How come every big summer movie this year seems to have a star-studded soundtrack album? Can you say Bodyguard? Actually, pop soundtracks have been a longtime staple of record bins. Occasionally, they've even made for good albums, from 1977's Saturday Night Fever to last year's Juice. The music in those films both commented on and bounced off of the films' action, making for cohesive, coherent albums. Increasingly, though, too many soundtrack albums are jumbled collections of potential hits that cynically take aim at the movie's intended demographics. And the success of The Bodyguard, Menace II Society, and the Proclaimers' left-field hit ''I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)'' from Benny & Joon is only going to make film producers call record companies that much sooner.
How prepackaged are this season's big-flick records? We decided to put them to the test (omitting the soundtrack for Jurassic Park and other films that feature orchestral scores). So -- lights, camera, opening credits, theme song, soundtrack album!
SLIVER (Virgin) UB40, Neneh Cherry, Engima, Lords of
Acid, and others
STYLE OF MUSIC: Heavy on the throbbing, dreamy pulse of techno.
WHY?: Cold techno sound is equivalent of Sharon Stone's image.
TREND FACTOR: Let's rave, everybody!
REQUIRED REMAKE: Elvis' ''Can't Help Falling in Love'' in white-bread reggae version by UB40.
''HUH?'': SONG '80s club relic ''Penthouse and Pavement'' by British band Heaven 17.
COMEBACK BID: No such thing in rave world -- yet.
PICK HIT(S): Massive Attack's luscious ''Unfinished Sympathy,'' Aftershock's ''Slave to the Vibe.''
FADE TO GRADE: Skip the movie; go straight to this sharp, consistent soundtrack. A-
POETIC JUSTICE (New Deal/Epic Soundtrax) Babyface, TLC(pictured),
Tony!Toni!Tone!, and 2Pac -- but nothing from the star, Janet Jackson
STYLE OF MUSIC: Every kind of black urban pop -- hard-core rap, new jack swing, gangsta rap.
WHY?: What else would you choose for a movie about black urban life?
TREND FACTOR: Several tracks feature in-vogue dance-hall reggae style.
REQUIRED REMAKE: TLC romping through the Time's ''Get It Up.''
''HUH?'' SONG: Stevie Wonder's 1971 oldie ''Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer.''
COMEBACK BID: Fusion instrumental by now-low-profile bassist/producer Stanley Clarke.
PICK HIT(S): Girl-group rap by Cultural Revolution and Nite and Day; the Tonys' ''Waiting for You''.
FADE TO GRADE: Terrific, if imperfect, sampler of the sound of urban America in the '90s.
WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT (Virgin) Tina Turner
STYLE OF MUSIC: Her many moods and wigs, from oldie like ''Proud Mary'' to her title comeback hit.
WHY?: It's her life story -- besides, they can't reprise Ike's greatest hits.
TREND FACTOR: Tina always seems to be in style.
REQUIRED REMAKE:The entire album is a remake -- Tina wails new versions of her old hits.
''HUH?'' SONG: Tina's version of ''Disco Inferno,'' a 1978 glitterball hit for the Trammps.
COMEBACK BID: Ike on ''Proud Mary'' -- as sung by Timmy Cappello. Maybe next time, Ike.
PICK HIT(S): Soulful new ballad, ''Why Must We Wait Until Tonight?''
FADE TO GRADE: Remakes are pleasant but redundant. Better is Tina's hits album, Simply the Best. B-
POSSE (A&M) Tone-Loc, B.B.O.T.I., Vesta, Intelligent Hoodlum, and others
STYLE OF MUSIC: R&B in its many shapes, styles, and beats.
WHY?: Ties in with the idea of a Western with a primarily black cast.
TREND FACTOR: Gangsta rap -- ''I know a black villain that did more killin','' goes theme song.
REQUIRED REMAKE: None -- bravo!
''HUH?'' SONG: Ultraserious (and very white) rock track by David + David.
COMEBACK BID: Less-than-wild thing Tone-Loc growling on ''Posse Love.''
PICK HIT(S): ''Cruel Jim Crow,'' with a hooky chorus and a charismatic vocal by Melvin Van Peebles.
FADE TO GRADE: Rap worthy of an urban spaghetti Western, but pop ballads are left in the dust. B-
LAST ACTION HERO (Columbia) AC/DC, Def Leppard, Megadeth, Alice in
Chains, Tesla, and others
STYLE OF MUSIC: Hard rock and heavy metal.
WHY? Well, Guns N' Roses' ''You Could Be Mine'' worked for Arnold's Terminator 2.
TREND FACTOR:Two tracks by in-demand Seattle rockers Alice in Chains.
REQUIRED REMAKE: Aerosmith remaking their own ''Dream On,'' complete with orchestra.
''HUH?'' SONG: One rap track by Cypress Hill.
COMEBACK BID: None, really -- but then, Tesla's career isn't in great shape these days.
PICK HIT(S): Alice in Chains' ''What the Hell Have I,'' Cypress Hill's snotty ''Cock the Hammer.''
FADE TO GRADE: Mostly a sludge-metal scrap pile, epitomized by weak AC/DC track ''Big Gun.'' C
MADE IN AMERICA (Elektra) Keith Sweat, Lisa Fischer,
Gloria Estefan, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and others
STYLE OF MUSIC: Mixture of suave, upscale R&B and suave, bland white people.
WHY?: Reflects movie's theme of black and white worlds colliding via sperm bank.
TREND FACTOR: Smooth, harmony-heavy contribution by current hit makers Silk.
REQUIRED REMAKE:Weak hip-hop version of Sly and the Family Stone's ''Stand'' by Y.T. Style.
''HUH?'' SONG: Deep Purple's ''Smoke on the Water.'' Calling Beavis and Butt-head.
COMEBACK BID: Ben E. King, but at least he's not singing ''Stand by Me'' again.
PICK HIT(S): Laura Satterfield and Ephraim Lewis' ballad ''I Know I Don't Walk on Water.''
FADE TO GRADE: Drab soundtrack for a comedy -- Whoopi fans, stick with the Sister Act score. C
SUPER MARIO BROS. (Capitol) Extreme, Roxette, George Clinton, Megadeth, and others
STYLE OF MUSIC: All over the map, er, video screen.
WHY?: Ask EMI Records Group, which has most of these artists under contract.
TREND FACTOR: 1976 oldie by the newly hip Queen.
REQUIRED REMAKE: Roxy Music's :''Love is the Drug,'' as slaughtered by the Divinyls.
HUH? SONG: Metal track by Megadeth -- sticks out like sore head-banger.
COMEBACK BID: Marky Mark, attempting a ballad. Stick with underwear ads.
PICK HIT(S): Roxette's ''Almost Unreal,'' a worthy successor to their earlier junk-pop hits.
FADE TO GRADE: Uninspired hodgepodge re-creates the experience of tuning into a bad radio station. D