The Miami Vice soundtrack album, featuring the #1-hit theme song, tops the Albums chart in America, ushering in a new age of TV soundtracks.
MTV’s influence has been seen (and heard) in movies like Flashdance and Footloose, but the TV networks don’t catch on until NBC rolls out Miami Vice, with programming boss Brandon Tartikoff’s directive, “MTV Cops.”
Music is an integral part of the series, which has the look and feel of a music video, with imagery taking precedence over plot, and long stretches where songs carry the scenes. The very first episode features a segment with Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” (in Season 2, he stars in an episode), and Tina Turner’s hit “Better Be Good To Me” shows up in the tenth episode. Along with the popular theme song and tracks by Chaka Khan and Melle Mel, these are compiled into the soundtrack album, which outperforms expectations, staying at #1 for 11 weeks and selling over 4 million copies.
Movie soundtracks have always been big business, but the last really successful collection of songs from a TV series was The Music from Peter Gunn, an album of instrumentals by Henry Mancini that hit #1 in 1959 when Elvis was in the Army.
In the ’90s, releasing soundtrack albums from music-centric TV shows becomes common practice. The X-Files, Ally McBeal and Dawson’s Creek all have hot sellers. The practice continues in later decades with Grey’s Anatomy and Glee spinning off hit soundtracks, but Miami Vice remains far and away the most successful, excepting High School Musical, a 2006 Disney TV movie with a soundtrack that also reached 4 million in sales.