by Grace McCreight
Cast your mind back to the halcyon days of 2002. Jeans were lowrise, Kirsten Dunst kissed Toby Mcguire upside down in the rain, and American Idol was brand new. 9/11 was a recent memory, there was a sniper in DC, and we were all still afraid of anthrax in our mailboxes. The new millennium was simultaneously prosperous and tumultuous, innocent and anxious.
Into this confusing time stepped a perfectly anxiolytic film – Scooby Doo: The Movie. This stylized fever dream finds the Mystery Machine gang investigating a vacation island that is best described as “MTV Spring Break: Disney Haunted Mansion”. Over the course of 86 minutes [SPOILERS AHOY], Rowan Atkinson plays an evil robot controlled by a crazed Scrappy Doo, Fred’s consciousness is embedded into Daphne so that he can look at her boobs, and Shaggy finds love with a woman named Mary Jane. It’s a beautifully light-hearted combination of early-00’s youth culture and 70’s drug nostalgia, rolled in puka shells and covered with glow-in-the-dark paint.
Just like the film, Scooby Doo: Music from the Motion Picture is incredibly earnest and ridiculously fun. It doesn’t shy away from cheesiness, but embraces it to showcase all the archetypical voices of early aughts top 40 – from Simple Plan’s pop-punk snarl and allSTARS* bubblegum autotuning to toothless alt-rock from Sugar Ray and confusing rockabilly swing from The Atomic Fireballs. Few of the songs are memorable on their own merits, but the album as a whole is a clean hit of Y2K culture – like huffing a Juicy Tube.
Obviously, there are plenty of Scooby-centric tracks, and there are multiple covers of the classic theme song to choose from. Shaggy (as in “It Wasn’t Me” Shaggy, not Scooby’s lackadaisical BFF) lays down hadal zone-deep vocals for his version of “Scooby Doo, Where are You?”, MxPx close the album with a double-time skaterock take, and Solange flips her interpretation into a honey-sweet reflection on a lover who won’t call.
The standout song is inarguably ‘Land of A Million Drums’, where Outkast, Sleepy Brown, and Killer Mike spit Mystery Inc. bars over a cackling beat. Killer Mike investigates a missing bag of Scooby Snax, snatched by some dastardly villain when he and Shaggy were taking a dro nap. Big Boi passes “that boombastic” around the Mystery Machine while dropping jokes about “rocking sober/for the rated-G exposure”, and Andre 3000 provides a snapping outro breakdown that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. It’s delightful and bizarre.
The Scoob-less songs continue to rollercoaster through the 2002 musical landscape. Notably, Kylie Minogue’s “Whenever You Feel Like It” could be played in the year 3000 as a textbook example of turn-of-the-millennium Europop. The lyrics are simple to the extreme (“You’re keeping me up all night/You’re making me feel alright”) but such a cheerful swirl of dance music doesn’t need to be deep. Not every song is a gem – the white-boy joke rap of “It’s A Mystery” is inexcusably boring – but overall, the album is a suntanned treat.
Despite being an arbitrary line on a calendar, fin de milleniare was a period of cultural flux. The Internet came into its full, fracturing power, and countless subgenres flooded into the previously well-ordered world of pop music. The resurgent monoculture of the 2010’s was still a decade away, and the the rules defining popular culture were hazy. Thankfully, Scooby Doo: The Movie didn’t shy away from the challenge of immortalizing that mutable, frenetic youth culture. Forget the world and spend some time with the gang this summer, especially if your vacation plans involve snooping around a beach that isn’t quite as groovy as it seems.
Additional listening recommendations:
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie – Music from the Movie and More… (2004)
Shrek 2: Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004)
Grace McCreight is an indoor child turned outdoor adult who has a lot of feelings about dance music, Drake, and the WOW CD series. If she had a time machine, she’d go back to see Paradise Garage, the Hacienda, and Queen’s 1986 set at Wembley. She’s on Twitter at @urine_blonde.