Let’s Revisit the Perfection That is ‘The Parent Trap’ Soundtrack

As the camera pans over the ocean and onto a cruise ship, Nat King Cole sings, “L is for the way you look at me… O is for the only one I see….” And so Walt Disney’s 1998 remake of The Parent Trap begins. As Cole croons, “Love is all that I can give to you,” we see a (faceless) couple marry on the Queen Elizabeth II as the credits roll over the screen.

That Nat King Cole song, “L-O-V-E,” sets the tone for the iconic soundtrack that accompanies the even more iconic film. I cannot hear “L-O-V-E” without immediately thinking of The Parent Trap, Camp Walden, yellow duffle bags, peanut butter and Oreos, and everything else intimately associated with this beloved film.

Each song in the film is perfectly tied to its moment. “Do You Believe in Magic” plays as Hallie and Annie teach each other everything there is to know about each other’s lives. “There She Goes” is the soundtrack to Hallie’s arrival in London, with her head poking out the window as she takes in the sights.

In honor of the film’s 20th anniversary, I am here to break down each of the songs on the 15-song soundtrack. Each song will be scored out of 11. Because, duh, age 11.

Parent Trap

Warning: These songs are going to be stuck in your head all week. You’re welcome.

TRACK ONE

Song: “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole

Scene: Opening credits showing Nick and Liz getting married on board the Queen Elizabeth II.

Music fit score: 11/11

Does it work? IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION!?!

This is the song that I perhaps most associate with The Parent Trap. It was recorded in June 1964 and released on Nat King Cole’s final studio album L-O-V-E (he passed away from lung cancer in February 1965 at age 45). Thirty-four years later, it became the perfect opening song for The Parent Trap. It sets the tone for the rest of the film: cheesy, all about love, and delightfully catchy. Love was made for me and you…

TRACK TWO

Song: “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Loovin’ Spoonfuls

Scene: Annie and Hallie start teaching each other to prep for the switch.

Music fit score: 11/11

Does it work? Duh.

Like The Lovin’ Spoonfuls sing on the track, “Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart?” this is a magical moment for the 11-year-old twins Hallie and Annie. They discovered each other and have set out to learn everything there is to know so they can switch places at the end of the summer and get their parents to fall back in love.

The scene makes great use of the ever-important montage trope. We see Annie teaching Hallie the secret handshake with her butler, Martin, as they sing “Do you believe as I believe…” And yes, you start to believe in magic (because The Parent Trap is magical)!

TRACK THREE

Song: “There She Goes” by The La’s

Scene: Hallie-as-Annie in a cab driving through London

Music fit score: 8/11

Does it work? I can’t imagine any other song in this scene, but the lyrics don’t totally add up.

The scene is super heartwarming — Hallie is in London for the first time, on her way to meet her mom — and the landscape of London (the Tower Bridge, statues of royalty, the ornate buildings) flashes by her window.

Parent Trap

The La’s, an English Brit-pop band, released this song in 1990. This track is one of the few ’90s songs in The Parent Trap, but unlike the others, the lyrics don’t really make sense. I hate to break it to you: The song is about heroin. As Rolling Stone writes, “Ostensibly a love song to an unforgettable girl, ‘There She Goes’ contains several lyrics — Racing through my brain … pulsing through my vein … no-one else can heal my pain — that could also refer to a much more ominous mistress, especially in light of rampant rumors about La’s leader Lee Mavers’ subsequent descent into heroin addiction.” Now I can’t disconnect the song’s meaning from the music fit score.

TRACK FOUR

Song: “Top of the World” by Shonen Knife

Scene: Camp Walden dining hall

Music fit score: 6/11

Does it work? Yes and no.

Shonen Knife is a Japanese pop punk band from Osaka, Japan. Their band name translates to “boy knife” (!) and as of 2016, they were still releasing music. According to Wikipedia, “Heavily influenced by 1960s girl groups, pop bands, The Beach Boys, and early punk rock bands, such as the Ramones, the trio crafts stripped-down songs with simplistic lyrics sung both in Japanese and English.” Bet you didn’t expect that! This track was released in 1994 as a cover of the Carpenters’ song “Top of the World,” and used not only in The Parent Trap but Microsoft commercials, the movies Double Dare and The Last Supper, and Netflix’s reboot of Gilmore Girls.

Sonen Knife’s cover fits well with the pop music used for the camp in the movie — but it’s a little too “punk” for Camp Walden. I get why they didn’t go with The Carpenters’ original track — it’s kind of slow — but the music doesn’t work as well as the other tracks.

