Why The ‘Shrek’ Soundtrack Stands The Test Of Time

11 July 2024 | 3:22 pm | Tione Zylstra

Which iconic track almost got cut from the movie?


Shrek (Dreamworks)

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With Shrek 5 now officially in the works for 2026, we think it’s time for a walk down memory lane: all the way back to 2001, when the original Shrek dropped. It’s time to put on your iPod and get that soundtrack going – it’s an All Star album, after all.

Shrek (Music From The Original Motion Picture) hit #28 on the Billboard charts a mere two months after the premiere of the movie, and garnered nominations for both a BAFTA and a Grammy. The soundtrack – boasting songs from Smash Mouth, Rufus Wainwright, The Proclaimers and more – became a cultural phenomenon, with many calling it “the best soundtrack of all time” (until Shrek 2 arrived, of course). 

But why was it so groundbreaking?

Notably, Shrek was the first animated children’s movie to heavily reference pop culture – and that included using already established songs. Smash Mouth’s All Star, which has become synonymous with the big green ogre, was originally released two years prior on their 1999 album Astro Lounge. The Proclaimers’ I’m On My Way dropped back in 1988, and Hallelujah was written by Leonard Cohen in 1984. 

It was a treat to immediately recognise a song within a soundtrack. Audiences were used to original scores and Disney princesses singing vaguely to the birds, so it was a shock to the system when an ogre kicked open the door of an outhouse to the sound of “Some-body once told me” (Steve Harwell, you will forever be iconic for that delivery).

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Despite this, the world was almost deprived of All Star in that opening scene. The film’s music supervisor Marylata Elton explained in an interview with Variety that the song was originally a temporary filler for the animators while Matt Mahaffey composed an original track for the scene. But, thanks to test audiences, the Smash Mouth hit stayed. “The song’s familiarity immediately pulled viewers in,” she said.

With the same tactic used in the sequel, the soundtrack to Shrek 2 quickly became a new fan favourite, thanks in no short part to Counting Crows’ Accidentally In Love and the fairy godmother’s perfect cover of Holding Out For A Hero. Soon, the topic of whether Shrek or Shrek 2 had the better soundtrack dominated dinner-table arguments and water-cooler talk.

So which soundtrack is the best? Well, we finally have an answer. 

Spotify did the math, and the original Shrek soundtrack came out on top with a whopping 133 million streams from Australians across the album. Shrek 2 didn’t do too shabby though, with Aussies streaming the soundtrack 101 million times. 

With a fifth movie on the way, we’re all waiting with baited breath to see what songs we’ll associate with the ogre next. Will we be seeing some newer songs, like Chari xcx’s Von Dutch? Or are we sticking to classic dad rock, like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Dani California?

Guess we’ll have to wait for 2026 to see.