‘Grease’ is chock-full of hit ballads and sing-a-long bops, so ranking the top seven is no easy feat. That being said, here are our picks for the best songs from ‘Grease’ to celebrate the hit film’s 45th anniversary.
Paramount Pictures released Grease in theaters on June 16, 1978, and the film was an overnight success, becoming the highest-grossing movie musical at the time (and a cultural phenomenon in the decades to follow). The fun-loving doo-wop meets pop meets rock & roll soundtrack nestled into our minds with catchy lyrics and a motley crew of characters to deliver them. The movie kickstarted the careers of Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing and further cemented John Travolta’s growing celebrity following his starring role in 1978’s Saturday Night Fever.
Though the Grease soundtrack is chock-full of hits — stirring slow ballads and upbeat sing-along numbers — some are more memorable than others. Some are more intimately tied to the film’s legacy. And this list will highlight the top seven songs from the classic movie musical.
7. “Summer Nights”
“Tell me more! Tell me more! Like does he have a car!” With high school-themed lyrics that relay the beginning of Danny and Sandy’s love story, this song sets up the foundation for what is to come with bubbly levity. Their summer romance was blissful. Their summer romance was intimate. They developed a connection neither of them prepared for. Yet, can it hold up in the face of judgmental peers? What happens when the school bells ring and the Pink Ladies come to sting?
It’s oh-so-cheesy, but oh-so-adorable at the same time. The song also works to perfectly characterize the greasers and the pink ladies’ individual personalities in mere minutes via Doody’s lines like “Did you get very far?” and Rizzo’s “Cause he sounds like a drag.”
6. “You’re The One That I Want”
Passion. Sex. Desire. Man’s quest for cinematic-level love. Expectation. Needs. Standards. Woman’s quest for a worthy lover. It’s a bit of a gendered song (at least at its opening), but we’ll cut it a break since it’s the ‘70s. Not to mention, it quickly transitions into a sing-a-long lovey-dovey number.
It’s a fun duet between Sandy and Danny. And who could forget Sandy walking around in that sewed-on leather outfit as Danny falls at her feet — the scene is virtually freeze-framed in our minds.
Sandy feigning her new air as a cigarette-smoking baddie with a bold red lip as Danny rocks an innocent white cardigan shows how much they were both willing to change to suit the other. Though this isn’t the best lesson to teach adolescents, it’s not an unrealistic avenue of exploration when you remember their ages…
5. “Greased Lightnin’”
Some car gibberish and a few lyrics about snagging the ladies paired with memorable choreography. What could go wrong? This is the “boy’s number” that ties these men together in their love for all things cars and all things girls.
It’s a typical, hormone-filled song featuring a lot of gyrating and some synchronized movements to the tune of “Go greased lightnin, you’re burning up the quarter mile (greased lightnin’, go greased lightnin’). Nothing moves faster than greased lightnin’, and these boys are ready to hit the track and hit the town. The song even peaked at number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978.
4. “Hopelessly Devoted To You”
Olivia Newton John’s vocal’s on this moving ballad are to die for. The lyrics poignantly capture the innocence and naivete tied to young love, yet also the deep loss Sandy feels at this moment.
Although Sandy is “just a fool who’s willing to sit around and wait” for Danny, she doesn’t bury her sincerity underneath bravado — nor sequester it to the far corners of her mind. She accepts it. The song boasts quite a moving level of maturity, understanding that the mind and heart are often at odds concerning such matters, and she’s going “to hold on to the end” because she and Danny are the endgame. It’s a tearjerking tune – especially for those with similar lovelorn memories stored up and away.
3. “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee”
We don’t support bullying, but Rizzo’s tuneful number filled with jabs at Sandy, as she mocks the good girl from start to finish, is easily one of the most enjoyable songs from the film.
Who could forget Stockard Channing uttering “Won’t go to bed ‘til I’m legally wed!” with a snide and sarcastic air? She’s having so much fun in that blonde wig — as she flaps her wings, jumps on the bed, and creates a depiction of Sandra Dee that is virtually nun-like. A little bit of mean humor always makes for a good laugh and, at the end of the day, Rizzo is going through her own self-discovery. This song’s reason to exist is only further substantiated via Rizzo’s emotionally stirring final ballad…more on that later.
2. “We Go Together”
The movie’s final moment. It’s filled with smiles and tears (of viewers at home). These high school graduates will go their separate ways, yet they will always “go together” in their hearts. There is so much love to go around. So many memories to reminisce on. So many late nights at the drive-in and sunny days on the bleachers. “We Go Together” is also filled with catchy gibberish that, somehow, many of us have managed to memorize.
These besties are going to shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom their way right off the high school grounds and into adulthood. BUT… not without one final hoorah. One final celebration filled with so much excitement and affection that the words in the dictionary simply don’t suffice.
1. “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”
This may be a controversial pick for the number one spot, but it’s justified. This number gives Rizzo the much-needed three-dimensionality her character would otherwise lack. Not to mention, it’s a relatable and moving number that humanizes a woman too often dismissed on the grounds of her provocative and sensual nature…as well as a questionable attitude. But, there’s so much more to her than that. She has a heart that breaks. She is simply resilient.
Rizzo is strong in the face of judgment and adversity, yet her resiliency does not supplant her vulnerability. Rizzo is on her own journey, and it’s one that deserves proper recognition. She’s also very ahead of her time. This song was almost cut from the movie for being a “downer,” but we thank the heavens it was not, for it is easily the most moving number in the musical. The most reflective and eye-opening song the show has to offer.
- “Beauty School Dropout”
- “Born To Hand Jive”
- “Tears On My Pillow”
- “Freddy My Love”