How many layers of ersatz must a piece of culture be wrapped in before it buckles under the weight of its own falsity? Would you believe two? It’s true. The proof is on the soundtrack to ABC’s Dirty Dancing remake, which is airing next week and already has received scathing reviews (Variety’s Sonya Sariya calls it, “a sappy, passionless, schlocky remake of the original, without even the iota of imagination necessary to expand upon the 1987 film”). It is reportedly virtually shot-for-shot, albeit the Jewishness is turned way down, there’s a new subplot in which Baby’s sister solves racism, and it has a musical-theater element in that many of the characters sporadically burst out into song. If that doesn’t sound hellish enough, fire up the three-hour TV movie’s soundtrack on Spotify and luxuriate in sonic brimstone.
Dirty Dancing was an ‘80s movie fueled by nostalgia for the ‘60s. The Dirty Dancing remake is a ‘10s movie fueled by nostalgia for the ‘80s. Our pop culture’s endless tail-chasing is an explanation as to how we arrived upon a torturous 17 tracks of whos (Greyson Chance, Calum Scott, Bea Miller) and future-whos (Karmin, Nicole Scherzinger) singing spit-shined renditions of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and, anachronistically, ‘80s songs that populated the 1987 movie’s two-volume soundtrack, but it’s no excuse. And said explanation fails to cover just exactly who has any use for this compilation of atrocities. People who want to hear the music of Dirty Dancing, but shittier? Young kids who want to dip their toe into oldies but are afraid of all of the texture on ancient artifacts? Old people who don’t have their reading glasses? Older people with arthritis who can’t type that many letters into the Spotify search field without causing themselves great pain and just click on the first thing that comes up when you search “DIRTY DA”? People of all walks of life who have just given up and are willing to lie down and be spoonfed utter shit while keeping their rapidly decomposing fingers crossed that there might be some sort of nutritional value in there somewhere?
You can love Dirty Dancing (but if you do, it’s probably your nostalgia talking), you can hate Dirty Dancing (if so: you’re wild... YOU’RE WIIIIIIILD!!!), but you cannot deny that Dirty Dancing did a poor job of reimagining the ‘60s onscreen. The hair, the makeup, the Patrick Swayze lip-synching along to the ‘80s lite-synth pop of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”—it’s all rather shoddy. The vintage songs were basically its best shot at transporting you to the movie’s actual setting (recite it with me now: “That was the summer of 1963—when everybody called me Baby, and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn’t wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman’s”). Hoping for such an experience on this new album would be like looking at a Xerox of a Xerox of a picture of a Bermuda beach and trying to feel the sand between your toes. Don’t be a dumb ass.
I don’t have a strong personal relationship to all of the songs on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack—I’m not trying to argue for the preservation of the sanctity of “Wipeout”—but to take a perfect pop song such as the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and revamp it with pronounced digital editing and given a highly synthetic vintage wash (along the lines of Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s”) seems not just like a waste of everyone’s time, but its creators going out of their a way to shit on a classic. It’s generally cheaper to remake a song than to license the original for your movie, but this Dirty Dancing isn’t some scrappy little indie that’s fighting to merely exist. Fucking Disney is behind this. They could have shelled out a little bit and saved everyone the heartache and hassle.
Basically the only thing here that even attempts to do something different with the source material is Calum Scott’s EDM-lite remake of Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind.” Imagine if you were an album and the only thing you had going for you was an EDM-lite remake of “She’s Like the Wind”!!! You would be so ashamed you wouldn’t even want to exist. You’d be like “I carried a watermelon” over and over and over to yourself until you literally died of embarrassment.
So no, Dirty Dancing 2017, I will not be your baby. I do not share your hungry eyes. I am not having the time of my life. I do not love you now that you can dance. You are a monster and even if we deserve you as a culture, I’ll never stop expecting more than this. You can beat my soul, but you can’t take my ideals.