rock 'n' roll numbers (and some actual oldies), a couple of the tracks reflect the film's dubious attitude toward gender roles and teenage sexuality. In "Summer Nights," a girl (Sandy) and a boy (Danny) recount, for their friends, their memories of a summer-vacation romance. Sandy says he held her hand, while Danny says "she got friendly down in the sand." In the hit "You're the One that I Want" -- the number in the movie where Sandy dons a black leather cat suit and lights a cigarette to get Danny's attention -- Sandy takes control of the situation by turning Danny on and tells him, "I need a man who can keep me satisfied."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters in the Grease film and soundtrack mainly engage in standard high school activities/behavior. However, the central love relationship in the movie is troubled because Danny's pride won't let him be seen with a girl who seems innocent, and all their problems seem to be solved when Sandy decides to tart herself up to win him back. In the movie, sex is the way to keep a boy. This modeling is less overt on the soundtrack album than in the film, but for listeners who have seen the movie, the ideas are there in the songs.

Violence

In the song "Summer Nights" -- which includes call and response between the main characters, Danny and Sandy, and their friends, as each recalls his/her version of their summer romance -- one of the boys asks Danny, "Did she put up a fight"?

Sex

The plot of the Grease film focuses on boys' and girls' sexual reputations and how much girls should put out. In the hit "Summer Nights," the Sandy character remembers her summer romance as being about drinking lemonade and holding hands, whereas her boyfriend tells his buddies that they made out under a dock and "she got friendly" in the sand. In the songs "There are Worse Things I Could Do" and "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee," Stockard Channing's character, Rizzo, sings about her own easy reputation with boys, and Sandy's uptight one, respectively. "There Are Worse Things" mentions flirting and pressing her body against boys while they dance. The "Sandra Dee" mocks Sandy with lines like "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee/ Lousy with virginity/ Won't go to bed till I'm legally wed ..."

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The song "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" mocks Sandy's conservative attitudes, including the lines "I don't drink/ Or swear/ I don't rat my hair/ I get ill from one cigarette."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture includes original music and oldies from the 1978 movie musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, both of whom sing on the album. Though by modern standards Grease is fairly tame, the storyline and the songs exhibit questionable values about gender roles and sexuality. The Sandy character is mocked by girls and boys for her innocence, and her boyfriend, Danny, lies about their physical relationship. Sandy gradually decides that she must play the part of a slut to get her man. All of this is more overt in the film than in the music, but songs like "There Are Worse Things I Could Do," "Summer Nights," and "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" get these ideas across.

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What's the story?

GREASE: THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM THE MOTION PICTURE consists of original '50s-style songs and oldies used in the 1978 movie musical Grease, which is based on the hit Broadway production. Performers on the soundtrack include the film's stars, Olivia Newton John and John Travolta, as well as singer Frankie Valli and other actors from the film. The soundtrack was a No. 1 album and sold 8 million units in the United States. The album also yielded four Top 10 singles, including the No. 1 songs "You're the One That I Want" and the title track. The songs from the musical help tell the movie's story about a high school girl, Sandy, who is mocked by her peers for being so innocent and eventually re-invents herself as a sexy powerhouse to win the heart of the boy she loves.

Is it any good?

The original music from Grease is infectious, entertaining, and bright, and helps move the movie along. The musical style is close to the '50s music being replicated but also reflects the more polished, brighter production values and vocals of the late 1970s, when the songs were recorded. Many listeners far prefer authentic 1950s rock 'n' roll to fake "oldies" like the songs from Grease, but the movie and music are very popular with tweens and teens, and some may develop a taste for vintage music after listening to these songs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the song "Summer Nights." What does the song say about male and female attitudes toward sex in the movie? Who do you think is telling the truth?

  • This movie is set in the 1950s, and the music reflects the style of music of that time. Could the story take place in another place and time?

  • What is Stockard Channing's character, Rizzo, singing about in "There Are Worse Things I Could Do"?

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