When it comes to soundtracks for animated shows, not much thought is given to them in the same vein as say live-action movie soundtracks. Of course, there have been notable exceptions, such as the late great Shirley Walker’s music for “Batman: The Animated Series”, Carl Johnson’s music for Disney’s “Gargoyles”, and Kevin Kiner’s music for both “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels”, but for what was done for the Pokémon show, the music surprisingly enough was quite impressive. There was just enough of a bubblegum feel to where kids wouldn’t feel put off by it, yet in some songs there seemed to be a sense of substance one would equate to some of the best adult contemporary songs from the 80s and 90s. For example, the main theme performed by Jason Paige evokes the feel of the best rock ballads, while “Everything Changes” had the feel of a soft pop/jazz song from those aforementioned decades. In all, the soundtrack had all the makings of a top quality album that one wouldn’t expect from an animated show inspired by a video game, especially when one considers that cartoons based on video games don’t always invoke top quality. As a whole, the soundtrack has become quite a must-have among fans, and with good reason. Of course, the fact that the songs were first introduced in the segment “Pickachu’s Jukebox” with a montage of scenes from different episodes only made it more enticing.
When it comes to Season 2 – The Orange Islands Adventures – the music stayed the same, with the main theme changing, but even that still had the feel of the previous songs.
With The Jhoto Journeys, the TV music got stepped up some more while still maintaining the core of what makes a good Pokémon song.
With the films – namely the first three – the music did obviously change where instead of using in-house artists, the producers went with using commercial artists of the day – like 98 Degrees, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, *Nsync and even Donna Summer – to help promote the films. In a way it made sense, given how popular these artists were with kids, but sometimes the end results tend to come out mixed in some circles. However, time decides whether these songs stand the test of time, and surprisingly some songs from these albums still hold up. Especially Donna Summer’s “The Power of One”, which gives the second Pokémon film the same kind of musical gravitas one would expect from the best Disney animated films, which is not something to be said lightly. Even Innosense’s “To Know The Unknown” also carries some of that substance.
(I have to say, the fact that they were able to get the legendary Donna Summer to be involved is and of itself amazing. And the song she sings has to be listened to in order to be believed.)
Of course, one could also call it the last hurrah for good animated soundtracks with pop songs that still had “substance with style”, to quote a Brock phrase. But even with that, it’s good to know that Pokémon had a chance to show that it could musically get the attention of audiences beyond their core ones in the midst of that time period.
Now this wouldn’t be the end of good music from Pokémon, for there would be many more cool tunes in the coming years. However, there is something to be said about the music that came out during the first few years of Pokémon. Given that it was completely something new and something no one had ever seen before, that allowed for some cool, interesting things to be done with another Nintendo property that had finally started to get its own legs, and the music definitely showed that in spades.