TRACK FIVE

Song: “Here Comes the Sun” by Bob Khaleel

Scene: Hallie-as-Annie with her mom in London

Music fit score: 11/11

Does it work? A cover of the Beatles song fits perfectly for London.

Parent Trap

I’m not sure why they didn’t go with the original Beatles song (maybe licensing?), but Khaleel’s cover works really well. To the best of my knowledge (a.k.a. to the best of the internet’s knowledge), Khaleel recorded this song for the soundtrack.

It captures the hope Hallie feels when she is with her mom for the first time in her life —  “Little darlin’ it’s been a long cold lonely winter / Little darlin’ it feels like years since it’s been here” — and you feel her happiness radiating off the screen.

TRACK SIX

Song: “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” by Linda Ronstadt

Scene: When Hallie and Annie surprise their parents into having dinner on the cruise ship.

Music fit: 10/11

Interestingly, the script for this scene reads:

CHESSY
Annie, mood music, if you please.

Annie pushes a few buttons and the LIGHTS DIM. Moonlight spills into the room as we HEAR Sade’s Smooth Operator play over the cabin’s speakers.

ANNIE (like a hypnotist)
Relax… Sail through time…

HALLIE
— Back to yesteryear…

The Girls disappear behind double doors, leaving Nick and Elizabeth looking thoroughly confused.  Chessy approaches with a tray of hors d’oeuvres.

CHESSY
You don’t get it, do you?  Smooth Operator…’Big hit in 1986 … The year you two met… Hors d’oeuvre?

ELIZABETH
So, that’s what this is all about.

Nick notices a LIFE RAFT with a homemade sign that says QE2 hanging on the wall.

The “mood music” we hear, however, is not Sade — but Linda Ronstadt. And Chessy just says, “You do get all this, do you?” and Liz responds, “Yes, I’m beginning to.”

I, for one, am glad they went with “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” and not “Smooth Operator.” Written in 1945, the song was originally recorded by none other than Nat King Cole. Cole’s influence is clear throughout the film (and this gets a ’10’ only because I wish they had used Cole’s version).

The lyrics fit perfectly: “I love you for sentimental reasons / I hope you do believe me / I’ll give you my heart.”

TRACK SEVEN

Song: “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited

Scene: Annie and Martin’s handshake

Music fit score: 100/11

Does it work? Did you even know this was a real song from 1968??

Did you know Young-Holt Unlimited is a jazz trio from Chicago?

Did you know “Soulful Strut” sold a million copies and went gold in January 1969 (three months after the song;s release)?!

Did you know it was originally the backing track to Barbra Acklin’s “I Am the Same Girl” (released 1969, also a JAM)??

I DID NOT KNOW ANY OF THIS UNTIL WRITING THIS PIECE.

While Cole’s 1968 “L-O-V-E” is perhaps the song you most identify with from The Parent Trap, Young-Holt Unlimited’s “Soulful Strut” is embedded deep in your consciousness. It’s the jazzy background to Annie and Martin’s handshake.

Parent Trap

The more you know.

TRACK EIGHT

Song: “Never Let You Go” by Jakaranda

Scene: Hallie-as-Annie with her mom in the bridal shop

Music fit score: 11/11

Does it workYes.

It captures Hallie’s feelings about her mom: She’s finally found her, witnessing her in her element, and doesn’t want to give her up. As Hallie whispers to herself, “My mom is too cool.”

The pop group Jakaranda (formed in 1997) actually had moderate fame when The Parent Trap came out in 1998, but the group dissolved shortly afterwards. Nonetheless, this song remains in popular culture as a hallmark of the film.

(Also can we talk about Hallie’s iconic pale blue pant suit in this scene?!?! I know I’m writing iconic a lot in this article… but The Parent Trap *is* truly iconic.)

thoughts on this #look?

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TRACK NINE

Song: “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & the Destroyers

Scene: Annie’s entrance to the poker game

Music fit score: 10/11

Does it work? YES. Wow.

Parent Trap

Whoever picked this 1982 song for an 11-year-old girl’s badass poker skills: I salute you. You win. (The score of 10 is because only the first verse is used in the film.)

When Annie swings open the door of the bunk and says, “I’ll take a whack at it,” then the opening guitar of “Bad to the Bone” starts, I get shivers. She’s wearing her mini sunglasses (very in) and swinging a bag of quarters. As Annie deals the hand and smirks at Hallie, the song picks up. The lyrics begin as they stare each other down:

“On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered ’round
And they gazed in wide wonder at the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up, said “Leave this one alone.”
She could tell right away that I was bad to the bone.”

