Miami Vice TV Soundtrack Album

Album Review: Miami Vice Soundtrack (1985)

Those two guys on that show you watch will never go anywhere.

A paraphrased quote – thus no quotation marks – attributed to my mom. She was only half right but one of the very few times my mom was probably wrong.

Miami Vice delivered must-see TV for me and my brother which probably made up the one hour of the week we did not fight.  The star power of Philip Michael Thomas, aka Rico Tubbs, indeed faded after one of the best shows of the 80s ran its course, but Don Johnson, aka Sonny Crockett, found success and managed to prevent future typecasting after his iconic role.

Certainly, Miami Vice was the IT show of the 1980s. It introduced a whole new style of television production, which I’m not sure has ever been repeated, brought a new fashion trend (a guy at my high school literally dressed like Sonny Crockett), incorporated mainstream music  and to this day remains the only cop show I have ever watched where the bad guys actually got away with it. (I remember the scene as Crockett watched from the shoreline as his suspect fled by boat.)

Miami Vice upended all formulaic cop dramas shows but in the end probably upended itself by becoming so formulaic. It only lasted five seasons. Watching reruns remain elusive, I’ve only seen a couple, and I’m surprised Netflix hasn’t jumped all over it. Peacock, NBC’s streaming platform, might be the next best bet as the show aired on NBC.

But the music, as they say, lives on.

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Miami Vice Soundtrack Review

Miami Vice not only had awesome music made for the show but the creators successfully brought in existing songs and made those tracks even more popular. The original soundtrack album featured three already hit songs that still get airplay today. Rock, instrumentals, R&B and hip hop – the Miami Vice soundtrack had it all.

I probably got my copy of the original 1985 Miami Vice soundtrack album (many sequels exist) for Christmas. On cassette. I do have a cassette player but not wired up and so does my car. Remember when cars offered CD and cassette players? I can’t tell you the last time I popped a cassette in my car nor can I recall the last time I listened to the Miami Vice soundtrack. One of those life moments when you realize how much has changed since the last time you listened to an album but even more mind bending to think, if you knew then, how much time would pass before listening again.

It played flawlessly and I have to say cassette tapes deliver the goods. Impeccable audio flowed through the speakers. I don’t think I listened to the album all that much either, the case looks fresh off the shelf.

Excellently, the Miami Vice soundtrack begins with Jan Hammer’s outstanding “The Original Miami Vice Theme.”  A master keyboardist, I’m a bit surprised Hammer’s name and music did not rise past his work for the show. Any Top 10 Best TV Theme Songs list without the “Miami Vice” theme song would be null and void.

Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” follows and fits perfectly with Miami Vice the show. Lighter musical rock fare, almost tongue-in-cheek, than the sometimes dark drama exhibited on Miami Vice, “Smuggler’s Blues” came out before the series aired but producers named the 16th episode after the song, while giving Frey a bit role. How serendipitous.

Ironically, Chaka Kahn recorded “Own the Night” and Frey (along with Jack Tempchin) recorded “You Belong to the City” for the Miami Vice soundtrack but both songs fully stand on their own. The hooky bass and drum beats serve “Own the Night” well in this made for dancing at a nightclub track. I don’t even remember listening to that song, but “You Belong to the City” always irked me. I do associate it with Miami Vice, despite my previous comments, but the chorus labors and that saxophone probably tuned me out. However, listening again for the first time, it was much better than my total recall.

Too young to notice, I have to assume Phil Collins changed the music landscape a bit with “In the Air Tonight.” Genius from the former Genesis drummer and singer, the vocals and drum work Collins laid down endures today, 40 years later (recorded in 1981), and I still remember the car driving scene in Miami Vice this song played over during the pilot episode. Well done, Michael Mann, well done.

The second half of the Miami Vice soundtrack brings an extended version of the theme song, then a hip hop song from Melle Mel called “Vice” which initially highlighted the central issue with cassette: You can’t easily skip past garbage. But wait. Grandmaster Mel Melle, as he’s also called, offers a far different style of hip hop than current contributions from the scene. I rather enjoyed “Vice” with a popping bass line and well-honed structure that resembled music.

Tina Turner makes an appearance for the excellent “Better be Good To Me” and the final three songs all illustrate not only the prowess of Hammer but the greatness of Miami Vice music. Fans of the show probably cannot not reminisce when listening to “Flashback,” “Chase” and “Evan.”

The somber “Flashback” sounds more like what you hear at a day spa with an Asian influence and, if memory serves me right, permeated a flashback scene on the show. Hence the song title.  “Chase” jumps with a quick pace at the start, serving as “chase” music and takes its cue from the theme song. “Evan” really hit home.

Perhaps one of the more memorable scenes for me, and one my brother and I quote to this day, featured Evan, a character who liked the Ingram Mac-10, or Mac-10s.  “Easily concealable, easily transportable. The sweet petite.” Coincidentally, one of the few reruns I have managed to watch in the last 30 years was this episode several years ago and it corrected some false memories including the quote above.

But the best instrumental of the three closes out the album with an emotionally strong melody that I believe played over Evan’s death. He was a likeable bad guy for Crockett and Tubbs and the viewer.

All songs aired during a segment on the show whether a short cut or a longer play. Tapping Hammer (no pun intended) to write the show’s various proprietary instrumentals separated Miami Vice from that era’s bland, and now goofy sounding theme songs, while incorporating rock and pop songs from known artists with heady resumes produced one of the best selling TV soundtrack albums of all time.

Grade: A-

Miami Vice Soundtrack Songs:

  1. The Original Miami Vice Theme
  2. Smuggler’s Blues
  3. Own the Night
  4. You Belong to the City
  5. In the Air Tonight
  6. Miami Vice
  7. Vice
  8. Better Be Good To Me
  9. Flashback
  10. Chase
  11. Evan

9 thoughts on “Album Review: Miami Vice Soundtrack (1985)

  1. I’ve never listened to this entire soundtrack, but loved the tracks that became big radio hits – “Miami Vice Theme” and “You Belong to the City”. And of course, previous hits from other albums “In the Air Tonight” and Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good to Me”.

  2. This was a Friday Night must watch. I never bought movie or Tv soundtracks as those things were patchy. If I wanted to think about getting one I would usually con Tbone into getting it. lol Thats what friends do to friends lol
    Cool throwback post Andrew!

  3. Loved this show and I have this soundtrack. The first two years were great, but died after that for me. Musically, this is where I got in to Glen Frey. Some great songs on here and a great theme song

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