The song has been used in 24 other movies and countless advertisements – but, please, name a scene more iconic than this one. According to tvtropes.org, the song is “a traditional badass blues-rock song commonly used to underscore a ‘cool’ outlaw character.” Yes, these 11-year-olds are badass.

TRACK TEN

Song: “The Happy Club” by Bob Geldof

Scene: Arrival at Camp Walden

Music fit score: 8/11

Does it work? It captures the upbeat excited feeling of camp arrival day, but only uses the lyric-less part of the song and the part that has the ‘na na na’s.

“The Happy Club” is barely in the movie – you’re so focused on Marva’s announcements, taking in the scene of Camp Walden — that the track is not as crucial as some of the other songs on the soundtrack. Still, it works. Honestly, even though the lyrics aren’t in the movie — they still fit the vibe of Camp Walden super well.

She gets up / Then she goes outside
She don’t know what she does / But it feels alright
She says I / I’m a sunny girl / Yeah, I’m feeling good
And it’s a shiny world / Well, here she comes / Na, na, na” 

TRACK ELEVEN

Song: “Suite from The Parent Trap” by Alan Silvestri

Scene: Throughout the film

Music fit score: ∞/11

Yes, I just scored this infinity. I made up the scoring system! Anything is possible!

Because Alan Silvestri’s music runs throughout the movie, and was created specifically for the film, it is difficult to write about how well it fits in a particular scene. It’s sentimental, it fits when it’s needed, and there’s probably a whole other article to be written on Silvestri’s score.

TRACK TWELVE

Song: “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole

Scene: Liz and Nick’s second wedding.

Music fit score: 11/11

Does it work? I’m not sure why I’m even asking this question anymore.

Nat King Cole provides the soundtrack for their first wedding, so it makes perfect sense that his daughter provides the soundtrack to the second wedding. Full circle.

Cole’s 1975 soul song is one of her biggest hits — like her father’s “L-O-V-E,” it will forever be associated with The Parent Trap for me. It repeats the theme of the movie: Love is forever. Everlasting. And things will work out happily ever after. Like the opening, you are focused on the lyrics because there is no dialogue on screen. The credits roll, and Cole continues singing.

(Side note, how could you not sing along to “Hugging and squeezing / And kissing and pleasing / Together forever throughever whatever.”)

TRACK THIRTEEN

Song: “Dream Come True” by Ta-Gana

Scene: ??????

Music fit score: 0/11

Does it work? I’m pretty confident this isn’t in the movie, I am not sure why it is on the soundtrack. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

TRACK FOURTEEN

Song: “Groovin” by Pato Banton & The Reggae Revolution

Scene: ??????

Music fit score: 0/11

Does it work? AGAIN: WAS THIS IN THE MOVIE? Am I losing my mind? Why is this on the soundtrack?

TRACK FIFTEEN

Song: “Let’s Get Together” by Nobody’s Angel

Scene: Not really in the movie — the music — but Hallie sings the lyrics to herself as she walks to the elevator in the San Francisco hotel

Music fit score: n/a

Does it work? This song isn’t really in the film, but it’s an homage to the original Parent Trap. So points for reference, but I don’t actually like the cover.

Here’s the song they’re referencing:

NOT AN OFFICIAL TRACK

Song: “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Ray Charles & Betty Carter

Scene: Annie and Liz saying goodbye to Hallie and Nick in the rain.

Music fit score: 11/11

Does it work? This song isn’t officially on the soundtrack, but Ray Charles mournfully singing “Everytime we say goodbye, I die a little” makes me cry every time. Written by Cole Porter, there have been many, many covers of this song (Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, John Coltrane, Sammy Davis, Jr., Chet Baker…), but I am glad they picked the Ray Charles version. Charles, who passed away in 2004, was influenced mainly by — you guessed it – Nat King Cole.

As Charles said, “When I started out I tried to imitate Nat Cole because I loved him so much. But then I woke up one morning and I said, ‘People tell me all the time that I sound like Nat Cole, but wait a minute, they don’t even know my name.’ As scared as I was — because I got jobs sounding like Nat Cole — I just said, ‘Well, I’ve got to change because nobody knows who I am.’ And my Mom taught me one thing, ‘Be yourself, boy.’ And that’s the premise I went on.”

I just love this song very, very much.

Whoever made this movie was really a Nat King Cole fan. And I love them for it. Everything about this soundtrack is perfect. Everything about this movie is perfect. The end.

Parent Trap Week is an entire week dedicated to the 1998 iconic film, in honor of its 20th anniversary. See all the posts here.

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